In Loja, a city in south Ecuador, citizens are using social networks to communicate with their leaders and to offer concrete proposals seeking to better their city's situation.
With backing from the Global Voices VideoActivo project, the organization Loja es Más – or #LoxaEsMás [es] (Loja Is More) on Twitter- launched the video “Hackeando la democracia” [es] (Hacking democracy), where they tell us more about their work in Loja.
Loja es Más seeks to build a democratic society where voting [es] is not the only way to participate.
On his blog drw, linux, java y más.. [es], Darwin Betancourt recognizes that it is very easy to criticize, but notes that the city of Loja has made history with its use of social networks and technology.
Estamos haciendo historia, es tiempo de cambiar es tiempo de actuar, es tiempo de funcionar como el GRAN HERMANO para que nuestra ciudad se encamine nuevamente al camino del progreso, no esperando salvadores y que tal o cual personaje de la administración pública fue mejor o peor que otro sino empezando a sumar ideas y llevarlas a cabo nosotros mismos, estamos utilizando los medios necesarios para comunicarnos y no dejarnos manipular de medios informativos 1.0
We are making history, it's time to change it's time to act, its time to act as the BIG BROTHER for our city heading back once more to the path of progress, not waiting for saviors or that this or that member of the public administration was better or worse than another but instead starting to add ideas and implement them ourselves, we are using the necessary means to communicate among ourselves and to not allow ourselves to be manipulated by the media 1.0.
The more than 50 project participants, without counting the almost 2,500 followers of @loxaesmás on Twitter [es], present themselves as optimistic and believe in the democracy of their dreams. Denise Calle, on her blog El alma de Campaniche [es] (The Soul of Campaniche), celebrates the career of #lojaesmás on their first anniversary and states:
Mi sueño por Loxa es inmenso… inmenso… más de una vez la imagino grande, inmensa, como referente de este país… Eso es para mi #LoxaEsMas!!! Por eso lucho todos los días, desde cualquier sitio, hace un año desde Quito, ahora desde Latacunga. El objetivo es ese, volver y crecer… crecer en Loxa… luchar por Loxa…
My dream for Loxa is immense… immense…more than once I've imagined it big, huge, like a model for this country…For me, that is #LoxaEsMas!!! That's why I fight every day, from anywhere, a year ago from Quito, now from Latacunga. The goal is that, return and grow… grow in Loxa… fight for Loxa…
Carlos Correa, one of the organizers of ‘hacks para Loja es Más’ [es] (hacks for Loja is More), explains that Loxa was the name by which the city was originally founded in 1548.
Correa explains [es]: “What we want is to understand the mission of the city when it was founded, to once again give it a place in important historical context and project it into the future”–a grand aspiration for the residents of this Ecuadorian city, and also a great challenge considering many residents still do not have internet.
According to the Ecuadorian Institute of Statistics and Census, Internet use in Loja reduced from 31,6 percent in 2011 to 29,5 percent in 2012, which places the city in ninth [es] place for use of the internet as a means of information among other Ecuadorian citizens.
Ecuador, however, advances in the launch of its own satellite [es] and in the creation of its own Ciudad Conocimiento [es] (City of Knowledge). Furthermore, in Ecuador one can find several non-governmental city projects, which are apolitical and seek to offer ideas to their leaders. That is precisely the intention of #loxaesmás.
But the reach and range citizens can have with a project based on social networks is debatable, considering that not all Loja residents have internet and that many may not even have a clear idea of what it means to “hack” a democracy. To bridge this gap, the collective proposes to move from theory and critique to action and practice. According to an article in El Comercio [es],
Entre otras propuestas están la alfabetización digital, con clases gratuitas de tecnología a alumnos de escasos recursos. Otro proyecto es crear una agenda digital para el próximo Alcalde lojano. Allí, hay temas como fomentar la conectividad, desarrollar la economía digital de las empresas e impulsar las tecnologías de la información y comunicaciones
Among other proposals are digital literacy, with free technology classes for underprivileged students. Another project is the creation of a digital agenda for the next mayor of Loja. With these projects, there are issues of promoting connectivity, developing the digital economy of businesses and supporting information and communication technologies.
“Web literacy is one of the tools to achieving mass participation”, says Mario Andrés Correa [es], a ‘geek’ and project participant.