Jun- The Digital Municipality

March 2011

The Mayor of Jun (Granada), José Antonio Rodríguez Salas, spoke about open government and citizen participation through the internet at the “Forum for Change”, organized by the Xàbia PSOE.

Jun is a town of just over 4,328 inhabitants, near Granada, which has gained a worldwide reputation and fame due its adoption of 21st century internet technologies in the service of its citizens. Romano Prodi, former President of the European Commission declared José Antonio Rodriguez the “Father of electronic–democracy” and his town Jun the birthplace of “Active Tele-democracy”. On June 28, 2001, the town held its first fully interactive town hall meeting, which could be seen around the world via the internet.

In December 1999, Jun declared internet access as a universal right of all citizens. This attracted media attention around the world, including the New York Times and the Sydney Morning Herald. This same statement was declared in both Finland and France in 2009.

The motto of Jun is the binary code for the word “love”, which was decided by the votes of the citizens of Jun. There is widespread use of Facebook in Jun including many pensioners.
The Xàbia leader of the PSOE José Chulvi stated that one of the cornerstones of open government is that there is bi-directional communication between the town and its citizens, and to achieve this participation, one of the key policies of the PSOE would be to introduce Xàbia to new information technologies to create an open government 2.0.

Chulvi said he was committed to a "change without complexes" and believes that Xàbia can follow the example of Jun, and also become known as a pioneer for e-Government. The Socialist stated that this change is possible "through work, seriousness, responsibility, humility and a lot of enthusiasm."

The Mayor of Jun, José Antonio Rodríguez Salas, apologized for arriving late, explaining that in the morning the U.S. Ambassador to Spain and Andorra had made an official visit to the town. His journey had been further complicated by a heavy snowstorm.

By introducing open government, and actively listening, the town hall knows what is happening in every area of town life, and always gives an answer to their citizens. It is pointless using the web before the elections then forgetting all about it afterwards. Rodriguez has managed to adapt to new technologies, unlike Xàbia, where judging from the town’s website, the mayor seems unaware of what is happening. He pointed out that the use of social networks has seen apparently strong governments collapsing in days. Things are changing, and political success is not just something awarded by the electorate every four years, and then forgotten about.

The mayor of Jun offered his cooperation in implementing Active Tele-democracy in Xàbia. Enabling us to be a member of the Global City, the international fair of good urban practices, and making town hall meetings accessible to all citizens over the Internet. "And I will come and record it," Rodriguez offered, after comments by the public that in Xàbia town hall cameras are not allowed.

Jun, the digital municipality

Jun began its digital career in 1998, when there were still no such things as social networks, but "we created a virtual community for people to take their first steps on the internet." Rodriguez tells of how they had to use Pringles potato chip cans to increase the signal and create the first public WiFi network in Spain. "You don’t need big ideas, just a question of using your imagination."

The next step was to teach the elderly to use the internet, and to convince town hall employees that an electronic administration would bring them many advantages, such as telecommuting, or working to set objectives or goals, and if they completed their set tasks early, they could have the rest of the day off.

To bring young people on board with his ideas was a bit more difficult, said José Antonio, and although he signed up for a Tuenti account to access the young people’s social network, he only got two friends. Then it occurred to him to create a debate for the youth of the town asking them to decide whether or not to have a marquee for them at the town’s fiestas. The response was immediate.

In Jun, all citizens are connected to the internet. Housewives use their e-token to inform the town hall of a defective lamp-post beside their house and have it fixed by the next morning. There are no queues at the town hall. Citizens of all ages contribute to making the video of the day, which is downloaded, to YouTube. Town Hall sessions are relayed through the mayor’s blog and citizens can actively participate in it through Facebook and Twitter. They are able to make suggestions in advance for the agenda for the town hall plenary session, as well as suggesting how the municipal budget should be invested. Contrary to what it may seem to many, it is not difficult or problematic for citizens to participate fully, because if the people have all the information in advance and everything is clearly explained to them they support the motions.

Last Christmas Jun hit the national news when it asked the citizens whether it would be better to spend the municipal budget for Christmas lights on helping unemployed citizens. By a unanimous vote, the citizens agreed. When the town was given 400,000 euros under the “Plan Zapatero” to invest in local public works, the citizens were asked to vote on which projects would be the best for improving the town.

The Mayor of Jun is convinced that soon it will be citizens who insist that their politicians are accessible on the internet

In short, "technology should serve the citizen, and not vice versa, and politicians should depend on the citizens, and not vice versa," said José Antonio Rodriguez.

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