As a rule, the local authorities in Ukraine in general and in Dolyna municipality in particular (a small city with over 20.5 thousand population), make decisions on the development agenda within their own closed environment. All meetings of the municipality and the thematic commissions of the local council (e.g. on land, budgetary, urban planning issues etc) are de-jure open, but de-facto citizens do not know when such meetings take place and which issues they are trying to solve. At the end, the approved decision is made available for public on the municipality’s web-site. Also, the city council’s sessions are officially open, but very few civil society representatives participate in them because of their work schedules, family circumstances, poor information dissemination to the citizens and other reasons.
However, many citizens are interested in the city life and are ready to take part in it in different ways (up to 29-30% according to the recent survey by PACT). At the same time, according to the monitoring by the Association of Cities of Ukraine (December 2014), 37% of citizens do not know anything about the activities of the local authorities, and 47% know something but would like to know more. In total, 62% of the urban population use internet, out of them 40% does it on a daily basis. Also, even though 45% of internet users visit the web-sites of the local authorities, only 34% find the information they need, and 39% more citizens never find the important information there.
At the same time, the political events and mass protests in Ukraine during the November’13/March’14 demonstrated an enormous demand of people for openness, accountability and transparency of the Government at all levels, and the readiness of citizens to engage in the decision-making and devote their time and efforts for joint solving of the most crucial development problems in the country. Citizens are willing to contribute to take part in the activities of their local governments, but they need to be provided with the additional tools for that.
The proposed product aims to strengthen the interaction between the municipality and the citizens living on its territory on the local development agenda and reduce barriers for inclusion of different groups of the local population into the decision-making process. From the online side, the project will contribute to the enhancement of the e-governance domain of the public administration reform initiated by the Government of Ukraine in November 2014 by piloting the innovative approach to the typical municipality problem. From the offline side, the project will work towards motivating community members to exercise their constitutional right for active participation in the local self-government as well as on encouraging the municipality officials for better performance and higher accountability contributing to the overall change in democratic governance. Overall, the product will make the activities of the municipality more transparent and open, and will provide opportunities for opening the local budgets, procurement, land management and other spheres. In the long run, it will reduce the level of corruption in the decision-making and raise the level of the citizens’ trust in the authorities.
We plan to increase opportunities for different groups of population of Dolyna municipality to participate in the local decision-making due to e-technologies. For this, the following will be undertaken: 1) Designing the online platform for real-time broadcasting of the meetings and sessions on the basis of the municipality web-sites with the possibility to discuss the course of the meeting; 2) Introducing the registration-based system for the citizens willing to meaningfully participate in the session meetings, e.g. to contribute with proposals, arguments, voice concerns, discuss the important development agenda etc., to control the activity of the elected council members, or to monitor the activities of the municipality officials and the quality of their work; 3) Equipping the great and small meeting halls of Dolyna municipality with cameras, screens and other required equipment.
We will use the online broadcasting technologies combined with the crowdsourcing approach. The platform will be based on the municipality’s official web-site and linked to the local e-services portal. The municipality’s official groups in the social networks (mostly Facebook with over 2000 daily visits) will be used to promote engagement of the local citizens into the dialogue. The technology will be used to hold public discussions, public hearings, public reports to the citizens, demonstration and presentation of the strategic projects or strategic development plans to the community, as well as for raising efficiency of the municipal governance itself (holding regular working meetings, conferences, interagency discussions etc). Some municipalities in Ukraine have already initiated the practice of broadcasting their session meetings, but as they never provide opportunities for citizens' engagement into discussion, it hasn't become popular in the country.