Personal democratization: how Ukraine becomes more democratic with the help of civic tech
Do you still think that it is difficult for ordinary citizens to influence democracy development in Ukraine? Then you should definitely discover new opportunities offered by civic tech.
But what does “civic tech” actually mean? And how does it influence the citizen’s access to decision-making in Ukraine? We share the most interesting insights dedicated to civil tech shared during the Personal Democracy Forum.
What is “civic tech”?
Civic technology (civic tech) is a wide range of technological tools used for government’s communication with citizens and enhancement of public institutions’ transparency. Such tools include special web-pages, mobile applications, and online platforms.
Among the developers of such tools could be the public institutions, civil society organizations, and activists.
How to influence democratic processes with the help of civic tech?
In Ukraine, the civic tech projects are developed at national and local levels.
Today, using your mobile phone you can follow decisions of a local council, request public information, or check how much money was spent on construction of a playground in your district.
Most of the civic tech products can help provide you with tools for contributing to decision-making and even developing similar online resources by yourself. Surprisingly, every year it becomes easier to take part in building democracy in Ukraine.
During the Personal Democracy Forum held in Kharkiv this year, more than 20 speakers shared their achievements in the development and use of civic tech products.
Here are three main tips from activists and experts for those who want to take part in decision-making with the help of innovative tools.
1. Follow decisions that influence your city’s development
How to facilitate citizens’ access to information on a local council’s decisions?
A team of the Institute of Political Information developed a mobile application to solve this issue in a creative and technological way.
On 25 November 2017, the team presented their project concept at the U-Inn Youth Innovation Challenge organized by UNDP. In less than a year, the application became available on the Android platform. It will also be presented in the App Store shortly.
The Open Odessa application gives citizens an access to the following information:
- Decisions and draft decisions of a city council in a convenient format. In addition to the published documents, the application provides information on how critical and important each decision is. So, a user can decide what information deserves his or her attention the most.
- Profiles of all city council representatives. In each profile, you can find an official’s declaration, his or her biography, links to pages in social networks and information on a person’s quality of work at the council. The application shows if a person has been present at the council’s meetings and how he or she voted on each draft decision. You can choose the council members that you want to follow and receive a notification when their profiles are updated.
The Open Odessa team is ready to help in developing similar applications in other cities as well. If you think that your community needs such a tool and is ready to work on its development, you can contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Join the anti-corruption movement
Reducing the corruption level is one of the key conditions for building a democratic state as corruption prevents the establishment of equal rights for every citizen.
Web-sites created on the basis of a large amount of data, mobile applications, and even interactive games can help you take part in the fight against corruption in Ukraine.
Did you see a head of your town’s local administration driving a new expensive car? Check whether he has declared the car purchase in his e-declaration and whether he has enough money for such an investment.
To review this information, you can use the Declarations.com.ua site. This is the largest database of officials’ declared assets and income, which has additional convenient tools for monitoring changes in declarations and developing analytical materials.
The database is constantly updating as thousands of activists work on decoding the data from official’s paper declarations submitted before the e-system was introduced in 2016. This work is rewarded - the activists earn “kotyky,” a special currency for every decoded declaration.
Kotyky.org.ua gives you an opportunity to receive one “kotyk” that equals to one hryvnia (0.036 USD) for decoding paper declarations and donate for a good cause through the partner charity funds.
3. Make a smart choice
Online tools can also help you to make the most important offline step for democracy development.
Every 5 years we make a choice that has a decisive role in our state’s development. A small tick on the ballot paper is still an important gesture of caring for the future of your own country. That is why the “how to vote in elections?” question seems genuinely difficult.
The PolitHub.org resource developed by the CHESNO Civil Movement helps facilitate this process. On the web-site, you can find a profile of each MP, member of a local council, and other politicians.
According to CHESNO, the portal resembles an online store. But instead of goods, a user reviews the politicians.
“If we spend so much time to choose a mobile phone on the Internet, why do we spend so little time to choose a candidate to vote for?” says Yulia Reshitko, CHESNO’s Communications Manager.
While the resource contains profiles of politicians whose names are most likely to appear in ballot papers in 2019, you can get even more information from the “Politicians: How to choose with no regrets” online course. The course lasts for 5 weeks and allows you to learn all the necessary information to protect yourself from pre-election manipulations and make your contribution to decision-making.
Today online resources provide us with a unique opportunity to influence the official’s decisions with the help of our smartphones and computers.
With the help of civic tech tools such processes as exposing corrupt officials, finding gaps in adopted laws, and monitoring public spending become more similar to a game than to a complex investigation. The end of this game is marked by a democratic and transparent state built by citizens. The more Internet users are joining this quest, the closer our country is to the long-awaited changes.
The Personal Democracy Forum was held in Kharkiv on 25-26 October 2018. This year, the Forum gathered more than 200 participants. The discussions were focused on the progress of reforms and building democracy with the help of civic tech tools.
The Forum and initiatives described in this write-up are implemented with the support of the Enhanced Public Sector Transparency and Integrity Project, implemented by UNDP in Ukraine and funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark (2015–2018)