Are you looking for a professional experience that will have a meaning and impact on our democratic system? The Open Source Politics team welcomes you for a concrete internship, in contact with pioneering approaches to citizen participation.
Presentation of the company
Open Source Politics is one of the French leaders in the growing civic tech sector. For more than three years, we have been supporting more than fifty leading institutions and private actors in their digital consultations and participatory budgets, thanks to DecidimThe platform for large-scale citizen participation used in about ten countries.
As a true eco-system company, we defend with our partners in France and abroad a certain vision of digital participatory democracy based on transparency, collaboration, respect for privacy and accessibility.
Your mission: optimize the use of Decidim for your customers
As part of a team of 15 people in strong growth, you will accompany our clients to ensure that they make optimal use of Decidim and its functionalities. You work closely with the product team by qualifying the bugs reported by customers and you are a force of proposal on the improvements to be made to the software. The Support team is in the first line to answer our customers, so you will have to become a Decidim Ninja ⛩ to accomplish the missions that will be yours:
Reply to incoming tickets sent by the customer ;
Identify and understand the customer's request, and determine if it is a software bug or a request for new functionality;
To update and improve the documentation and the various learning materials;
Work with the product team to identify and prioritize bugs;
Share user feedback to help build the product roadmap;
Evaluate user data in order to improve the product and processes.
Working with many social innovators, you will have the opportunity to develop skills in agile project management and web culture.
A curiosity for digital issues;
An interest in Civic Tech and democratic renewal;
A great ease in writing in French ;
Proficiency in written and spoken English and/or Spanish will be appreciated;
The ability to integrate autonomously in a multidisciplinary team;
Experience: A first experience in application support in direct relationship with end customers is a plus.
Duration: 6 months full-time
Availability: September 2020
Statutory remuneration + 50% of the transport ticket
Possibility of hiring or assignments at the end of the internship
Premises: teleworking for as long as the Covid19 pandemic lasts
The coronavirus crisis should be a catalyst for institutionalising the use of digital tools in parliament
This article is a translation by Open Source Politics of the article published on the OECD publication "Participo". To read the original article by Paula Forteza, click here.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, legislative processes have stalled due to physical distance. Many legislators are testing technologies that will allow their democratic institutions to meet, deliberate and vote despite these restrictive measures. We must use this momentum to be ambitious in terms of participatory and collaborative legislative processes. How do we do this? By institutionalizing the use of digital tools in Parliament with the necessary security and privacy measures.
Digital technologies to ensure democratic continuity during the crisis
The National Assembly has introduced temporary solutions to preserve parliamentary debate by using videoconferencing applications for committee deliberations. However, the legislative vote is still held in person and is only possible for a very limited number of MPs. There are both historical and technical reasons for this choice to maintain the functioning of the institutions mainly on a physical level: sincerity of the vote, security, tradition, etc.
Our parliament is lagging behind in modernising its processes, unlike, for example, the parliaments ofLatin America, which are pioneers in this field. In addition to the use of videoconferencing applications, the parliaments of Brazil, Chile and Ecuador have developed their own online platforms and solutions for attendance registration, quorum verification and voting. In at least six other South American countries - Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica and Mexico - legislative bodies have begun experimenting with virtual participation, applying it to non-decision-making spaces such as working groups or committee meetings. In Europe, countries such as the United Kingdom andSpain are advancing faster than we are. We should follow these examples.
In France, one of the most common arguments against the digitization of parliament is that it will weaken the "ceremonial" aspect of parliamentary deliberation. It is argued that digitization could threaten the symbolic duties of MPs and their political weight vis-à-vis other branches of power, including the executive. Another reason may be the lack of digital culture and skills in the French parliament. A recent study showed that only 5.37% of MPs considered themselves to be digital experts, 10.23% as connoisseurs and 12.65% as enthusiasts.
Achieving a digital parliament would also require the recruitment of technical profiles and appropriate equipment in both chambers. With regard to concerns at the political level, the doctrine needs to evolve. Digital parliaments may be less solemn than traditional procedures, but this horizontality is beneficial and can bring elected representatives closer to their citizens.
Privacy, security and accessibility are the conditions for a digital parliament
I am not advocating a blind race to digitisation: of course, there are certain limits to the introduction of digital tools in institutional decision-making. For example, Zoom has been strongly criticised for the lack of clarity in personal data protection policies, lack of security and violations of personal data.
If we consider remote voting, several security issues arise, such as fraud, for example. The use of digital tools in Parliament facesother challenges, such as uneven Internet bandwidth, technical problems (bad sound, connection problems, etc.) and uneven digital culture and skills. However, this does not mean that we should stop modernising legislative bodies. On the contrary, we should address and resolve these problems, which have been made more visible through physical distance measures.
In addition to the technical challenges, the use of digital tools requires high standards of data privacy, cybersecurity and decentralization. First of all by applying the general European data protection regulation, as well as stricter safeguards against government surveillance and misuse of personal data.
In addition, free and open source web solutions should be the standard for digital tools, both in institutions and in public administrations. For example, decentralized peer-to-peer videoconferencing applications such as Jitsi or Big Blue Button can be an excellent alternative to Zoom or Google Meet.
More broadly, civic tech can help us to continue citizen deliberation in times of physical distance, provided it is open, ethical and responds to a real need. As an example, I have used the Decidim platform on several occasions to establish a dialogue with and between citizens. During the COVID-19 crisis, I launched with 65 other MEPs the platform " The Day After". This was the first time that the European Parliament had held a meeting of the European Parliament, where citizens could propose, deliberate and vote on ideas to decide collectively on the direction to take after the crisis.
Digital technologies can support more resilient, innovative and vibrant democracies.
Containment measures have shown the urgency of adapting our democratic institutions and processes to ensure their continuity, even in times of crisis. Today, nearly 79% of French people surveyed have a negative feeling about politics. Beyond responding to the emergency, such technical - and cultural - changes could help to strengthen citizens' confidence in elected officials and institutions by promoting participation, transparency and accountability.
There are a myriad of examples, tools and methods to support the modernisation and openness of our parliaments, for example by publishing parliamentarians' agendas and expenditures, ensuring transparency in parliamentary lobbying or involving citizens in law-making.
Finally, the underlying question is not whether we need more or less digital tools in our institutions. It is a question of taking into account the major transformation of our society, the digital revolution, and adapting our political culture to it. We can use today's challenges to build a resilient, innovative and truly vibrant democracy. Although this discussion is about the use of digital tools, the ultimate goal remains to transform and adapt our institutions to the needs and realities of the 21st century.
Paula Forteza, born August 8, 1986 in Paris, is a French politician. She has been a Member of Parliament since June 2017, representing French citizens from Latin America and the Caribbean. She has spent more than 20 years of her life in Latin America. After several experiences in the government of the city of Buenos Aires, in the French administration, in Etalab, or in entrepreneurship, she wishes to place digital, transparency and citizen participation at the heart of the political debate in France.
The objective of DecidimFest is to bring together the different actors (researchers, companies, associations, etc.) of the Decidim community internationally, to present the latest advances of the Decidim project and to draw inspiration from other communities and free software with similar missions. Each year, theOpen Source Politics (OSP)team is invited to present its use cases and it is an opportunity for us to strengthen our relationships with our Spanish and international partners.
In this article you will find a summary of what was presented to us during these three days.
Perspective on the future: the Roadmap 2023
Before the official start of the Decidim Fest, we had the opportunity to attend the General Assembly of the Decidim association, to take stock of what had been achieved so far and the roadmap for the years to come.
Things toremember : The Decidim association now has its legal status and has registered its trademark. In addition, an agreement between Localret (the Catalan IT services purchasing centre) and the city of Barcelona has been signed to promote the Decidim platform over the next four years. Finally, it is now possible to become a member of the association for an annual fee of 40 euros(click here to find out more).
One of the challenges over the next four years is to find different funding streams to ensure financial stability. The association wishes to increase its membership in order to ensure the maintenance of the core of the technology, to deepen the documentation (technical, functional, use cases), to disseminate it to as many people as possible and to promote the democratic and ethical guarantees of the project. The general assembly ended with a presentation of the feedback on the Decidim Day organized by OSP on September 12, 2019 with more than 150 participants and 30 speakers with the overall objective of making Decidim known in France and thinking about the future of the digital common good. For more information, see here.
Day One: Building Accessible Infrastructure
The day was introduced by the new head of participation of the city of Barcelona (Marc Serra). He announced the implementation of a wide-ranging participatory budget and a training plan at Decidim for those furthest from digital technology to ensure better inclusion in technopolitical tools.
Other interventions focused on the key issues of digital governance: how to provide a direct response to the impact of the web giants on democracy, how to ensure the democratization of technology and society, or how to resolve the conflict between the notion of privacy and the contemporary demand for permanent connection.
Presentations illustrated throughout the day how the decentralized, free and open source model that respects the personal data and anonymity of participants allows for rapid distribution of data and governance in multiple contexts.
Things toremember: Arnau Monterde, coordinator of the Decidim project within the city of Barcelona presented the short term roadmapfor the software. Numerous improvements will be made to the existing system in order to continue to improve the quality, robustness and ease of use of Decidim for users and administrators. In the longer term, the Decidim community will continue to explore the security of votes thanks to the blockchain (note that very solid prototypes have already been produced for the Decode project), the use of ethical artificial intelligence in the service of participatory democracy, the federation of Decidim instances, etc. We also note the intervention of Ben Cerveney, from the Public Code Foundation, whose objective is to support public institutions in the production and adoption of digital commons. His presentation highlighted the extent to which the city represents an ideal level for producing "public code". Decidim is an excellent example of this vision as it was initiated by the city of Barcelona and has implemented most of the good practices recommended by the Public Code Foundation, namely
The afternoon was marked for OSP by the intervention of Virgile Deville in the panel. how to concretely improve budgets and participatory processes? With the example of the first five institutions that renewed the experience for a second edition, Virgile illustrates how OSP implemented technical improvements on the user experience that significantly increased participation during the voting phases of the projects.
Day Two: Case studies and research, Decidim's results in the field
During the second day, the presentations focused on successful practical cases, but also on the presentation of numerous scientific researches on the use of digital tools for governance and participation in public and private bodies.
One of the most striking concrete cases was the participatory budget of the city of Helsinki, presented by Katja Henttonen, who has been using Decidim for 2 years. Many initiatives were taken there, including the setting up of a network of local ambassadors and a further step to collaboratively develop the proposals. TheHelsinki Decidim instance is now the one with the most users in the world (more than 70k users).
The City of Helsinki presented the user research work implemented by the city to simplify the user experience as much as possible. Many of the developments have been made by the City of Helsinki and donated as open source to the community. It was also on this occasion thatOSP collaborated on a module simplifying the user experience for the voting phase. The participatory budget attracted 40,000 new users and now 10% (59,000 users) of the population is registered!
The other highlight of the morning was a round table discussion on the phenomenon of surveillance capitalism and its alternatives with Mara Balestrini, Antonio Calleja and Liliana Arroyo Mollner.
The important thing to remember:
The example of the @decodeproject which realized a pilot using Decidim with a prototype of electronic signature on the blockchain where the user's data is stored in a digital wallet under his control. It is this type of technology allowing to consider identity in a decentralized way that is targeted by the government decision mentioned in our introduction.
The very recent study "My data my rules, form data extractivism to digital empowerment" which shows that other economic models are possible where data is seen as common, where users control their data.
The "Smart Citizen Kit" is a very easy to install #opensource sensor so that any citizen can become a data producer and make his own measurements in order to question public authorities or companies.
The second part of the afternoon was punctuated by the presentation of the latest results of the different researchers of the Decidim community.Maite Lopez Sanchez from theUniversitat Autonoma de Barcelona, did a remarkable work on how to use artificial intelligence in the participatory processes of Decidim. Using optimization algorithms, she and her team have demonstrated that we can significantly improve the way we select winning projects for a participatory budget. Instead of simply choosing winning projects in descending order of voting, this research team used an algorithm that selected projects based on two variables: maximizing the use of the budget and the number of supports represented by the selection. The results are impressive: +30% of the budget used, +70% of support represented. Well aware of the mistrust that citizens may have towards algorithms, Maite insisted on the importance of using open source algorithms and of developing pedagogical materials explaining how these algorithms work.
Pablo Aragon presented a comparative study of the Madrid and Barcelona petitions platforms. In particular, he demonstrated how trivial technical choices have important political consequences. The case study presented explained how putting the most recent petitions on Decide Madrid before the most recent ones biased their ability to gather sufficient support, which is why on Decidim the lists of proposals and initiatives are randomly displayed.
It was Xabier Barrandarian who concluded this edition of Decidim Fest with a presentation of Decidim's White Paper, which is intended to provide a context for this technopolitical project, explain the technical and functional architecture choices and consider how the advent of the decentralized technopolitical network is democratizing society.
A word in conclusion
Decidim Fest has once again brought together a diversity of actors (social, economic, scientific and political) essential to any project related to democracy. We take as a sign of maturity the presence of many international actors: the Mozilla Foundation, Public Code Foundation, Better NYC, MP Paula Forteza, the cities of Mexico City and Helsinki. We are pleased to see that the Catalan institutions (the city of Barcelona, Localret, the Generalitat de Catalunya) initiators and spearheads of the project plan to continue to invest heavily in Decidim. Finally, the first results of the different research projects have been promising and it is an incomparable richness to have a scientific community that takes a step back from the impact of Decidim on society.
We cannot help but conclude by referring to the decision of the Spanish Government banning decentralized identity technologies such as Decode Project, which gives users total control over their data, and that of the Catalan judiciary declaring the legal framework for citizen participation, one of the most advanced in the world, null and void.