March 28, 2017 Print

Digital democracy is gaining traction in the developing world as Internet access becomes increasingly common. Peru-based Atlas Network partner Democracia & Desarrollo Internacional (in English, Democracy and Development International, or D&D International) focuses on strengthening democratic institutions in Peru, promoting individual liberty and civil society, and engaging citizens online. Peru is a relative economic success in Latin America, but the country is still a political and technological work in progress.

Assisted by a grant from the Atlas Network, D&D International recently carried out a year-wide campaign of awareness for its Digital Democracy Program, reaching out to a wide-ranging audience of students, academics, and tech professionals. The program hosted several dialogues, seminars, training sessions, and competitions to train more than 600 people and educate far more.

“It consists in performing different activities at a national level, with the purpose to let people know about the scope of e-democracy and all the benefits that could be obtained through the Internet and the new information and communication technologies (ICT),” explains Elaine Ford, executive director of D&D International.

The campaign harnesses new technologies to strengthen relations between the government and the electorate, and encourage citizens to use online tools to become more politically aware and active. A dialogue session titled “Digital Tools to Strengthen the Electoral Process” taught participants how to use the Internet to track  and write about candidates and political parties, to encourage the exchange of information between citizens, and to connect political candidates directly with the public.

One landmark project of the Digital Democracy Program is the Electoral Hackathon, a competition promoting the creation of apps or other electronic tools that “facilitate the reading and interpretation of electoral data,” according to Ford. The first winner of the planned annual competition was Itnovate Peru, from Chiclayo, which created the “Vote Informed Elections 2016” app that provided data and electoral information during the 2016 election. Another initiative, Innovation and Open Public Policies (InnovApp), seeks to build relationships with Peru’s new executive and congressional leadership. InnovApp is beginning to work with local governments in the western Callao Region to facilitate training for both public officials and private citizens, creating and enhancing collaborative efforts with the goal of implementing more effective national public policy.

D&D International’s many initiatives, discussions, and workshops are already having a positive impact in Peru, with strong appreciation from both public and private sectors. The mayor of the city of Miraflores, Jorge Muñoz Wells, said that the Digital Democracy Program “has been effective for the public administration. An administration which, like us, is looking to have innovative elements for the citizens and from the citizens.” Charles Rodriguez, founder of the organization Bestias al Volante, which crowdsources information on traffic violations, praised D&D International for providing the best digital initiatives in Peru. His organization’s rapidly expanding media followers and their influence over shaping public policy debates, he explains, is owed to the Digital Democracy Program.

D&D International is already building on its recent success by working toward new initiatives.

“It’s my passion,” Ford explains. “I’m always motivated to go ahead and do more things, to bring new ideas. And that’s what we’ve made since we launched the Digital Democracy Program.”