In 2017, Korea opened the online platform allowing the public to make policy suggestions, ‘Gwanghwamun 1st street’ as an effort to expand Direct Democracy. Following this lead, Gwanak-gu developed its own online platform, ‘Online Gwanak-gu Office’. ‘Online Gwanak-gu Office’, which is exclusively for Gwanak-gu citizens, utilized user participation during development, and its innovation comes from the integration of various existing public participation routes.
Gwanak-gu is a local government administering citizens living at south-western part of Seoul metropolitan area with about 500,000 population. In the sociodemographic respect, population with diverse background such as youngster, seniors, disabled, immigrants, etc. is dwelling. This is why quite a lot of conflict occurs. From this standpoint, public officers of Gwanak-gu discerned that it is important to hear opinions from various background a lot and reflect them to its policy.
In 2017, central government of Korea developed the website ‘Gwanghwamun 1st street’ at which people can directly take part in the national policy. To act in concert with the flow, mayor of Gwanak-gu decided to swiftly establish a route on which direct democracy can be implemented for convenience of people to participate at local government policies. In July 2019, ‘Online Gwanak-gu Office’ was born. This intended to build Gwanak-gu together with citizens who can join policy discussion any time without limitation of space.
Gwanak-gu organized a TF team in the early stage of project to build the Online Gwanak-gu Office. Based on several policy discussion meetings and result from thorough analysis of stakeholders, the office constructed the platform and started to operate it with a few rules (direction). First, Gwanak-gu government wanted to fully reflect key demand of stakeholders such as policy makers, citizens, NGOs, etc. on how to build the platform via analysis. Collaborative Plannings and Governance. Second, all times participation by citizens should be enabled via comprehensive portal that includes functions of policy suggestion, citizen involved budgeting, residents autonomy, etc. which have been scattered in the website of Gwanak-gu. Third, the platform should continuously evolve following the change of policy environment.
As the result of the project with above orientation, ‘Online Gwanak-gu Office’ was born that integrates many routes wherein citizens can participate at policy discussion and making. ‘Online Gwanak-gu Office’, which is the 365 days Online Platform for Direct Democracy, is composed of total 6 menus and details are as below.
- Gwanak-gu Office is the menu in which citizens can apply for a meeting with the mayor and it has been releasing relevant information. Up to now, 56 cases of application for meeting mayor was received and 441 cases of information on the meeting details and result was open to the public.
- Participation at policy is the space for citizens to suggest policies. Through the process of Sympathy by citizens → Review of suggestion → Presentation to policy conference → Discussion & Voting by citizens, a policy may be changed, implemented and its result published. Total 263 suggestions were raised and 20 cases among them were reviewed by relevant teams.
- Citizens involved budgeting allows suggestion of budget or policy project in order to guarantee participation of citizens at budget making process. Information on review details and implementation result for the suggested projects is open to the public.
- Gwanak-gu on collaboration is the menu for suggestion of policies to be pursued by the Gwanak-gu government and the community together. Visitors can easily check information on the list of collaboration projects and meeting minutes, etc.
- At Manifesto & Commitment, people can see commitment by mayor and performance rate of campaign pledges at a glance.
- Residents Autonomy works as the platform to support activity of Residents autonomy. Residents autonomy is the decision making organization for residents who are authorized the rights and responsibilities for resolving community issues proactively. It is established at total 6 villages of Gwanak-gu and operating lively.
Thanks to establishment of this Online Gwanak-gu Office, routes to join policy discussion that had been scattered were congregated into one place and thus citizens now can access conveniently while the opportunity for residents to take part in the policy got more diverse and enlarged. In particular, as the need for public sphere to discuss policies online grew to respond to post-COVID19 age due to influence of recent pandemic, larger effect of Online Gwanak-gu Office operating 24 hours a day is expected. Gwanak-gu Government aims at inducing young generation in their 20s and 30s who are relatively passive in participation to join policy making process via this platform and realizing direct democracy which reflects policy demand of different walks of life.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Online Gwanak-gu Office is unique in that it is a comprehensive portal that streamlines 6 menus such as policy suggestion, citizens involved budgeting, residents autonomy, etc. Compared to ‘Gwanghwamun 1st Street’, the distinctiveness of Online Gwanak-gu Office is remarkable. While Gwanghwamun 1st Street was developed under a one-way order, Online Gwanak-gu Office was developed after thoroughly analyzing and reflecting opinions and demand of stakeholders like residents, NGOs, policy administrators, etc. This allowed customized policy that reflects accurate identification status quo about citizens’ participation routes and their needs. This interactive, bottom-up approach is also a differentiated point. Moreover, the technological innovation is the 6 menus cohesively working among themselves. This can be regarded as the realization of a hyper-connected society. Another innovative aspect is different system environments allowing access from various mediums such as PC, smartphone, etc.
What is the current status of your innovation?
Through continuous monitoring and feedback after the development of Online Gwanak-gu Office, discussions and improvements continue for areas that require innovation. Recently, Online Gwanak-gu renovated its operating system. Gwanak-gu recognized that use rate of the ‘Participation at policy’ menu was relatively low and is working out a plan for promoting usage through cause analysis. First, Gwanak-gu will greatly alleviate requirements for a policy suggestion to be reach the review stage. In particular, the residents agreement requirement, necessary for residents suggestion, was lowered from ‘more than 10 residents’ to ‘more than 5 residents’, and the time required to receive feedback from relevant divisions was shortened from 30 days to 15 days while the requirement to hear direct feedback from mayor was lowered from 300 residents to 100 residents. During special public participation periods, all suggestions are reviewed thoroughly regardless of the number of likes received.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Divisions of Gwanak-gu, Korea Manifesto Center, 6 Residents’ autonomy groups and activists took part in the development of Online Gwanak-gu Office. Needs and opinions of stake holders were reflected in the budgeting, technological development and technical negotiations. Online Gwanak-gu Office is a integrated platform owing its success to collaborations with partners, and it was established at a low cost of 7,600 USD.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Leadership and conflict management skills were demanded from Gwanak-gu as the host of the project. Residents, the beneficiaries, were able to see participation opportunities were expanded and their opinions were reflected. In other words, most of residents have enhanced the qualitative ‘self-efficacy’ greatly. According to opinion poll of 2021, Gwanak-gu residents turned out to support the Gwanak-gu’s policies showing approval rate of 75%.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Below is the performance data of Online Gwanak-gu Office (as of September 30, 2022):
- Accumulated / Daily Average Visitors : 245,581 / 207
- Applications for a meeting with Gwanak-gu Mayor : 56
- Creative Suggestions : 500 cases received. 20 cases chosen.
- Residents-participated Budget Proposal : 300 cases received. 34 cases approved.
- Remarkable performance considering the population of Gwanak-gu.
Increased SNS friends analyzed to be the source of visitors. Data confirms that SNS friends of Online Gwanak-gu Office reached 125,000. Residents can access daily policy news via SNS and Online Gwanak-gu Office.
Gwanak-gu received the Prime Minister Award for its online innovation at the ‘2020 Korea Knowledge Grand Prize’ organized by Ministry of Public Administration and Security. Such can also be regarded as the formation of Social Capital, due to the reinforcement of trust in the local government and participation network, which in turn will improve the sustainability of the p
Challenges and Failures
Before construction of the integrated platform, residents participation routes inside website of Gwanak-gu was scattered making access by residents difficult. Specifically, residents autonomy (NGO) members wanted their own platform as they encountered difficulty to access Policy participation, Resident involved budget corner, etc. since the menus were scattered. Gwanak-gu, recognizing necessity of menus integration, directly contacted residents autonomy (NGO) members and divisions involved at residents participation to advocate necessity of building integrated platform instead of authorizing them to operate the menus they want. Particularly in this process, they could deliver the convenience for the residents provided by integrated platform and later could build the system to communicate bilaterally between residents and Gwanak-gu through agreement with NGO and divisions involving the residents.
Conditions for Success
The integrated platform development project was the key pledge of the mayor who makes much of communication with residents. In this regard, Gwanak-gu government quickly prepared budget of 7,600 USD for building the platform and assigned an officer dedicated to online platform management. On the other hand, Gwanak-gu is promoting participation taking advantage of different events such as awarding prize money to residents who suggested excellent policy ideas. And, it is continuously providing information to secure the right to know for residents by publishing meeting minutes and other data with which residents can check residents-involved budget and process of collaboration projects and by activating the voting for the suggested policies.
By benchmarking the Online Gwanak-gu Office, Geumcheon-gu established ‘Geumcheon 1st Street’ platform in December 2019, and Guro-gu also established ‘Guro 1st Street’ in March 2020. It is worth noting that the Online Gwanak-gu Office can collect opinions from residents at all times. In particular, these online platforms are expected to be utilized more as cooperation is important for local governments and communities overcome difficulties arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, with smartphone users increasing worldwide, online platforms are expected to serve as a communication channel for collecting opinions from around the world. In addition, Gwanak-gu published a collection of best innovation practices and shared them with local governments across the country, and is promoting innovation exhibits and contests. Through such, Gwanak-gu was designated as the ‘excellent institution’ for 2 consecutive years, and Gwanak-gu will continue to promote innovative local governance.
For promoting Local governance, we realized that the role of mayor is important during the course of collaboration among policy administrator, residents (beneficiaries), NGOs, etc. Particularly, in case of the nations (including Korea) where fast-speed internet network is established, each stake holder tends to try to own and operate its own site. And for this reason, a conflict can occur in the course of operating online integrated platform. At this moment, a proactive response of grasping the reason and organizing collaboration among stakeholders by mayor was critical. And we also felt that after completion of building integrated platform, inducing the residents interest to access the platform continuously by way of updating website design reflecting changed environment of administration is important too to prevent residents’ indifference to the platform.
This online platform’s main goal is to enlarge opportunity particularly for residents (beneficiaries) to take part in the policy of local government. Therefore, increasing visit volume during operation of the platform is most important. For this, residents need to be guided into the online platform via different routes. Not only simple URL, the platform should be exposed to residents via banners at official website, local news magazine, social media of Gwanak-gu, local newspaper, etc. And creating an environment under which residents are motivated to visit the platform repeatedly by advertising user guide video via various media so that even the firstcomer can comfortably use the platform. In this course, policy administrator can let residents know the progress of policies real-time through the Hyper-connected society system wherein residents’ opinions are delivered to relevant division right away. In this respect, ‘Online Gwanak-gu Office’ can be regarded a very innovative system.
- Implementation - making the innovation happen
- Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
3 January 2023