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Open Government for Cities in Brazil

El gobierno abierto en las ciudades de Brasil

Daniely Votto|

Brazil was one of OGP’s founding countries and, since 2011, has been enacting national laws to enforce transparency and public participation as relevant parts of public administration. The access to information law and the public participation law, for instance, were significant breakthroughs for all levels of government, and have paved the way for other democratic reforms. Nevertheless, cities in Brazil were not really prepared in terms of human and technological resources to pursue real transparency and public participation; the gains of implementing such reforms are not clear to local decision-makers and financial deficiency is always a problem to be considered.

Considering these circumstances, as well the launch of the OGP Subnational Pilot Program in 2016 (in which the city of São Paulo was the sole Brazilian city to be selected as a pioneer), the WRI Brasil ROSS Center for Sustainable Cities started conversations with other important cities in order to bring attention to OGP principles, and its status as an international coordinated movement towards a more democratic and equal world. Despite national efforts, there is still a gap between local administration activities and implementation of transparency and public participation in decision-making.

Most of Brazilian cities have Portals of Transparency, as the National Transparency Raking shows, but people are not familiar with the data; public participation is not fostered by government at the local level. With this information, WRI Brasil SC decided to implement a capacity-building workshop. The first such workshop will take place later this month in the city of Belo Horizonte.

Open government is not just a modern expression. It is a new way to promote human rights, by establishing a trusting relationship between administrations and citizens: especially in cities, a pivotal arena of human development. Decision-makers have the challenge of opening cities’ data and promoting public participation and transparency, but often they do not do this, simply due to the fact that they are not prepared for it. In terms of open government concepts, there is still a building-capacity gap we must focus on to achieve democratic goals.

Representatives from Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Brasília, Recife, and Florianópolis are confirmed at the first workshop. This workshop aims to explain the open government concept, focusing on transparency and public participation; and to present best practices and free tools that are available for decision-makers to use to improve the engagement of civil society in political processes.

Ariel Kogan, director of AppCívico, a social company with a long history of developing open technologies for citizens and governments, and director of Open Knowledge Brasil, will join this effort in Belo Horizonte as an expert on transparency and “open” tools for cities. In Ariel’s words, by explaining Brazil’s legislation on transparency, the advantages cities might reap, and the tools freely available to implement such reforms, the expectation is that more cities will engage and will be, in a near future, more connected to citizens’ expectations.

This capacity-building workshop has been developed mainly to engage decision-makers on open government concepts, and to build a Brazilian Cities Network, in which all cities are able to exchange experiences and implement reforms. By making clear to decision-makers all the benefits and definitions of open government, we believe they will have all the tools they need to implement reforms.

Open government for cities is not just a catchphrase. It is about making human rights and sustainable development goals more tangible to all citizens. To accomplish this, we need to focus on cities’ most pressing problems and cocreate creative solutions. The first step is to improve city mayors’ understanding of the advantages of having a more transparent and participatory government during their tenure.

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