• Opinion
  • April 23, 2019
  • 6 minutes
  • 1

Open government and citizen engagement: From theory to action

Opinion: Nariño, Colombia has built a set of innovative digital tools

This piece was written by Camilo Romero Galeano, Governor of Nariño, Colombia.

It is part of a special mini-series on what the world can learn from the public innovation landscape in Colombia.

According to the 2016 Corruption Perception Index analysing the behaviour of 178 countries, 69% of countries evaluated again raised the alarm about what has been referred to as “the cancer of the public service”.

The scandals of misappropriation of public funds, illicit enrichment of public officials, the slippery labyrinths of procurement and all kinds of practices that challenge ethics in the public service are daily news around the world.

Colombia and the department of Nariño suffer from the same problems. Bad practices of traditional politics and chiefdoms have ended up destroying the trust that citizens once had in political institutions. Corruption and its devastating effects always end up undermining people’s dignity.

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With this as the current state of affairs, and in our capacity as a subnational government, we have designed hand in hand with the citizens of Nariño a new government program. It  is based on an approach to innovation called “New Government” that relies on three pillars: open government; social innovation; and collaborative economy.

The new program has been endorsed by more than 300,000 voters and subsequently concretised in our roadmap for the territory: “Nariño heart of the World”. The creation of this policy document brought together 31,700 participants and involved travelling around the 13 subregions that compose the 64 municipalities in Nariño.

Citizen participation has become an essential tool in the fight against corruption

In this way, citizen participation has become an essential tool in the fight against corruption.

Our open government strategy is called GANA — Gobierno Abierto de Nariño (in English, “Win — Open Government of Nariño”). The strategy takes a step forward in ensuring cabinet officials become transparent and publicly declare private assets. Citizens can now find out the financial conditions in which public officials begin and finish their administrative periods. Each one of us.

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This strategy, and the tools we’ve built to implement it, have since become known throughout the country. People everywhere have discovered Colombia’s first digital platform for public consultation on government budgets and execution of public funds, which we have called “Gana Control” (Gain Control in English). Gana Control is a tool that allows citizens to view, in real time, how budgets are executed by Nariño’s subnational government.

With a second tool, Gana Pienso, citizens can also participate in the decision-making process and vote for which public interest investment projects they believe should be implemented for the common good.

Complying with international standards and principles for how open government should work, we have become the first subnational open government in Colombia. The more transparent a government is, the lower the possibility of corruption permeating public affairs.

We have also accomplished a successful move from the discourse and theory of Open Government to the design, construction and implementation of practical tools available and accessible to all citizens. Today, we have created more than 15 tools that together constitute an “anticorruption toolkit”.

With the municipal GANA strategy, 80,000 citizens from 60 municipalities of Nariño have been involved in making decisions about the public budget and about the investment of COP 67,000 million ($21million) from sources of national and subnational government funds.

We have become the most participatory subnational government in Colombia, demonstrating that the process of opening up government relates not only to the internet and technological connectivity, but also to giving citizens power and leadership in decision-making processes for our common wellbeing.

It is possible to build a new type of power, with the involvement of a new type of citizen

This is how we have become defenders of the public. With increased transparency, corrupt practices inside of public institutions become extremely difficult. When power is given to citizens through decision making, we are building trust. When we improve communication between citizens and government, we are fighting corruption from both sides of the issue.

Looking ahead, we have to create mechanisms of citizen empowerment that are sustainable. For now, with an open government public policy we have a promising future to end corruption.

This government of “open doors”, a public innovation proposal for gaining back citizens’ confidence in governments and institutions, and this work to renew politics is the verification that it is possible to build a new type of power, with the involvement of a new type of citizen. — Camilo Romero Galeano

(Picture credit: Unsplash)


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