Globally, trust in government has steadily deteriorated over the last years. In regions like Latin America and the Caribbean, confidence in government is weak and declining, where on average, less than a quarter of the population has “some” or “a lot” of confidence. In countries such as Brazil, this number is as low as 8% (Latinobarometro, 2018). There are many reasons that people choose not to place their trust in public institutions. In Latin America, some of the most common reasons cited by people are related to perceptions of fairness (i.e. “treating everyone equally,” “are interested in what one thinks”) and perceptions of performance (i.e. “fulfilling promises,” “quality of management”). Close to 30% cite “Deliver the Information you need” and “Are interested in what one thinks” as the most important reason to trust a public institution.
Communication builds trust, and technology has significant potential for changing how citizens and governments communicate. Particularly, digital technology presents a powerful opportunity for changing how the citizen experiences the state and for building trust between citizens and governments by addressing the concerns of fairness as well as concerns of performance.
By restructuring flows of information, digital technology can help governments to make its processes become transparent and encourage a better understanding of what is being done to deliver public goods to its citizens having a two-way conversation. Equally, well designed and relevant information can empower citizens to speak up, amplify their collective voice, and change the quality and how fast governments respond. It can also provide government institutions with valuable information about what their citizens need and want and how to best deliver services and information. In doing so, the strategic use of digital technology can increase citizen’s trust and social cohesion, strengthening the social contract between state and citizens.
While typical approaches to using technology to improve governance have focused on transparency—this is just the first step. Transparency makes information available, but we also need publicity to make information accessible, and accountability mechanisms to make information actionable. In that regard, technologies can allow governments to be more transparent and accountable. Hence, to help governments to better engage its citizens.