24th Session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe (Strasbourg, 19-21 March 2013)
Debate on “E-democracy and smart cities” - E-democracy in Malmö
Speech by Ilmar Reepalu, Mayor of Malmö, Sweden
20 March 2013
Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Ilmar Reepalu and I' m the mayor of Malmo, the third largest city in Sweden. I´m here before you today to talk a little about how we are working with E-democracy in Malmö.
In Malmo we have systematically and innovatively worked for many years when it comes to different electronic solutions to enhance democracy and citizen participation.
Both when it comes to pure service to our citizens, but also when it comes to different ways to get in touch with the citizens of Malmö and create a dialogue. Democracy is a continuous and dynamic process and therefore it is important that people not only can influence politics and politicians when the elections come every fourth year.
I´m convinced that an active citizen dialogue has to be a natural part of governance. I think that it´s very important that you as a citizen are able to get involved in planning processes and prior to significant political decisions.
We have been working with a couple of different solutions and the first of them that I would like to talk a little bit about is called:
The Malmö initiative
The Malmö initiative is a platform on the web where all the citizens can come up with suggestions and comments concerning Malmö. It´s not a decision-making body but a forum to prompt opinion and debate regarding various political issues. Anyone can discuss, make suggestions or just follow the debate. An important thing about the platform is that you can support the initiatives of others and show that there are more people who think the same way when it comes to a particular issue. Even if you like me are an elected representative you can be a part of Malmö initiative the same way as anybody else. Anyone making a proposal can gain support for the issue by getting others to “sign” the proposal. Any proposal that is signed by at least 100 people will proceed as a case file to the relevant committee.
So, the Malmö Initiative enables both citizens and politicians to raise various issues for online debate and discussions and through the Initiative, we as politicians have the possibility to discover interesting proposals to raise within our different parties.
The Malmo Initiative was one of the first of its kind in Sweden and it has worked differently in different periods. There has been an uneven stream of proposals and quite a few of them have come from more resource strong communities in the city. But I feel that people get their voices heard anyway. I think a lot has to do with how we market the portal in different ways and places. Something else I think would enhance the use is that we politicians could be better showing how we use the good ideas that come in via the Malmo Initiative. In short, this has been a new and exciting way to communicate with the citizens and has proved technically very good. Now is the time that we recipients make use of the information we actually get and show it to the citizens.
Now, to another tool for democracy I would like to share with you, namely what we call The Malmö Panel
The Malmö panel originates from an invitation to a number of Malmö residents who represent Malmö, kind of like a mini-Malmö.
1 600 participant’s make their voices heard a couple of times a year on various issues emanating from all of the committees in Malmö.
The Committees forward their issues to the municipality´s Steering Group for Citizen Dialogue, which decides on the matters to be included. These are displayed on a website to which only the Malmö Panel has access. The participants answer the questions via the Internet but if they are a little old fashioned or don’t have a computer they can also respond via a paper questionnaire.
All responses are treated as confidential, and only the overall compiled responses are displayed at Malmö´s homepage for the general public.
The Panel provides us, Malmö´s elected representatives, with valuable information before proposals are decided upon. The responses make it possible for us to investigate trends and to establish proposals before any decisions are made. This provides valuable information which can be broken down into different parts for analysis. The Panel creates better insight and understanding before a matter is finally formulated.
The Panel provides valuable perspectives that can provide a sound basis on which decisions can be taken.
The Malmö Panel can increase the level of interest in politics and municipal issues in the city. The committees' involvement and their questions are vitally important in enabling the Panel to function. Panel participants are invited to take part in group discussions and workshops when greater detail is considered necessary.
The Malmo Panel is a very useful tool for us politicians. We have been able to relatively quickly get questions out to the citizens. I remember that we once asked about what people thought about surveillance cameras in the city. It was about camera monitoring a street that is highly affected by crime. There were fears among us politicians that the locals who are not criminals would have views on this type of monitoring from a privacy perspective. Now, our investigation revealed via the Malmo Panel that a very convincing majority did not think there was anything wrong with occasionally monitor the affected areas which strengthened us in our opinion to introduce cameras as a crime fighting tool.
So, that was a brief description of a couple of different tools that we have developed in Malmö. I am proud that we have dared to try new innovative ideas when it comes to get in contact with our citizens and I think that it will become more and more important in the future that we in local government are at the forefront not only when it comes to meet the citizens in real life in different meeting places but also when it comes to the pure technical tools since our children and grandchildren have a more natural relationship to the "new" technologies than, for example, I have and I'm guessing many of you.
Thank you very much for your attention.