La Paz, Bolivia
Barrio Digital allows citizens to send real-time feedback, complaints and requests to the municipal government from their mobile phones or via the internet.
In October 2016, the city of La Paz in Bolivia launched Barrio Digital (Digital Neighborhood) to communicate more effectively and efficiently with citizens living in poor neighbourhoods and encourages civic participation and responsibility.
Barrio Digital relies on SMS and web technologies. If a citizen has a question or complaint, they can text it to a local phone number; the person receives a tracking number by return txt and they can use this tracking number to follow up and monitor the municipality’s response over time. Residents can also submit questions or complaints via a website. The website offers other features too, such as geo-referenced data on projects in each neighborhood.
Barrio Digital is based on customisable, open-source software that is maintained by the municipality and is compatible with the Barrios and Communities of Truth programs (PCVB), the Municipal Secretary of Public Infrastructure and the Autonomous Municipal Government of La Paz.
Background and objectives
In 2005 the Le Paz municipal government implemented the PCVB program to improve the quality of life of poor citizens. The PBCV team works primarily with citizens in the outskirts of La Paz who live in areas characterized by poor infrastructure and often lack access to basic services, such as sewage systems, transportation infrastructure, and public lighting. PBCV, seeks to respect and reinforce the social and cultural characteristics of the communities as well as to strengthen community participation, the Barrio Digital project is a core component of PBCV.
The objectives of Barrio Digital are:
Increase citizen participation for evidence-based decision-making,
Reduce the cost of submitting a claim and shorten the amount of time it takes for the municipality to respond, and
Strengthen the technical skills and capacity within the municipality to use ICT tools for citizen engagement.
The Barrio Digital technology was developed by the Barrios de Verdad team, with technical support from the World Bank, using open source tools. The knowledge and skills acquired during the development of the online platform gives the municipality the freedom to make changes on its own without incurring additional costs. It also has the option to scale up the program to cover new neighborhoods over time.
How Barrio Digital works:
Determine neighborhood request
Identify the code of your neighborhood
Send your request via SMS message or website
3. Digital Platform
The request is published on the website.
Municipality staff will attend to the request and contact the citizen to gather more information.
The request is studied and action is taken
Once the request is resolved, the case is closed.
Financing and resources
The Lead agency for Barrio Digital is the Le Paz municipal government with support from the Cities Alliance Catalytic Fund via the Cities without Slums program.
The World Bank sponsors the Neighborhoods and Communities of Truth program (PBCV).
Results and impacts
Using ICT to enhance citizen feedback helps the municipal government become more efficient in its own operations and maintenance. Instead of sending its technical team or engineers to fix clogged storm drains, fill potholes, or repair community centres across various neighbourhoods on a rotation-basis, the program can now categorize and map complaints and reported problems to prioritize the issues and deal with them accordingly.
Barriers and challenges
One of the ongoing challenges faced by the municipal government is engaging communities to provide feedback on the performance of Barrio Digital.
Lessons learned and transferability
Building trust - listening to people’s issues and ideas is important
Public awareness - community consultation and training is essential. Barrio Digital carried out programs in more than 15 neighbourhoods to help the local team design the system’s online platform, geographic information system (GIS) components, and SMS submission and response workflow.
Engagement and participation - The end users of tools such as Barrio Digital should be involved in the development process. To ascertain how users think and what technologies they have access to the development teamcarried out both social and technology assessments of end users. The team also organized a series of workshops on technology literacy to help residents of PBCV neighbourhoods, especially the elderly, simulate feedback submissions and follow up.
Leadership - The development of Barrio Digital required strong support from the mayor and the municipal government and a commitment to invest in new approaches to citizen engagement.
Barrio Digital, La Paz, Policy Transfer Platform, juillet 2018
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In 2018, the Catalytic Fund will transition into a broader innovation programme and Fund. The new Innovation Fund marks the Catalytic Fund’s ultimate transition into a truly innovative, flexible funding window. Its Call for Proposals can be tailored to different target groups and grant sizes to support innovative approaches to urban transformation.