This week, the political campaigns for the 2012 elections started on TV and radio – about 15,500 mayors and vice-mayors, and almost 450.000 city councilors will be elected in the country, in October – and naturally, that’s all what people are talking on and offline. In fact, the population, especially youngsters, is getting more involved in those conversations, something that can be greatly attributed to the rising importance of Social media.
So, it’s no surprise that innitiatives like Votenaweb are successfull. The website was developed back in November 2009 by Fernando Barreto‘s Webcitizen , as a digital environment where any citizen could vote and comment on bills that proceed through both houses of the Brazilian legislature (the House of Representatives and the Senate) as well as keep track of how lawmakers voted .
With the details of the bills “translated” into language easily understood, it’s no wonder that, in less than three years of history, this collaborative environment of open, respectful and, above all, democratic dialogue, already has almost 30 thousand people commenting, voting and discussing politics. More than that, Votenaweb has proven, among other things, that the lack of interest in relation to Brazilian politics is a thing of the past.
Young people are interested in information about the laws that directly affect our lives and feel free to express themselves, discuss ideas and even change their minds after hearing the arguments of other participants
“The Votenaweb showed us that the Brazilian is interested in politics, and increasingly demonstrates a willingness to engage in issues of collective interest. This generation is aware of the problems and is not idly. Many are uncomfortable with the reality in the future and they want the government ceases to be seen as a ‘vending machine’, where you put the money in taxes and cut services like health or education. We are in transition to participatory direct democracy – in which citizens and governments build the future together”, said Fernando Barreto. For him, the Votenaweb community creates a greater sense of belonging that encourages such participation. And Barreto is clear: “it the power to change many things”.
With thousands of voters registered on the site acting as “supporting this new way of engaging with politics and cooperate with the democracy in Brazil”, VotenaWeb wants more: among the goals is to be the bridge between Brazilian citizens and their political representatives to improve the quality of life in the country
I asked a few questions to Fernando Barreto, that shares some insights from the VotenaWeb experience.
Vany Laube (VL) – What are the biggest difficulties or obstacles existing in the process of data entry?
Fernando Barreto (FB) – Every day, lawmakers create an enormous amount of bills; our team works to insert all the data in the website, following some criteria: the priority is to cover all projects in 2012 and at least one project (the most recent) of each of the 680 lawmakers. After all of these are done, we insert slowly the other projects prior to 2009.
VL – But the site has some projects that are prior to 2009. Why?
FB – That happens due to the large number of requests from users, or because we consider that specific issue highly relevant to society, or because the subject is highlighted in the media.
VL – And how is this data insertion process?
FB – The insertion is done by the team, who carefully read each one of the bills and produces summaries from the original texts available in the official websites of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
VL – In your opinion, citizens are feeling that they are being heard more? And are they participating more of the whole political game of voting, monitoring, and demanding more action from the elected politicians?
FB – 20% of our audience is between 14 and 20 years old. Many of them voted the first time last election. That means that they are young people interested in information about the laws that directly affect our lives and feel free to express themselves, discuss ideas and even change their minds after hearing the arguments of other participants. The Brazilians are moving forward with the democratic process through the Internet. Several applications such as Votenaweb, are important tools that contribute to this phenomenon. Not only Brazilians, but many nations have discovered that the Internet can contribute significantly to building political awareness.
VL – What are your expectations for the site’s growth in 2012, and what is the Webcitizen doing to consolidate Votenaweb as a place where the citizen is the center of political discussion?
FB – We are in the proccess of creating the Fundação Webcitizen, a foundation that will be ale to receive investments from entities across the world, that would be interested in contribute to the expansion of the platform. Furthermore, we are reformulating some technical issues to allow the platform’s replication at a municipal level, state and even other countries. For that, we are developing a licensing model to allow concerned citizens to take the Votenaweb to their cities and thus attract the participation around municipal laws, which interfere even more directly in people’s lives.
Votenaweb by the Numbers:
- Users: almost 30.000
- Votes: almost 500.000
- Comments: 21.000