I have just returned from Albany to participate in this global conference organized by the Center for Technology in Government from the University of Albany and the International Institute for Software technology, Center for Electronic Governance, of the University of United Nations in Macao S.A.R., China.
This Conference with EGOV European Ministerial e-Government Conference, Digital Government Society of North America and HICSS are the main global meetings that discuss topics on e-Government, Open Government, Open Data, Smart Cities, among others.
Since 2007 we have been in contact with the directors of the UNU-IIST who have closely followed the work we are doing in Patzún, a municipality of 53,000 inhabitants, of which 94% are indigenous maya Kaqchikel, regarding the use of ICT for the reduction of the digital divide.
Earlier this year we were invited to present a paper on the programme MuNet (Efficient and Transparent Municipalities) and the case of Patzún as an example of municipality which through its portal www.patzun.gob.gt in Joomla communicates and reports to all its neighbors. This paper was submitted, evaluated, approved and finally presented in public during the Conference.
The environment was the most appropriate. More than 350 participants from 64 countries attended the 7 plenary sessions, 7 thematic sessions, the World Bank session, another session of the State of New York, 7 tutorials sessions, 15 meetings with the presentation of 70 papers, 33 posters and one doctoral Colloquium. The topics that were discussed during the four days were Open Data; Open Government; Smart Cities; Mobile Government; Social media and democratization; Models of measurement and evaluation techniques for e-Government; Women and technology in the context of development.
The paper I presented was on the "ICT for development and the MuNet program: experience and lessons learned from an indigenous municipality of Guatemala". This focused on the implementation of the programme MuNet, programme of electronic government implemented in several countries of Latin America by the Organization of American States. This programme began in 2005 in its first phase with 22 municipalities in 11 countries. It was later implemented in Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Paraguay. More than 95 municipalities are developing their websites with the Joomla CMS. This was a study of different CMS and the MuNet program chose this as the most appropriate for handling contents in municipal portals.
The second part of the presentation was about the case of the municipality of Patzún. This municipality since 2007 has put so many efforts on the use of technology to enhance the development of its inhabitants. This was a strategy that included the modernization of the municipality providing working computers to all office staff; Internet installation with 10 mg bandwidth and access from all offices; creation of a Digital Community Center with 35 computers for free courses in computing, video conferencing, conference with migrants; creation of a website www.patzun.gob.gt in Joomla with over 550 files on finance, proceedings of the City Council, municipal management, culture, customs (Open Data?); opening a channel on YouTube with more than 500 videos ordered in 22 different themes and almost 100,000 visits since 2008; opening of a collection of photos in Picasa with 35 albums and more than 2,800 pictures; and opening of a fanpage on Facebook to communicate with the population and to publicize the activities of the municipality.
In the case of the website, this is designed to show the population a more modern and up-to-date image of the municipality showing both content of the culture and customs of the town as municipal procedures, management of the City Council, information on the law on access to public information, proceedings of the City Council, where decisions taken in various subjects are shown, information about the community organization of the municipality, tourism and recreation information. There is also a section for security, health, education, migrants, and modern Patzún where we inform about our strategy of reducing the digital divide. This websites is in Joomla 1.5 version that is very easy to use and very intuitive. It’s managed from a team that deals with search and upload content, trying to keep it as up to date as possible.
With all these tools we intend to encourage citizen participation so that people can comment on municipal management, work with transparency and achieve management from more efficient local government, so that it can improve the development of our town.
During the Conference I had the opportunity to talk about this to different representatives of public and private institutions and non-governmental from the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Nepal, India, Oman, Lebanon, Korea, Nigeria, China, Spain, who were surprised that in a municipality as Patzún were so advanced in e-Government issues and to those who asked for support for further research on this topic in Latin America municipalities and specifically Guatemala.
As I said at the beginning, the Conference helped me to know what is being done in other countries on e-Government, which are the global trends in this topic and take many ideas to implement in Guatemala and Patzún.
A day later I went to New York to visit a friend from Patzún who arrived years ago as illegal migrant and which is working to raise his family here. With him and other neighbors of Patzún that lives with him, we explore alternatives on the use of ICT the so the municipality can communicate with them and thus keep in touch with their people here. Our website in Joomla is an alternative and other possible one can be through SMS text messages.
A great experience!
Patzún Municipality www.patzun.gob.gt in Joomla
Abstract (paper99) “ICT for Development and the MuNet Program: Experiences and Lessons Learnt from an Indigenous Municipality in Guatemala”
Videos from the conference on the YouTube Channel MuniPatzun