Social participation through e-governance
© GIZ/Moatasem Mortaja

17.12.2021

Social participation through e-governance

With digital formats, public administrations can directly involve their citizens in local issues. In the Palestinian territories, this is how people shape their environment.

Applying for IDs, issuing building permits, hosting town hall meetings: it is possible to provide more and more public administration services digitally. The countries of the Middle East and Northern Africa, too, are increasingly expanding their e-governance. However, citizens have so far scarcely made use of the new options. This is because users’ needs and wishes are rarely factored into development of the tools provided. However, user-friendly electronic services and digital participation formats can strengthen trust in public administration, reduce inequality and thus contribute towards social cohesion.

Especially at municipal level, the aim is for the population to participate more in public projects. With this in mind, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has been working in the Palestinian territories since 2020 to structure digital governance so that it meets the needs of the population. The programme has been commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The participation of women and people with disabilities is a special focus. In addition, citizens are given the opportunity to help shape municipal plans and thus influence the way they live together. In this way, they play an active role in their daily living environment and benefit directly from improvements.

This is precisely what Jamila Al-Habbash did: She actively participated in the local administration. The journalist lost both her legs during the violent clashes in the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009. ‘I don’t want my disability to keep me from having a fulfilling social life,’ the 27-year-old says. With this in mind, she joined a group of 25 Gaza City citizens to help design a section of the boardwalk. Together, they created design models using an intuitive digital application. The city is now putting one of these into practice. Jamila Al-Habbash is thrilled. ‘For me, it’s a unique experience to see my ideas and vision for an open, accessible and safe place for all realised in a concrete design.’

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