In the week of June 26th, a series of events in Pará, a state in the northern part of Brazil, marked the conclusion of the second phase of the project Promise Tracker (Monitorando a Cidade in Portuguese). Developed by the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Promise Tracker is a platform that allows communities to monitor issues of their interest, using the collected information to request improvements in public services from their local governments. This process is also supported by social institutions and the media.
Promise Tracker gained strength in Brazil when Humanitas360 became a partner in the project, seeking local contexts in which the tool could be employed in order to improve citizen engagement. As a result, the platform was used in the monitoring of school meals at public high schools in the state of Pará, generating direct benefits to more than 12,000 students.
In Santarém, students that are part of the Student’s Movement and the SOL Project used Promise Tracker in partnership with officers from the local Public Ministry. In Belém, undergraduate students from the School of Accounting at the Federal University of Pará (UFPA) trained high school students about the legal and regulatory aspects of school meals and how to use Promise Tracker to collect data. The Regional Nucleus of the Ministry of Transparency, Supervision and Control (CGU – acronym in Portuguese) helped create the project and had access to the data collected by students. CGU included that information in their report about school meals in the state of Pará, which was sent to the Ministry of Transparency in the country’s capital, Brasília.
On June 26th, the Court of Accounts of Pará hosted the public hearing “Technology, Transparency and Social Control: Building New Strategies.” During the event, students from the SOL Project and the Students’ Movement presented the results of their monitoring campaigns in Santarém.
On June 28th, at UFPA, a seminar about technology and social change brought together students, professors, technology professionals and civil society organizations. Participants had the opportunity to learn about how mobile apps such as Promise Tracker and Cuidando do Meu Bairro (freely translated as ‘Taking Care of my Neighborhood’) are showing the importance of technology in the process of keeping the government accountable.
According to Paulo de Rezende, member of H360’s advisory board and project leader, complex problems in our society demand the ample participation of committed people in order to find solutions.
“In this initiative, Humanitas360 had the honor to meet and collaborate with young citizens, the academy and civil society organizations. We believe that, energized by the engagement of the students in Pará and our network of partners, we’re showing how crucial citizen engagement is for the improvement of public services,” said Rezende.
Promise Tracker was developed by the Center for Civic Media at MIT with the support of the Knight Foundation, Google and Humanitas360, in partnership with the Our Sao Paulo Network and organizations that are members of the ‘Brazilian Network of Just and Sustainable Cities,’ and the Co:Laboratory at the University of São Paulo. The tool was tested in multiple cities in Brazil and is currently being used to monitor the ferry service from São Sebastião and Ilhabela, cities in the northern coast of the state of São Paulo. This project is being conducted through the partnership between H360 and the Ilhabela Sustentável Institute.
Promise Tracker is an open source tool, available to everyone at no cost. Visit www.promisetracker.org for more.