Last week, I had the great opportunity to join the Omidyar Network Government Transparency Gathering and the Open Knowledge Festival, in Berlin. Besides knowing a little of the amazing cultural life, architecture and social life of the capital of the reunified Germany and watch the final of the World Football Cup in the company of my fellow mission colleagues, the experience served to better understand the space we can and should occupy in this field of work, as a Brazilian initiative focused in promoting social participation, taking into account the new mental models made possible by the web.
From day one, knowing the fellows and grantees of the Omidyar Network, many Latin Americans, during the conference dinner until the last day of the OK Fest, going with Brazilian friends and a new German friend to a beer garden where the food was prepared with ingredients from this very garden and from small urban producers, I realized that we have a big challenge ahead of us: to face our actual challenge, which some may call ‘an agenda of the South’.
I prefer to call it an agenda for the strengthening of social participation in Latin America, without no intention of creating a movement in opposition to ‘an agenda of the North’, which I certainly recognize as legitimate and fundamental to the bigger mission that mobilizes us all. Nominate this great theme is not trivial, but it certainly includes the open data agenda that is closely related to the government transparency one. Open knowledge and open innovation are central themes in this discussion as well.
Listening to so many voices in this week, helped me to better understand our role. The social participation and citizenship issues certainly have different places in the daily lives of those who work with the subject in Europe and North America. In there, you can tell that there is already a citizen ownership of the paths through which their societies have been walking. One way or another, in these places, it makes sense to say that there is a system in which, though more or less intensely, the various social groups have been participating.
In Brazil, and in Latin America in general, I believe that the theme has a completely different contour, with a space still to be conquered, where there is a strong perception that the State, rulers and those who enjoy some power of influence, are responsible, for the good and for the bad, for the ways through which our society trails.
A quotation from a new friend, Yasodara, gives the best example of these diferent perspectives: in an event in which participants were asked to develop applications for digital public issues using open data, realizing that a fellow resident of an important capital of Central Europe resolved with little effort the task of downloading a good set of databases on public transport in town, she asked: ‘What benefit do you see in participating in an activity like this, since the access of public data is so easy for you,’ the other, then, would have answered that what worried them all was the lack of information they had about the values of the salaries of public transport companies CEOs, regarding a law that prevents a top executive to earn more than seven times the minimum wage. A schedule, say, absolutely different from the nature of what worries us, South Americans, when it comes to public transportation.
So before continuing to explore the many nuances that this reflection can bring, I want to conclude that, in my opinion, open public data is certainly an important point and, dare we say, critical throughout Latin America, but that the great structural challenge to our territory certainly passes through strengthening social participation, including development of digital applications, but also mobilization actions, raising awareness and promoting intersectoral dialogue in which, as Roberto Da Matta says in his terrific ‘A Casa e a Rua’, private interests of companies, parties and individuals, can permeate and be permeated by public and collective reasons, present in the actions and speeches of NGOs and governments.
While I realize that this view, which may be only mine, is not clear for most of my interlocutors in the North, I believe it will be of great benefit to everyone if we can say in a every increasing and forceful way, not as I said, in order to strengthen an alternative or opposed agenda to another that certainly has a lot of strength, but as a way that can be our way, according to our specificities. It can be another way of walking this path and that may also lead us to another place, a young democracy, possible from the mental models promoted by the web and with strong social participation and open dialogue with governments.
Only this practice can help us avoid the decontextualized discussions that serves the interests of a part of our society, without the awareness of the sovereign whole, and put us all at once on the way to build a desirable future from the will of the whole of society.
By the way, it was great to meet friends like Alexandre Abdo, Américo, Andres Martano, Célio, Daniela Mattern and Daniela Silva, Gabriel, Gisele Craveiro, Jia Lyng, Jorge Machado, Juan Manuel Casanueva, Juan Pardinas, Jutta Machado, Márcio Vasconcelos, Marco Aurélio, Marco Túlio, Mariana Valente, Natalia Mazotte, Pablo Collada, Paco Mekler, Pedro Lenhard, Raniere Silva, Renato Cron, Ricardo Matheus, Rogério Sobreira, Thiago Rondon, Tom, Vagner Diniz, Vítor Baptista and Yasodara Córdova.
Categories: Ecossistema Webcidadania