Barrio Digital

La Paz, Bolivia

Barrio Digital allows citizens to send real-time feedback, complaints and requests to the municipal government from their mobile phones or via the internet.

In October 2016, the city of La Paz in Bolivia launched Barrio Digital (Digital Neighborhood) to communicate more effectively and efficiently with citizens living in poor neighbourhoods and encourages civic participation and responsibility.

Barrio Digital relies on SMS and web technologies. If a citizen has a question or complaint, they can text it to a local phone number; the person receives a tracking number by return txt and they can use this tracking number to follow up and monitor the municipality’s response over time. Residents can also submit questions or complaints via a website. The website offers other features too, such as geo-referenced data on projects in each neighborhood.

Barrio Digital is based on customisable, open-source software that is maintained by the municipality and is compatible with the Barrios and Communities of Truth programs (PCVB), the Municipal Secretary of Public Infrastructure and the Autonomous Municipal Government of La Paz.


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City information
City
La Paz

Size and population development
La Paz has a population of 852,438 inhabitants (2017), increasing at a rate of 2.35% per year. Bolivia is one of the least developed countries in Latin America, with significant problems in the areas of health, housing, education, income and employment.

Population composition
The major part of the population is of mixed white and Amerindian ancestry. Bolivia's Constitution designates Spanish and 36 indigenous languages as the official languages of the country.

Main functions
La Paz is the government seat of the "Plurinational State of Bolivia" and the world's highest administrative capital (at 3,650m above sea level). After Santa Cruz de la Sierra and El Alto, La Paz is the third most populous city of the country. Together with the cities of El Alto and Viacha, the metropolitan area of La Paz has a population of 2.3 million inhabitants and forms the most populous urban area in Bolivia. 25% of Bolivia's GDP is produced in La Paz, where many Bolivian companies have their headquarters.

Main industries / business
The economy of La Paz is based primarily on food processing and the manufacturing of textiles, clothing, shoes, and chemicals.

Political structure
La Paz Municipality is the capital municipality and one of the five municipalities of the Pedro Domingo Murillo Province in the La Paz Department in Bolivia.

Administrative structure
La Paz has seven districts, subdivided in a large number of neighbourhoods. Two districts in La Paz are rural.

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Background and objectives

In 2005 the Le Paz municipal government implemented the PCVB program to improve the quality of life of poor citizens. The PBCV team works primarily with citizens in the outskirts of La Paz who live in areas characterized by poor infrastructure and often lack access to basic services, such as sewage systems, transportation infrastructure, and public lighting. PBCV, seeks to respect and reinforce the social and cultural characteristics of the communities as well as to strengthen community participation, the Barrio Digital project is a core component of PBCV.

The objectives of Barrio Digital are:

  • Increase citizen participation for evidence-based decision-making,
  • Reduce the cost of submitting a claim and shorten the amount of time it takes for the municipality to respond, and
  • Strengthen the technical skills and capacity within the municipality to use ICT tools for citizen engagement. 
Implementation

The Barrio Digital technology was developed by the Barrios de Verdad team, with technical support from the World Bank, using open source tools. The knowledge and skills acquired during the development of the online platform gives the municipality the freedom to make changes on its own without incurring additional costs. It also has the option to scale up the program to cover new neighborhoods over time.

How Barrio Digital works:

1. Citizen

Determines neighborhood request

Identify the code of your neighborhood

2. Citizen

Send your request via SMS message or website

3. Digital Platform

The request is published on the website.

4. PBCV

Municipality staff will attend to the request and contact the citizen to gather more information.

5. PBCV

the request is studied and action is taken

6. PBCV

Once the request is resolved, the case is closed.

Financing and resources

The Lead agency for Barrio Digital is the Le Paz municipal government with support from the Cities Alliance Catalytic Fund via the Cities without Slums program.

The World Bank sponsors the Neighborhoods and Communities of Truth program (PBCV).

Results and impacts

Using ICT to enhance citizen feedback helps the municipal government become more efficient in its own operations and maintenance. Instead of sending its technical team or engineers to fix clogged storm drains, fill potholes, or repair community centres across various neighbourhoods on a rotation-basis, the program can now categorize and map complaints and reported problems to prioritize the issues and deal with them accordingly.

Barriers and challenges

One of the ongoing challenges faced by the municipal government is engaging communities to provide feedback on the performance of Barrio Digital.

Lessons learned and transferability

Building trust - listening to people’s issues and ideas is important

Public awareness - community consultation and training is essential. Barrio Digital carried out programs in more than 15 neighbourhoods to help the local team design the system’s online platform, geographic information system (GIS) components, and SMS submission and response workflow.

Engagement and participation - The end users of tools such as Barrio Digital should be involved in the development process. To ascertain how users think and what technologies they have access to the development teamcarried out both social and technology assessments of end users. The team also organized a series of workshops on technology literacy to help residents of PBCV neighbourhoods, especially the elderly, simulate feedback submissions and follow up.

Leadership - The development of Barrio Digital required strong support from the mayor and the municipal government and a commitment to invest in new approaches to citizen engagement.

References

External links / documents