When the government of the Dominican Republic set out to create a 2030 Digital Agenda, it had one ambitious goal: to promote a connected, empowered society with a better quality of life and the necessary digital skills to be more competitive, efficient, and transparent. With a population of over 10 million, the pandemic’s social distancing measures made traditional engagement impossible to navigate, but local leaders didn’t let that stop them and instead found a solution: digital community engagement.
“Among the priorities of President Luis Abinader’s Government was the creation of a public policy for the nation’s digital transformation, which was already part of the government’s modernization roadmap but was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic that has impacted us in unforeseen magnitudes. It was a challenge to build a public policy involving the participation of the private sector, civil society, academia and public sector during a pandemic. That said, thanks to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) it was possible to acquire and use the CitizenLab platform for the process of building our National Strategy for Digital Transformation, which we call the 2030 Digital Agenda.”On the need to create a public policy for digital transformation – José David Montilla
Digital agenda goals for an engaged community
For the process to be carried out well, multiple perspectives from different types of organizations needed to be brought in: civil society, government, academia, and the private sector. Keeping inclusivity and representation in mind, the government set the following key goals:
- Promote actions to enable information and communications technology institutionally and in accordance with regulations in order to take steps forward in the development of a digital ecosystem,
- Have a connected and empowered society, eliminate the digital divide, and achieve a prosperous digital economy.
- Promote Public Administration efficiency and transparency through the use of technology, thereby bringing citizens closer to their governments as well as improving communication and quality of life.
- Foster citizens’ and organizations’ development, especially around the digital competencies required to face the challenges of this Digital Era.
- Encourage the country’s technological development.
- Establish technology’s full incorporation across sectors, to raise the levels of national productivity and competitiveness, promoting economic and social sustainable development.
“Effectively, in the presence of limitations imposed by the pandemic, CitizenLab allowed us to expand our reach of organizations and participants involved in deliberation, considering the space limitations in face-to-face meetings.”On management continuity during the pandemic – Reyson Lizardo.
Setting up a community engagement process for a digital agenda
The Digital Transformation Cabinet was appointed to carry out the planning of the 2030 Digital Agenda. They distilled the process down into 5 key projects on an online platform with 2 cross-cutting themes:
The 5 projects selected by the “Cabinet” were:
- Governance and Regulatory Framework to build “a digital, inclusive, connected and participatory society in an institutionalized enabling environment”.
- Connectivity and Access to create a “Connected Dominican”.
- Education and Digital Capabilities, with the goal of “building digital citizenship”.
- Digital Government, with the goal of developing “a modern, digital, open and transparent State at the service of citizens”.
- Digital Economy, with the goal of “building a competitive digital economy”.
The 2 cross-cutting themes were:
- Cybersecurity – “For a safer, more reliable and resilient cyberspace”.
- Technological Innovation – “Creating an innovation culture through technology”.
Within each project, participants could propose ideas and initiatives they viewed as important to include in the 2030 Digital Agenda. These suggestions were then put to a vote and those with the most votes made their way into the final document.
“We designated one of the team’s technicians to manage the platform and handle changes and maintenance with CitizenLab’s team in Chile. The moderation of communication in each one of the components of the Digital Agenda was under the responsibility of their respective coordinators (belonging to third party entities constituting the Digital Transformation Cabinet), all under the direct supervision of the Ministry of the Presidency, through the Vice-Ministry of the Digital Agenda.”On their internal organization regarding the implementation – Reyson Lizardo
Results of community engagement on the Digital Agenda
By centralizing the entire community engagement process on their CitizenLab platform, the government of the Dominican Republic was able to set their National Strategy for Digital Transformation in record time, all while increasing participation rates and representation in the process.
“Through the Digital Transformation Cabinet, the platform was used as a mechanism for co-creation and consensus among all key actors, achieving the participation of more than 1015 people belonging to more than 200 organizations from different sectors It generated about 850 contributions which were vital for the 2030 Digital Agenda and its 2021-2024 Action Plan. This allowed President Abinader’s administration to build, at a record time of 6 months, a digital transformation public policy with the approval of the Dominican Society which was properly established with the Presidential Decree No. 527-21 and that today is our roadmap towards the modernization of the Dominican Republic.”On results obtained with CitizenLab – José David Montilla
In each of the 5 projects, anywhere between 34-84 proposals made it into the final phase. The proposals included ideas such as reducing internet fees, connecting rural areas to emerging technologies, including cybersecurity and STEM education in public schools, and bringing the tourism industry into the digital economy.
“Overall, the experience has been very valuable and enriching to the process we are carrying out in the Dominican Republic in order to build the 2030 Digital Agenda, counting on the contribution of the different social, academic, businesses and governmental organizations. Noteworthy were the debates and exchanges that took place on the same platform, both in the process of defining the objectives and lines of action and in the identification of initiatives. It was also remarkable how the interactions were greater with younger users.”On the experience with CitizenLab platform – Reyson Lizardo.
How community engagement platforms support decision-making
As evidenced by the Dominican Republic’s experience, digital community engagement platforms are becoming crucial support elements for governments’ decision-making processes. While the pandemic may have accelerated this shift, now that governments and their communities have experienced the efficiency and increased transparency of community engagement, we expect the uptick in adoption to continue. Every government has at least one project that could benefit from community engagement – what’s yours?