Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
With an absolute ruler and no Constitution, Morocco’stransition from a European colony to an independent nation lacked the basic foundation for democratic governance. And while general elections in 1963 led to the formation of the nation’s first parliamentary government, the King, who is considered the highest political and religious authority, has held a firm grip on the country’s institutions. Recently, a young Moroccan journalist was sentenced to three years in prison after being accused of mocking the King.Indeed, Morocco decisively ranks as an authoritarian regime with a score of 3.83 out of 10 on The Economist’s Democracy Index, placing it number 119 on a list of 167 countries.
In this hereditary monarchy system in which access to information is tightly controlled and opposition leaders are silenced, and even reprimanded, the culture and application of democracy has never had a chance to truly take root. All relevant stakeholders - from organized CSOs to dispersed citizensto concerned members of government – struggle to make sense of how to open upand/or plug into the decision-making processes of the country. It is not an unfamiliar occurrence, for example, for government to issue laws and approve or appeal them internally without providing public access to these decisions.
Starting on February 20, 2011, this intense politicalexclusion exploded into protests in sixty cities across the Arab World’s second most populous countryas Moroccans took to the streets carrying signs that read “Hear the Voice of the People” and chanting “Down with autocracy.” While this courage to publicly and loudly demand participation represents a great leap forward, Tarik has his eye on the next necessary step to cementing this political revolution:figuring out how to get even more voices around the country involved in this discussion – beyond just the young and tech savvy -and then have all interested voices directly implicated in the country’s vitalpolitical processes.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Building on his recent success in launching the Arab World’s firstonline crowdsourcing platform to solicit recommendations for the new Constitution in Morocco, Tarik is now focusing on creating the full architecture for ongoing citizen participation in the political processes of his nativecountry. He has honed in on the importance of accelerating the changing attitudes of a previously muted citizenry about its role in democracy. Heachieves this by creating the ability for the averagecitizen to learn about and express his or her views on critical aspects of government - at strategic moments, in real-time, and in a very targeted manner. This increased coherency and accessibility of citizens’ demands, in turn, encourages the likely take-up of these demands in the political decision-making process. And this, in turn, encourages more- perhaps previously skeptical and/or apathetic Moroccans - to also participate.
Tarik firmly roots himself in the current historic moment that has given rise to many of the key pillars necessary to build this new reality of active citizen engagement. He sees the emergence of a mobilized section of the population already using technology to clamor for change. The February 20th Youth Movement, for example, used Facebook and a YouTube video that went viral to bring tens of thousands of young Moroccans to the streetsshortly after a Tunisian streetcar vendor’s self-immolation ignited calls for an end to the old order across the region. More importantly, Tarik recognizes the opportunity to use emergent technology tonow funnel this clamor into direct participation in many governmental functions- from federal budgeting to parliamentary lawmaking.
And while the calls for increased citizen engagement within government halls is less audible than on the streets, Tarik also recognizes that there is an increasing cohort of elected officialswho seem receptive to this momentum. Up from zero in the last parliamentary election, for example, more than 40 current members of Parliament used the Internet in the November 2011 elections. Many of them are still using social media to stay in touch with citizens. Seven such Parliamentarians have already expressed interest inwhat Tarik is planning to be the foundationalplatform for active citizen engagement: a soon-to-be created websiteintegrated with the latest social media technologies that enables constituents to suggest and respond to various government initiatives and debates in real-time. Instead of waiting until elections four years later to express discontent in a road not being built or schools not being resourced, for example, a simple Tweet from all those discontent could make it suchthat when Parliamentarians log on, they see on a daily basis what the most urgent requests are. Similarly, Parliamentarians could essentially post a question that was put before them in a committee debate in the morning, hear feedback from thousands by the evening, and return on day two of the debate with the people’s voice on their smartphone.Tarik isset to meet with the head of each of the seven main political parties in Morocco, recognizing that adoption of the platform from any one such partieswill likely trigger the others to follow suit. Tarik is also considering requests to build similar platforms in Egypt.