Skip Navigation

Faces of Open Government: Santiago Garcia, Paraguay

Rostros del Gobierno Abierto: Santiago García, Paraguay

OGP Support Unit|

Santiago is Paraguay’s Point of Contact for the Open Government Partnership.  He works in the Technical Secretariat for Planning.

How does open government make a difference in people’s lives in your country?

Paraguay, like most Latin American countries, has a representative democracy and is currently developing a participatory one. The effects of recent civil wars and dictatorial regimes are still manifest. While my generation did not experience these periods firsthand, we were raised by a generation who preferred, out of fear or lack of education, to remain uninvolved with political activity. However, the political environment is changing. Little by little, we are seeing the rise of a society who is not willing to let governments make decisions without them having a say. Protests are growing and resulting in the creation of a society where organized citizenship sets forth an agenda and generates historic milestones. Open government plans create the tools and forums this new society requires.

Why are you personally interested in open government- what in your background brought you here?

Since 2012 I have participated in citizen protests that have resulted in historic reforms to public policies of Paraguay and in the appearance of a new generation that is socially aware and willing to participate in public policy making. In 2013 we presented a new proposal to connect congressmen’s votes with the votes of citizens through an electronic participatory platform named yovoto.com.py. While this proposal did not get enough votes, we did set a precedent toward the evolution of a representative democracy to a participatory democracy.

In 2015, after coming back from the US where I got a Master’s degree in digital communication as well as various training courses on e-government, I was selected by the Technical Secretariat for Planning and Socioeconomic Development (STP in Spanish) to create and coordinate the Open Government Unit. STP was designated Paraguay’s Point of Contact before the Open Government Partnership (OGP). The Unit coordinates the collaborative development, follow-up and implementation of action plans, together with a joint panel, which is integrated by government agencies and civil society organizations. Today, we are working on implementing the second action plan and designing the third (http://www.gobiernoabierto.gov.py)

How are you working to overcome challenges in opening up government in your country?  

Although the open government initiative of Paraguay has fostered interesting transparency and accountability reforms, we are facing a huge threat: insufficient citizen participation. Currently there are excellent platforms for access to information and a wide range of open data that are available but remain underused. The third action plan will have a strong emphasis on communication and civic participation.

How has your work benefited from exchanging ideas with civil society?

Working with civil society organizations has been key for materializing initiatives. For instance, the access to information law was driven by a promoting group, which worked for years to support the enactment of the law. Joint work is key for prioritizing actions and ensuring sustainability over time. Also, coordination is key to support communication and capacity building processes.

What are the key ingredients for a successful public consultation process?

In our country and region online forums for public consultation are generally unsuccessful. It is therefore crucial to create analogue dialogue spaces to foster participation. For instance, we have organized seven thematic task force groups that meet in person to create the third action plan.

What is the best example of open government you’ve seen in your country?

The most important commitment set in the second action plan was definitely granting the public access to information. In September 2014 we passed Law No. 5.282 of free access to public information and government transparency, which guarantees the right to access public information through the implementation of the corresponding mechanisms, timeframes, exceptions and penalties.  The law resulted in wide media coverage and citizen reports that uncovered cases of corruption and nepotism at all levels and branches of the state.  

What can your country learn about open government from other countries in the region?

It is crucial for us to learn from the progress of other countries in order to replicate best practices and avoid making mistakes that other countries have made. For the implementation of the access to information law, Paraguay took into consideration actions taken by Chile, Uruguay and Brazil. Hence, we identified the need to create a portal for access to information, which has already received more than 800 requests (http://www.informacionpublica.gov.py)

What open government opportunities do you most look forward to in the coming year?

Paraguay is working on linking and prioritizing the commitments set forth in our third action plan with our National Development Plan 2030, which is closely related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By the time we finish co-creating the plan, we will have identified several open government initiatives that are linked to priority issues, such as poverty alleviation, education and health improvement, and the conservation of natural resources.

What about the Americas Regional Meeting are you most looking forward to?

OGP has been identified as a key platform to support the SDGs, including poverty and hunger alleviation and the improvement of health and education services. This declaration will help ensure that open government commitments are focused on global priorities and on solving people’s day-to-day troubles. Currently, we are facing a lack of manuals, training opportunities and good practices to facilitate the role of OGP toward the implementation of SDGs. I believe this topic will be priority in this regional meeting.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!