Strengthening civic participation in Paraguay through online technology

Jorge Saldivar

19 Apr 2018, 3:30 p.m.
Auditorium 1

Democracy in Paraguay has developed over the past 30 years within a socio-cultural context of low participation and engagement of its citizens. Indifference and distrust in public institutions influence the perceived apathy from citizens to get involved in public affairs.

However, the pervasiveness of today’s technology, especially smartphones and social media, is changing this by equipping Paraguayans with a variety of tools that facilitate engagement, from allowing access to public information to coordinating mobilisations. Still, the use of technology for participatory democratic deliberation and decision making has been scarce.

Jorge discusses lessons learned from implementing civic engagement processes in which citizens were invited to use web-based platforms to share their ideas for innovating public services and urban plans.

Based on three case studies, Jorge explores the research question of how technology can facilitate impactful processes of civic participation in developing countries with limited civic participation.

Two processes allowed residents of Asunción to suggest ideas and place opinions on how to improve and innovate infrastructure and services of the city. In the third process, Paraguayan citizens were invited to discuss how to address some of the most pressing issues for national education (eg, school infrastructure, poor teacher training, and low school attendance). Drawing on data from mixed quantitative/qualitative surveys, semi-structured interviews, and activity logs, Jorge describes each process (eg, phases, promotion strategies, partners, technology features, etc.), the profile of its participants (i.e., age, gender, education, occupation), the factors that motivated their participation, and information about their contributions (i.e., topics, ideas, opinions), concluding with an evaluation of the impact that each process had and an in-depth discussion of the factors that benefited, or damaged, the ICT-mediated participatory processes implemented.