Central American municipal governments are rapidly embracing technology and using it in creative ways to communicate with citizens, maximize internal efficiency and govern effectively. Working alongside IRI, municipalities in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are looking for ways to incorporate open government and open data initiatives in their local governance strategies.
This enthusiasm for technology and the concept open government was explored by the Open Government Partnership and its annual summit of world governance practitioners held in London. Using the theme of the summit, IRI hosted information technology and communications staff members from 10 municipalities in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras for a webinar to discuss the concept of open government and open data.
The webinar opened with a discussion of the evolution of local governance in Central America—suggesting that the citizen-authority relationship is changing from representation into one where the public actively participates in community decision-making, turning local governance into more of a consultative process in which the government provides information and solicits citizen input. During the webinar participants looked at how information made available on the Internet and provided through SMS text messaging can increase accountability and transparency.
Recognizing that many local governments are hesitant to open themselves to such a level of internal transparency and citizen inputs, participants considered three questions to help them think about how they might apply open principles to governing their municipality. They were:
- How do you understand the term open government?
- How can a municipality benefit from open data?
- Where do you start?
Smart Governance partners from the region helped answer these questions, and showed how they helped develop an open government strategy by publishing municipal information and data online for citizens to access. The webinar highlighted other local perspectives on open government through a video of municipal officials sharing how open data is applicable to the realities in their communities.