President Juan Manuel Santos Wednesday launched the citizen participation program, giving Colombian citizens various ways to use technology to express their opinions and provide suggestions to the government.
This “glass box” initiative is a part of the “Good Governance” program, Santos’ effort to increase transparency and fight corruption in the government. Citizens can submit complaints or suggestions through the Urna de Cristal official site, Facebook, Twitter, by telephone, or by snail mail. In the second phase of the program, Colombians will be able to voice their opinions by text message and on radio programs.
“It will be a revolution in citizen participation,” Santos said. “The technologies of communication and information, and the reach they have today, allow us to establish a dialogue directly with each and every Colombian, and we must use it to reach them.”
After submitting a complaint, citizens will receive a tracking number to follow its processing. Santos said every complaint will be referred to the appropriate office where a staff will answer it.
The goal of the program, according to Santos, is to give citizens the chance to directly respond to every action of the government. They will also have the chance to vote on the themes of “Agreement for Prosperity” discussions Santos hosts each Saturday in different parts of the country. He also wants citizens to have an opportunity outside of election time to have their voices heard.
According to Santos, the citizen participation campaign is the next step in the communal meetings held by his predecessor Alvaro Uribe. The President attended discussions all over the country where citizens could express their concerns and have immediate reply by the head of state.
“We want people to have real power,” Santos said. “This goes far beyond exercising the right to vote. We want a deliberative democracy, a vibrant democracy, a democracy not only of elections but of every day, where each and every one of Colombia’s 45 million citizens can learn, participate and contribute to government decisions.”
The government’s official glass box site allows citizens to make recommendations as well as respond to those made by others with comments or solutions. So far, the site has 331 issues presented by citizens, and 5299 votes of support from others. The Twitter page has 199 followers and the Facebook page 320 fans.