Asunción is a self-identified “city without numbers.” It has been almost 15 years since the last census, so city leaders lack the information they need to determine public policy priorities. Without data on vulnerable populations like the elderly, people with disabilities, and migrant ethnic groups, the government does not know how many people need services, what services they need, and how services could be efficiently provided.
Recognizing their severe resource constraints, the city will ask citizens to routinely collect data about their lives, homes, and communities. This data will create the city’s first-ever “social database,” to be used by the municipality to make better decisions and accelerate the inclusion of citizens in social programs. Citizen volunteers will help collect the data, which will then be put into a mobile phone app that city leaders will use to direct policy interventions. Citizens will also have the opportunity to make suggestions to community leaders about solutions to address the problems that the data help identify.
This project came from Asunción’s belief in the potential of information to empower both the government and city residents to solve local problems. Beyond the quantitative advantages of clear data, city leaders were looking for a way to shed light on what their citizens need most. They also wanted to give residents the opportunity to come to know the city “invisible in statistics,” to have their voices heard and their needs addressed.
“The participatory collection of data – shedding light on the numbers, giving a human face to them – will allow society to move away from indifference, by creating an opportunity to engage in the process of community development from a perspective of participation, equity, and protection of the dignity of the human being.”