GANA Pienso is an online deliberation platform created by the government of Nariño to provide its citizens access and ability to voice their views, opinions, and/or concerns about government related issues, policies, and proposals.
Problems and Purpose
An online deliberation platform that utilizes electronic participation (e-participation) is a strong tool that gives all citizens of Nariño an opportunity to voice their views, opinions, and/or concerns to their local government agencies. By providing transparency of information, processes, and management through this platform, the government of Nariño can counteract the underlying fear of corruption and deceit through building trust and accountability with its citizens.
Background History and Context
Colombia has a distinct history of reoccurring violence and corruption within the government. The most recent effort to combat these issues was a 2016 Peace Agreement with a guerrilla warfare group called the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known as the FARC. A 50-year civil war occurred between this guerrilla group and the Colombian federal government. Many citizens are unsatisfied with the way the Colombian government handled this situation, especially since it was a direct cause of over 7 million Colombians being internally displaced. This has caused a significant increase in distrust among citizens. Specifically, the FARC has had a significant and devastating impact on the Southwestern area of Colombia, which consists of the department of Nariño. As a way to counteract these issues, local governments have begun to implement programs to build and ensure trust with its citizens once again.
The government of Nariño developed the Programa Gobierno Abierto or Open Government Program in 2016 to ensure that citizens receive transparency of the inner workings of the government, as well as feel informed and knowledgeable about the issues at hand. GANA Pienso is an online deliberation platform and an integral part of this larger program. Not only does it provide transparency and access for the citizens of Nariño, but it gives them a way to effectively communicate to their government through e-participation. The utilization of e-participation was specifically chosen to provide access to all citizens of Nariño through technology. The department of Nariño is very rural; therefore access through transportation can be difficult. However, many citizens have cell phones with some internet access; therefore, this manner of participation was easier to implement than conducting debates and/or forums at specific locations throughout the department. This online deliberation platform is the first of its kind in the department of Nariño, as well as in Colombia.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
GANA Pienso was created and funded solely through the government of Nariño. So the role of this government entity was crucial in the foundations of implementing this participatory platform. However, as mentioned before, because of citizen distrust of government entities, the citizens of Nariño played a vital role in the implementation of this platform. Without the urgency from citizens, it is possible that the government might not have developed this tool to address this issue.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
This platform was specifically created to promote engagement among citizens of the department of Nariño. Because participation is open to all citizens in Nariño, it is required to verify one’s status through the platform. To verify that an individual is a citizen of Nariño, the online platform requires the individual to enter one of their personal identification numbers (passport number, driver’s license, cédula, etc.) and local zip code. The individual must do this in order to participate in the various activities provided through the online platform. Citizens are not incentivized in any way, and any and/or all participation is completely voluntary.
To increase awareness of the platform among citizens of Nariño, the government of Nariño utilized the popularity of social media and created a Facebook page called GANA. They post various announcements regarding local government updates, events, and issues that the government is collaborating on. They post statuses to inform citizens of the topics of debate posted on the online deliberation platform. They also highlight ways in which the entity is striving towards transparency and open government to build trust among its citizens.
Methods and Tools Used
CONSUL is the type of software used to create this online deliberation platform. The software was initially created by the Madrid City Council and includes various features citizens can utilize and engage in. These include options for debates, proposals, participatory budgeting, voting, and collaborative legislation. This software is free, customizable, and provides security and on-going technical support. CONSUL is similar to other types of e-participation software such as CitizenLab and Your Priorities. According to Tsarchopoulos et al., CitizenLab is another civic engagement platform which allows for two-way communication between citizens and city officials. Citizens can voice their opinions on issues and provide solutions to current problems. Your Priorities is a social network application that also allows for citizens to voice their views, opinions and/or concerns and debate their ideas with other engaged citizens.
Specifically on GANA Pienso, citizens are able to participate and deliberate topics of debates and proposals. This platform provides a space both for the government entity to propose topics of debate related to issues at hand, as well as for citizens to propose their own topics of debate. Citizens are then able participate in deliberation and/or dialogue by voicing any views, opinions and/or concerns they have in relation to that general topic. There is also a section labeled “Apoyos” or “Support,” where citizens can engage in a more passive form by favoring or opposing the general topic through clicking the “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” option. These are displayed as votes and do not state who the individual is or how they voted. Citizens are also able to use this passive method of participation on specific comments made within the topic of debate.
This voting system allows for the government of Nariño to see whether its citizens generally favor or oppose with the proposal and/or topic of debate before reading the individual comments left by the citizens. This feedback is helpful for local government officials to obtain the perspectives and views of their citizens and take these into consideration when deliberating and deciding on issues and/or policies to implement. There is no evidence of specified voting rules. It also does not state that if a majority of citizens favor or oppose a proposed policy or decision that the government of Nariño has to abide by these results in regards to a final decision.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Because this program is fairly new and a general knowledge and awareness among the public has not been achieved yet, most debate topics were posted by the government of Nariño. There are instances of citizens initiating debates by posting their own topics, but these topics did not receive a lot of commentary. There is no set time limit for how long topics for discussion will stay posted, nor is there a deadline set by the government of Nariño for when they would like comments posted for each topic. All participation was conducted online through e-participation. There is no evidence suggesting that professional or peer facilitators were utilized.
The topic of discussion also set the stage for level of engagement. Topics of discussion that could affect a large group of citizens had more engagement than those that affected a small group of citizens. For example, one topic posted by the government of Nariño was discussing the annual event, Carnival, and the use of carioca or traditional foam spray. Carnival occurs in the city of Pasto, which is the most populated area within the department of Nariño. This topic generated over 15 comments from citizens discussing the use of carioca and the integral part it plays in this traditional festival. They not only deliberated the question that the government proposed, but engaged in debate among each other for those that had varying opinions.
Transparency was also another topic posted by the government of Nariño and how they define transparency, as well as how that specifically relates to the issue of the right to access information by citizens. This topic generated 12 comments from citizens, which included suggestions on how to improve the government’s efforts to provide transparency. Citizens discussed the idea of “open data,” and how that could be exemplified through publishing specific government budget expenses and data collected by government entities, all of which should be published in a timely manner. According to the “Apoyos” section of this topic, citizens who participated were in favor of the proposal by the government, as demonstrated through the voting system.
Although one could grasp if there was a general consensus in favoring or opposing the topic of debate, this process does not directly require citizens to make a decision or reach a conclusion. Therefore, it appears to serve solely as a space for citizens to express their views, opinions, and/or concerns.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
There is no evidence demonstrating that the views, opinions, and/or concerns posted by citizens on this platform have affected any policy or decision-making. However, according to Pogrebinschi (2017), the implementation, fulfillment of democratic innovation’s aim, and output expectations were met. Citizen engagement did occur through the online platform and feedback was generated for local government officials to take into account when further discussion of the policies and/or proposals occurs. However, there is no evidence that the government of Nariño is analyzing this feedback and taking it into account for the proposed policies or decision-making.
In terms of social outcomes, there is also no evidence of any effect this platform has had on the citizens of Nariño. It is unknown if outcomes such as learning, changed attitudes or perspectives, increased sense of empowerment or increased sense of trust in government occurred by citizens engaging on this platform.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Even though this platform appears to have had no impact on policy, participation has slowly increased since the implementation of the GANA Pienso platform in 2016. This is demonstrated by the increased number of comments left by citizens on proposed topics over time, as well as citizens posting their own topics of discussion on the platform. However, it is not clear if an increase in the number of comments demonstrates an increase in the number of citizens engaging on the platform. As mentioned before, citizens who proposed topics of their own did not generate a lot of commentary. It is possible that these topics did not receive a lot of traffic due to the fact that many topics posted were complaints and consisted of specific circumstances or experiences. Citizens might not be inclined to engage in these topics if they do not directly relate to them as individuals. This could be why topics posted by the government of Nariño received more commentary because of the higher chance that topic could relate to a larger number of citizens.
The platform has had success of engaging citizens and providing a space for citizens to voice their views, opinions, and/or concerns. There is no evidence to suggest that citizens are satisfied with this form of engagement nor if it has created transparency or increased trust among the citizens. It could be beneficial for the government of Nariño to conduct an evaluation to address some of these questions. This could also aid in providing feedback on how to improve the effectiveness and sustainability of this tool.
As citizens potentially gain more knowledge and awareness of this tool, it could be beneficial for the government of Nariño to consistently post topics of debate. Currently, topics of debate were posted sporadically throughout the year with little evidence to show that the platform was being monitored regularly. If more topics are posted regularly and possibly consistently with current policies and proposals, this could build a stronger repertoire among the citizens of Nariño and increase engagement.
 Alsema, Adriaan. (2018, June 19). Colombia has highest number of internally displaced people. Colombia Reports. Retrieved from https://colombiareports.com/colombia-has-highest-number-of-internally-displaced-people/
 Miroff, Nick. (2016, September 5). Colombian’s war has displaced 7 million. With peace, will they go home? The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/colombias-war-has-displaced-7-million-with-peace-will-they-go-home/2016/09/05/538df3c6-6eb8-11e6-993f-73c693a89820_story.html
 Hoeker, Veronika. (2017, March 21). Making Colombians trust again. The Bogotá Post. Retrieved from https://thebogotapost.com/making-colombians-trust/20550/
 CONSUL. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.consulproject.org/en/#features
 Tsarchopoulos, P., Tsampoulatidis, I., & Roman, M. (2018). Digital Tools for Participatory Governance. In 20th Conference of the Greek Society of Regional Scientists
 GANA Pienso. (2018). Retrieved from https://ganapienso.narino.gov.co/
 Pogrebinschi, Thamy. (2017). LATINNO Dataset. Berlin: WZB.
The original submission of this case entry was written by Megan Grubb, a Master of Public Service candidate at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. The views expressed in the current version are those of the authors, editors, or cited sources, and are not necessarily those of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.