Paraguay is a country where less than 40% of its population is connected to the Internet, with an average download speed of roughly 1.5 mbps. These factors almost put it in the last place in South America in connectivity and speed. The minimum speed offered by the market is 768 kbps and it is situated second in the scale of most expensive Internet in the region.
You could easily expect that it wouldn’t have made great progress in terms of open government and open data, but despite these discouraging factors civil society organizations and public institutions have been working hard since 2012 in the design and implementation of open government policies.
In 2011, Paraguay became a member of the Open Government Partnership, which consists of an international platform that promotes transparent governments, accountability and partnerships between different sectors of society. Paraguay pledged to submit and execute action plans about clear and measurable policies of open government twice a year.
Paraguay’s first plan as an open government consisted of three components of e-government for which it has made significant progress: an Information Exchange System for government institutions, a system for acquisitions through electronic catalogs and an integrated system for controlling the administrative career.
Thus far, Paraguay has started executing its Second Action Plan on open government whose preparation had a collaboration of more than 10 organizations from civil society related to issues of transparency, accountability, citizen participation, electronic government and open data. The Secretaría Técnica de Planificación del Desarrollo Económico y Social (Secretary of Planning in Economic and Social Development) led the way, and more than 12 public institutions submitted proposals on open government. The results of this collaboration consist in a document with 9 commitments and 26 expected outcomes by 2016.
Some of the commitments that apply to technology are:
The design and implementation of an open data policy: The government commits to publishing an Open Data Government Catalog as well as open data from the education system, public health, procurements, public budget and cultural information. Progress has already been made in this area. For instance, the publishing of the open data portal from the Ministerio de Educación y Cultura (Ministry of Education and Culture), the publishing of the Open Data Government Catalog and the creation of the portal from the Ministerio de Hacienda (Ministry of Finance) containing data from the public budget.
Another great advance was the publishing of data from the Tribunal Superior de Justicia Electoral (Electoral Court).
The government and private sector are looking for transparency and control mechanisms for the “Program to Combat Extreme Poverty” through the openness of the Presidential Board of Control. This board contains information about the program’s budget, implementation and territorial investments in the communities.
Finally, the implementation of the last commitment will strengthen the Legal System of Electronic Public Procurements and will make the process more transparent. This way citizens would be able to submit proposals through electronic tools and get to know the whole procurement process better.
All the efforts promoted by the public sector and civil society are key in the open data processes. For that reason, IT and social development organizations in Paraguay will organize another local edition of “Desarrollando América Latina” (Developing Latin America), a space where entrepreneurs, the tech sector and designers meet to build innovative civic tools using open data.
A lot of policies have been implemented by the public sector in Paraguay and a lot of initiatives have also been implemented by civil society organizations, especially related to open data and open government.
Paraguay could become a reference point in the regional level of open government. If trends continue, it could also add a lot of value from its short but relevant experience from its public sector and non-government organizations to countries that have not yet begun the process of open government.
Adolf Sauer is an Open Government Advisor in the Secretaría Técnica de Planificación and consultant in civil society organizations on issues of transparency and citizen organization. Cristina Del Puerto is the project Manager and Co-founder of Createch, a platform to share initiatives that use technology to solve social challenges.
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