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Expanding the Design Space of ICT for Participatory Budgeting

This paper published as part of the 8th International Conference on Communities & Technologies in 2017 by researchers from the University of California—Berkeley, Leiden University, and the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation, surveys and analyzes the field of ICTs (information and communication technologies) used in participatory budgeting in the United States and Canada. The hypothesis introduced by Parra et al. is that despite the pervasive usage of ICT in participatory budgeting, “a power imbalance [still] persists between citizens, budget delegates, and city staff” (2). The authors believe that ICTs should do a better job in not only facilitating communication between citizens and city officials, but also between citizens themselves so they can interact and collaborate with more power with city officials.

The primary methodology used in the paper was primarily interviews with city officials, budget delegates, voters, and NGOs/researchers involved in the participatory budgeting process in Vallejo and Long Beach, California. Some of the issues that the interviewees discussed that are stated in the article are a need for increased dialogue between city officials and residents, lessening the immense amount of work that budget delegates faced in reviewing proposals, and creating new ways for participants to better come to agreements. The interviews are supplemented with a report conducted by the Public Agenda that reviewed participatory budgeting efforts in US & Canada between 2014 and 2015.

Afterwards, Parra et al. list and describe ICTs that have been used for each phase of participatory budgeting: idea collection, voting, communications & outreach, and other (typically involving gaming or simulation). However, they also suggest that more work has to be done in using or developing ICTs that better connect the phases of participatory budgeting, and propose a new, longer timeline of phases that they believe better encapsulate the process (see page 7).