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A tale of two consultations: online participatory practices in Brazil

Date added: June 13, 2017

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When it comes to ICT-mediated governance participation in Brazil, Internet penetration still remains a major challenge, with only around half of homes having connectivity. Opportunities to influence public policy frameworks and government strategies through the Internet, or even through offline interaction, are limited. A worsening of the political and economic situation, and the lack of strong institutionalisation of direct participation have contributed to the decline of participation initiatives in Brazil.

This Brief offers a case study of two public consultations initiated by the government to understand the impact of citizen participation through technology on governance in Brazil. The construction of Internet-related policies occurred on a digital platform, made available online in both consultations, specifically:

  • Marco Civil da Internet - a platform for a public consultation about a draft bill on Internet users’ rights, where the Bill was subsequently approved by the Brazilian Congress
  • Copyright Reform bill proposed by the Ministry of Culture. The bill resulting from the public consultation on Copyright Reform was never taken to Congress.

Differences in political context, particularly, mobilisation of different stakeholders and strategies adopted, shed light on the outcomes – success of the uptake in Marco Civil, and failure in the case of the Copyright Reform. The political commitment to the process on the part of the public administration and unity of interests among supporters of the projects were key factors. In both cases, the online platforms made it easier to identify actors and their opinions and also enabled the overcoming of bureaucratic barriers. Moreover, the consultations allowed the organisation of civil society and the archiving of knowledge online, making it available for the construction of other legal texts.

However, participatory processes are experiencing a decline in Brazil. The Brazilian Congress is the most conservative since Brazilian democracy was re-established, which can jeopardise new experiences of ICT-mediated participation. In this sense, it is still uncertain whether of the state-society interaction can survive less progressive administrations.

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