In the Dominican Republic, ODTA-ICT4Gov assisted the Municipality of Jarabacoa with a mobile-enhanced participatory budgeting initiative that supports the existing participatory process. This project provides a two-way dialogue between citizens and government on the delivery of public services through a call center, which receives 15,000 calls a day. The effort is showing great success through the support shown by the citizens.
In the past budget cycle, ODTA- ICT4Gov contributed technical assistance in the municipality’s participatory budgeting process. A very inspiring example emerged from this process. Citizens voted for the construction of a contention wall to protect houses from the changes in the flow of the river. But as the municipality didn’t have enough money to build the wall, citizens, after getting involved in the process and in the context of participatory budgeting assemblies, decided to contribute with their own workforce. With this determination, they achieved the goal of reducing the price of the public work, turning the solution into a reality.
The presence and enthusiasm of the attendees showed the value of this process. Men, women, young people and even kids contributed by collecting rocks, assisting workers and cooking for them. Without the help of the community, the government’s money wouldn’t have been enough. In the participatory budgeting process, communities need to work together to solve their common needs and problems.
Valentin Sanchez, a citizen who took the lead in the construction of the contention walls for the river, said: “With all the help he received from people, work that should have taken more than 30 days took only 14. In Jarabacoa you can see the importance of the participatory process as we didn’t only talk about it but acted on it.”
This success in the participatory budgeting process in Jarabacoa reached a new level with the introduction of SMS. Mobile phones were used to enhance participatory budgeting processes in four ways: 1) To inform citizens about participatory budgeting assemblies, 2) To allow citizens to vote on the priorities on which the local government should spend its investment budget, 3) To announce the decisions of the participatory budgeting processes to citizens, and 4) To empower citizens to monitor the execution of the projects that received the most votes. The tool also contributed to encouraging women to actively participate in the process. Mobile tools allowed for a more robust and fluid communication between citizens and government in the context of participatory processes, and as such, were crucial to ensure effective service delivery in Jarabacoa.
843 phone numbers were collected and using FrontlineSMS, a total of 4,223 SMS were sent. Some interesting data was pulled out from the process. From the 210 SMS received, 95% of them requested public works. 78% of citizens surveyed in Jarabacoa said that SMS was a very useful way for mobilizing citizens to participate in the participatory budgeting assemblies, and 60% of the participants found out about the meeting by SMS. 81% of citizens surveyed were in favor of the use of SMS in voting as part of participatory budgeting processes.