Opening the window on municipal services in Gevgelija
“Before now, most people outside the administration found it quite difficult to access and understand a lot of information about the key functions of the municipality,” says Risto Atanasovski of the local NGO ‘Foundation for Local and IT Development’ in Gevgelija. “This was especially the case with the environmental protection and communal services provided by the municipality—things like waste management and water supply. But now with this new IT tool, Dashboard, all this information is available at a glance in a highly user-friendly and interactive format. This is a major step towards greater transparency and citizen participation in local government.”
Dashboard is the latest innovative tool designed to open the window on municipal functions and facilitate greater public participation in local decision-making on environmental protection services.
Launched in April 2014, this new interactive online web tool is now successfully operating in the Municipality of Gevgelija and looks set for expansion to other local government functions and services.
The Dashboard website presents users with a clear, concise and intuitive display of key data on the municipality’s efforts and achievements in environmental protection services.
The ingenious design of the site enables any non-expert to swiftly gain an overview of the municipality’s functions, providing a carefully selected set of indicators on inputs, outputs and outcomes with which to measure the effectiveness of local government actions and investments.
“The development of this platform means we can present the citizens with a clear picture of the competences and activities of the municipal administration in the area of environmental protection and communal affairs,” says the Mayor of the Municipality of Gevgelija, Ivan Frangov. “And the public can now easily contact and give feedback to the relevant department through the site. In this way they will be directly involved in the creation of municipal policy, since we will use this feedback to help improve the quality of our services. All in all, Dashboard is a great breakthrough in the transparency and accountability of local administration. I hope and believe that we will extend the application of this tool to other key local services.”
The idea for the new interactive online web tool originated from the local NGO ‘Foundation for Local and IT Development’. The NGO came up with the innovative idea to address the gaps in public access to information detected by a UNDP-supported report on environmental governance in the municipality of Gevgelija.
The findings of this report indicated that public access to information on local environmental protection services and citizen participation in local decision-making were insufficient. For example, the report found that two thirds of all the respondents surveyed were either partly or completely dissatisfied with the opportunities they were offered for consultation and involvement in the development of their municipality’s environmental protection programmes. The report further identified deficiencies in the municipality’s collection of public feedback.
Based on the findings of this report, the NGO ‘Foundation for Local and IT Development’ proposed a web-based solution to provide the citizens and administration of the Municipality with a one-stop site where all key information about local environment protection and communal services could be accessed and where the public could provide feedback.
The Foundation’s proposal received the strong backing of the Municipality of Gevgelija and financial support for its development from the UNDP programme ‘Think Globally—Develop Locally’.
Once the proposal had been accepted, the tool was developed over several months in a highly participatory process before Dashboard was finally launched in 2014.
First, the NGO team worked in close cooperation with the municipal administration and employees of the municipal public utility on reviewing and mapping all relevant legislation and documentation regarding environmental protection, as well as all municipal services in this area. The overall functioning of all relevant departments and units within the municipal administration and public utility were analyzed from several perspectives: the frequency of their provision of specific local service, the localities where these services are provided, and the institutional, human and financial capacities for providing such services.
Secondly, several workshops were organized with all the main stakeholders. The project was presented to a broader audience, including representatives of the municipal administration, the public utility, local NGOs and the business sector, allowing feedback for the developers to fine-tune the tool to the needs of the public and the municipality.
“Besides giving citizens efficient access to relevant information about local services, an added value of the dashboard tool is that it enables consistent social auditing of the quality of local services,” says UNDP’s Ilmiasan Dauti. “This means the municipality can use the data gathered on Dashboard to prepare quality analysis of its work and respond to challenges in a more timely manner. And of course it has significantly increased and expanded the engagement of citizens and the civil society sector in shaping and implementing local environmental protection policies. Plus it has helped the municipality to establish more productive and effective partnerships with local NGOs and the citizens. This is definitely an innovation we want to see applied in other municipalities in the future—the potential is vast.”