UOC performs Spanish case study for global project on impact of ICT mediated citizen engagement

Photo: Decidim Barcelona
Marieke Willems
In Spanish municipalities and its impact on democracy

Ismael Pea-Lpez, researcher in the UOC’s ASSBE group, performed a case study on citizen participation in Spanish municipalities for the global Voice or Chatter project. 

Voice or Chatter

The project aims to understand the impact of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) mediated citizen engagement on governance structures and processes by looking at nine case studies from Asia, Africa, South America and Europe. These case studies offer an opportunity to map the liminal moments of citizen engagement and understand if and how the meanings associated with “participation”’ and “voice” are being fundamentally rewritten. Moving beyond a simplistic theory of change as an automatic outcome of digital participation, a more accurate picture of citizen voice negotiations begins to emerge. Inclusive citizen-centric institutional norms, rules and practices that guarantee democratic accountability in the age of data-based governance thus become a key policy imperative.

Creation of a network of open cities in Spain

In September 2015, Madrid initiated a participatory democracy project, Decide Madrid (Madrid decides), to enable the entire municipality to engage in participatory strategic planning. Less than half a year later, in February 2016, Barcelona issued their own participatory democracy project: decidim.barcelona (Barcelona, we decide). Both cities used the same free software platform as a base, guided by the same political vision.

The success of the initiatives and the strong political vision behind them have led to an outburst of similar initiatives around Spain, working to emulate the two major cities. They are sharing their free-software-based technology and their procedures, protocols and reflections, through both open events and formal official meetings. What began as a seemingly one-off project has extended its reach both in terms of time and scope. In regard to the former, it is not only firmly rooted but will also grow over time, and, as for the latter, there are serious plans to expand its adoption at the regional level, led by Barcelona Provincial Council, and at Spanish State level, with other municipalities replicating the initiative. UOC researcher Pea-Lopez investigated whether this has had a positive impact on the quality of democracy, the raison d’tre of the participatory initiative in Barcelona. Read the full report on the creation of a network of open cities in Spain here.

Making All Voices Count

The Voice or Chatter project is supported by the programme Making All Voices Count, a global programme to promote transparency, fight corruption, empower citizens, and harness the power of new technologies to make government more effective and accountable. Making All Voices Count is funded by Hivos, Ushahidi, IDS, Omidyar, Sida, UKAid and USAid.

A Voice or Chatter blog post by Ismael Pea-Lpez on the Spanish report’s main results is available here