Manoel dos Santos

Gisele da Silva Craveiro

School of Arts, Sciences and Humanities (EACH), University of São Paulo

According to Gray (2016), digital data and information should be used to serve the interests of society and citizens, through "reimagining data policy" to promote human development, civic empowerment, developing social progress and strengthening democracy. Recently, Saltelli (et. al., 2020) published a manifesto on a responsible mathematical modeling for facing the COVID-19 pandemic, establishing simple principles to help society to demand the necessary quality of this modeling.

In this sense, it is necessary to analyze and understand how the State and different civil society actors have used, refuted and remodeled different sets of elements that make up digital information technology systems, in order to understand how datafication processes can be a problem or a solution and, thus, one can determine social groups and how they can be empowered to ensure transformations using digital methods of citizen participation according to their interests, ideas and shared affinities.

Social and political interventions are needed to reshape datafication processes. And in this way, one may ensure that different actors and stakeholders can develop digital literacy and data use capacity for civic empowerment and the strengthening of democracy (GRAY, 2016; GRAEFF, 2018). As we know, the production and use of data for the formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of public policies and services has shown its relevance, especially in these times of coping with the Covid-19 pandemic, whether in the global, national or local scenario, and often these data are not produced, processed and used properly, and are not even available for government use.

Therefore, it is essential that citizen participation initiatives are developed with technological mediation to work collaboratively in both production and data collection in a way that its use strengthens democracy, empowers and engages the citizen to avoid authoritarianism and forms of manipulation on the part of interest groups with greater economic power and more cognitive and political resources. In addition to contributing to overcoming the lack of transparency in the production and use of public data, there must be accountability and liability for political acts that weaken democracy (PARRA FILHO and MARTINS, 2017; SANTINI and CARVALHO, 2019).

In this respect, this article represents an excerpt from a doctoral thesis entitled "Democratic Innovations in the Perspective of Societal Accountability with Technological Mediation for Monitoring and Evaluation of Public Policies in the School Context", which is under development in the Post-Graduation Program in Social Change and Political Participation at São Paulo University (EACH/USP).

Here, its thematic approach presents as objective the analysis of the role, characteristics and forms of citizen participation mediated with the use of the platform Monitorando a Cidade for the collaborative production of data for the monitoring and evaluation of public policies and services in the school context. Thus, the central research question is framed as follows:

What impact does the production of data and information through citizen participation mediated by the digital civic platform Monitorando a Cidade in interaction with societal accountability agencies have on monitoring and evaluation of public policies in the school context?
We start with initiatives induced by social accountability agencies for the monitoring and evaluation of public policies using digital civic technology to produce data and information that make it possible to influence public policies and services. The methodological approach is qualitative with technical procedures based on bibliographical research, case study and documentary research.

The initiatives of participatory monitoring and evaluation of public policies in the school context analyzed had in common the use of the platform Monitorando a Cidade, which allows the participation and empowerment of citizens in socio-state and societal relations and interfaces through data collection and information to understand, collaborate, co-create and transform their realities through co-governance in the context of democratic innovations and advances in information and communication technologies.
Users using the platform "Monitorando a Cidade" , Promotional Campaign
These analyzed cases involve three participatory monitoring initiatives with digital technological mediation with an interface between the movement Movimento Pacto Estudantil pela Educação Pará (MPEPEP), the CGU-Pará, the OSB Belém and the CG-DF.

In this context, Martano (et. al., 2017, p. 02) state that Monitorando a Cidade allows for “a collective process that aims to discuss critical issues, obtain information to better understand them, and dialogue with local actors to develop solutions”. For this purpose, the following process is considered: 1) discussion of challenges, 2) selection of priorities, 3) definition of indicators and 4) collection and analysis of data.

For the aforementioned authors, the actors of the initiatives of the monitoring and evaluation of school meals campaign assume a central role in organizing the participatory monitoring campaigns, whether carrying out the development of the questionnaire, training data collectors and publicizing the survey, collecting and sending data on public policy and services or advocacy, making use of data and information to activate participatory and dialogical evaluation relationships, as well as seeking to act and influence the solution of alternatives to solve the problems identified in the campaigns and that affect the efficiency and effectiveness of the Programa Nacional de Alimentação Escolar – PNAE (National School Feeding Program) in meeting the food needs of students.

The preliminary results of the research, according to Santos and Craveiro (2020) and Villi (2018), demonstrate that each interface of accountability mechanisms presented different types of conformation of models and institutional arrangements for monitoring and evaluating the PNAE. And that despite the common use of technological mediation in all initiatives, the socio-political context contributes to obtaining different results according to the socio-state and societal relations established, from each type of articulation constituted as the first experience of participatory societal monitoring - vertical held in Santarém - Pará, in 2016 involving 12 public schools, in the context of the project "Égua da Merenda, João!", and took place with the technological mediation of the Monitorando a Cidade platform, used mainly by students, which involved the formation of a participatory monitoring arrangement with the role of various actors and organizations such as: Observatório Social de Belém - OSB (Belém Social Observatory) - as Civil Society Organization - , Movimento Estudantil Pacto Pela Educação Pará (MPEPEP), the SOL Project, the Public Ministry (MARTANO, et al., 2017, p. 14), and the involvement of the Regional Comptroller of Pará (CGU-Pará) (VILLI, 2018, p. 105).

Thus, it was found that, in the initiative of Santarém - PA, there was a change in the provision of meals with the guarantee of its regularity, decreased the occurrence of lack of school meals and there was an improvement in its quality. Collaborative action took place in solving common problems. The technological mediation of participatory monitoring provided agility, timeliness in the production and dissemination of data and information to support a more effective decision-making. There was a change in behavior in the way of managing public policies, promotion of meal tasting actions, staff training, transparency in the bidding processes for school meals, and promotion of citizenship actions (SANTOS and CRAVEIRO, 2020, p. 15).
Collaborative action took place in solving common problems. The technological mediation of participatory monitoring provided agility, timeliness in the production and dissemination of data and information to support a more effective decision-making. The result: better school meal in Santarém, PA.
The second initiative for monitoring and evaluating school meals was carried out in Belém – Pará, with pro-horizontal societal characteristics, implemented in 2017, involving 16 schools, and inter-institutional partnerships between CGU-PA and the Faculty of Accounting Sciences of the Federal University of Pará (FAICON-UFPA), in conjunction with the Belém Social Observatory (OSB Belém). This initiative, the one that took place in Santarém, provided training for students to use the app Monitorando a Cidade in the interaction with external control agencies, aiming to collaboratively collect data to foster social control and fiscal education of the Programa Nacional de Alimentação Escolar.

According to Santos and Craveiro (2020), this experience enabled the dissemination of the initiative to other states, expanding its reach and enabling the exercise of citizen participation and social control with the use of Monitorando, which enabled the production of data on a large scale and in a timely manner.

And finally, the third experience was conducted by the General Comptroller of the Federal District (CG-DF), with 104 public schools involved in the participatory monitoring and evaluation of school meals campaigns. This initiative had an institutional arrangement favoring collaboration among social actors such as students, teachers, school directors, administrative and pedagogical officials and the local community, and governmental and non-governmental organizations. All interacting with inspection and external control agencies, with the aim of promoting citizen awareness, social participation and active citizenship in the school context (MOREIRA, 2017) through the promotion of the Prêmio Escola de Attitude, an award established in five stages, namely: a) formation of registered teachers to guide students in project actions; b) carrying out a theater show to highlight the importance of citizen participation in public decisions, c) debating issues related to ethics, d) citizenship and e) social control.

Thus, of the 104 schools trained, 4,000 students were registered and impacted, 7,500 questionnaires were filled out by students, 3,400 students and 891 teachers were interviewed, 15,000 problems were identified through the civic audit and 1,350 problems were solved with the participation of the community (SANTOS and CRAVEIRO, 2020).
Students in Santarém, PA used the platform "Monitorando a cidade" to check the quality of school meals in 12 public schools, improving the quality of the meal. 
Based on the success in Santarém, the "Monitorando a cidade" platform was later adopted in the Capital of Pará, Belém, where 16 schools participated in the project.
The third experiment took place in the Federal District, where students of 104 schools monitored the quality of their school meal. The monitoring activity was part of a set of activities to promote Citizen Awareness
In conclusion, this study aimed to analyze the role, characteristics and ways of citizen participation mediated by the use of the platform Monitorando a Cidade for collaborative data production in the monitoring and evaluation of public policies and services in the school context.

Thus, one found that digital civic technology is a relevant factor in the engagement of citizens who adopt this type of tool as responsible for data collection, and this can make a difference for this social group, for this specific arrangement, when the use of data and information allows for positive change in the process of formulating and implementing public policies and services.

Citizen participation mediated by digital civic technology, in these specific cases, from the collaborative production of data and information with scale and timeliness, contributed to increasing the responsiveness of governments. This is because the results allow asking the public authorities for their responsibilities through the activation of societal accountability agencies for inspection and external control, interfacing with civil society actors. These actors can also exercise social control by articulating mechanisms and agencies with the power to supervise and apply sanctions. And this can give legitimacy to society's participation, as it is a strategic actor, in addition to contributing to education for citizenship and the strengthening of democracy.

Manoel dos Santos

PhD candidate at the School of Arts, Sciences and Humanities (EACH - USP), University of São Paulo

Manoel is a PhD candidate in Social Change and Political Participation at the School of Arts, Sciences and Humanities (EACH) at USP and member of the Collaborative Research Group on Development and Participation (CoLab-USP).

Contact info:

Gisele da Silva Craveiro

Full Professor at the Graduate Program of Social Change and Political Participation (EACH - USP), University of São Paulo

Advisor and Professor at the School of Arts, Sciences and Humanities at USP, accredited in the Post-Graduation Program in Social Change and Political Participation, Leader of the Collaborative Research Group on Development and Participation (CoLab-USP). Doctor in Systems Engineering from USP, Master from Unicamp in Computer Science. Contact info:


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