Petitions, debates and surveys on the web portal Abidjan.net

Weblogy is an ICT service company registered in the United States and set up by diaspora Ivoirians. In 1998, the founders of Weblogy launched the website www.Abidjan.net to enable the Ivoirian diaspora community to access information on what is happening in Côte d’Ivoire. This site was launched towards the end of 1999, the time of the country’s first ever coup. This portal is now the most visited portal in Côte d’Ivoire, with a minimum of 300,000 visits per day. At the tenth Fête de l’Internet (Festival of the Internet), from 27 April to 1 May 2009, Weblogy won an award from the ministry for ICTs as a private enterprise of public interest. The two founders of Weblogy, Jil N’Dia and Daniel Ahouassa, were awarded the status of Officiers dans l’Ordre du Mérite des Postes et Télécommunications (Officers in the Postal and Telecommunications Service Order of Merit).

According to Seydou Koné, head of content at www.Abidjan.net, the ‘Electronic Petition’, ‘Big Questions’, and ‘Electronic Survey’ pages are initiatives by his team to increase readership. These pages were launched in tandem in 2002 and are described below. Electronic Petition: On the Internet, different applications provide an opportunity to organize a petition and gather signatures online. The legal value of a petition is perhaps non- existent, but the resultant pressure on political decisionmakers can be decisive. The ‘electronic petition’ service was launched on Abidjan.net in order to offer interested Internet users the opportunity to launch petitions and gather signatures from people who support their standpoint. However, this initiative only experienced a relatively low level of participation and as of 2007 is no longer maintained by its developers. Since its launch, the page has generated 174 petitions, mainly on political issues, no doubt due to the crisis the country is going through. Big Questions: The Big Questions is a weekly column on Abidjan.net which gives a voice to observers of political, economic and social life. It aims to be more incisive in analysing the questions asked. Since its launch, 514 questions have been submitted to Internet users. The topics addressed are generally linked to the most prominent events of the week. At present it is difficult to identify a specific example of decision- making on the basis of the summaries from this column. However, the suggestions made remain accessible and available to all.

Electronic Survey: This page is by far the most active in terms of participation. The way it works is undoubtedly one of the reasons for this; the Internet user simply has to click on their choice. Since this initiative was launched in 2002, over 70 surveys have been carried out. The topics of the surveys are currently suggested by the content management team for the Abidjan.net website. The results of the surveys can be accessed online and can be used by everyone. Many survey subjects are linked to current affairs in national politics.

The momentum generated by these initiatives is rather remarkable. It is important to note that they have been in place for a number of years, well before e-participation was even mentioned. There are also experiences provided by the private sector. Although their results and impact on national governance remain unclear, since these initiatives were not set up as part of formal public consultation processes by a recognized democratic governance stakeholder, they may serve as models for organizations working in this field.

Source : E-governance and citizen participation in West Africa: Challenges and case studies
http://www3.undp.org/e-gov/E-Participation-eng.pdf