The Consul Democracy Project in Somalia is a project for which Enreda Cooperative - one of Consul Democracy Foundation’s certified companies - was chosen to implement the consul democracy software for participation platforms in the context of Somalia’s constitutional reform. The Enreda Cooperative has signed an agreement with the Somali Office of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to implement a digital participation platform, which will be used by the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs of the Government of Somalia in order to receive citizen proposals in the process of constitutional reform.
Another part of the project was to implement several participation platforms at a municipal level. For example, the consul democracy software was implemented in a responsive way in the municipality of Garowe, empowering citizens to use their mobile phones to take part in online participation processes.
In order to ensure a sustainable participation culture, Enreda also trained programmers in Somalia so that the project can be self-managed in the long run.
As with many projects in conflict regions, this is a work in progress. As Somalia is one of the most dangerous nations in the world, implementing this type of project comes with certain challenges. However, as illustrated below, there are also many opportunities for innovation and change.
Enreda's team members couldn't obtain a visa to enter Somalia. As a result, they couldn't work directly with the UNDP team in Somalia. In addition to existing cultural differences, all of the work had to be done remotely, which created further technical hurdles.
Fragile political landscape
Several disruptions occurred at the beginning of the project. For instance, the mayor of Mogadishu died in al-Shabaab extremist attack, the al-Qaeda-linked militants.
Internet access remains a problem to take into account in Somalia. Limited infrastructure, including electricity, can lead to intermittent connectivity and slower internet speeds in some areas. In addition, it is important to take into consideration the digital divide between urban and rural areas. In this context, mobile networks have become the primary means of accessing the internet for most people.
Despite difficult working conditions, Enreda not only implemented platforms but also trained Somalian developers in Ruby-on-Rail programming language, empowering locals to achieve self-management in using the consul democracy software and establish a culture of citizen participation in the long-run.
Consul Democracy for mobile phones
The vast majority of the population in Somalia uses their mobile phone network to access internet. Somalia is for instance considered a global leader for mobile money services. In this context, Enreda made sure that all functionalities of the consul democracy software were accessible using basic smart phones, thus making the participation platforms fully responsive.
According to United Nations data, the Somalian diaspora represents around two million people (13% of the country's total population). As Somalia is considered a 'globalised nation', opening the participation platform to citizens living outside of Somalia was a crucial element for the success of the project. The Somalian diaspora also represents a voice that drives the development of the country, making a major contribution to the Somali economy and livelihoods. For instance, it provides 80% of the start- up capital for small and medium enterprises. As inclusion fosters innovation, opening the participation process was also key for quality outputs.
Translation in Somali language
Consul Democracy is now available in the Somali language which means that other places in Africa, such as Ethiopia or Kenya, can use it as well.
Thanks to this project, the consul democracy software helped take the first steps towards establishing a culture of digital citizen participation at a municipal level in Somalia, allowing citizens to make proposals and shape the future of their local environment or home country.
This article was written based on an interview conducted by the author with Arantza Lozano from the cooperative Enreda
Author: Ingrid Woods