How to engage users?

6 November 2012 - A Workshop on Internet Governance for Development in Baku, Azerbaijan


Gradually and slowly as we merge the digital divide, it is possible to envision the Internet as an ultimate leveler, representing one playing field, where, theoretically, everybody has the potential to interact. But how to engage users on political debates? How to use the net to bring them to the negotiation table?
There are indeed, a few examples of Internet serving as a tool for empowerment. In some countries, public sector have been fostering such initiatives, as the case of Iceland, where an online public consultation was held for drafting it's new constitution. Or Brazil, where a several consultations are being held either to discuss digital rights or to monitor implementation of public policies, such as the initiative from the so called “Gabinete Digital”, where citizens where able to demand policies from the governor in a real virtual dialogue.
Entrepreneurship has also played a role in terms of users engagement. As the case of Ushahidi, a remarkable open source web platform, that had allowed users to crowd source information about violent “hotspots” and spreading rampages, which was all sent via email or mobile text-messages, generating an online interactive mapping of the crisis, or the so called “activist mapping”.
Users have also been involved in creative usages of the internet for education and others forms of exercising citizenship. Wikipedia is the most paradigmatic example, once, besides engaging users for the production of content, it was also one of the leaders at SOPA/PIPA online protests. In terms of social news, Reddit is another interesting example.
Nonetheless, there has been no systematic approach or proper exchange of knowledge about mechanisms that are being invented to engage users. Assessments like that are important to evaluate and try to promote other initiatives to empower users.
Therefore, the main goal of this workshop is to discuss and evaluate how open online consultations and users led initiatives have been creating mechanisms to engage users on the Internet Government debates and other initiatives that represent the usage of ICT for political participation. For achieving such goal, this workshop will gather speakers with different experiences on the topic. In a multistakeholder approach, it will gather representatives from governments, companies, the technical community, academia and civil society from both developed and developing countries. Active moderation will foster debate amongst those in Baku and encourage remote interventions.

Center for Technology and Society at Fundação Getúlio Vargas

Part of the Fundação Getulio Vargas Law School in Rio de Janeiro, CTS is the only research center in Brazil specifically aimed at dealing with the interplay of law, technology and society. It is engaged in different research and education projects, and committed to interdisciplinary approach. Its collaborations include anthropologists, computer scientists, economists, and media executives.

Among its different projects, the CTS is responsible for helping Brazilian Ministry of Justice to create an online consultation process to debate the privacy law, the internet civil rights framework and is also leading a research to use cybercafes as a platform to implement surveys on public policies assessments at low income communities. CTS also acts as a consultant to several branches of the Brazilian government such as the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee, the National Institute of Technology and the Ministry of Education. It is engaged in developing projects to promote access to knowledge, protect digital rights and study the democratization of cultural production through technology.


Access is a NGO premised on the belief that political participation and the realization of human rights in the 21st century is increasingly dependent on access to the internet and other forms of technology. Founded in the wake of the 2009 Iranian post-election crackdown, Access teams with digital activists and civil society groups internationally to build their technical capacity and to help them advocate globally for their digital rights. Access provides thought leadership and practical policy recommendations in the broader field of internet freedom, and based on that expertise mobilizes its global movement of citizens to campaign for an open internet accessible to all.
Access' Global Movement for Digital Freedom is made up of ordinary people from all over the world. Many of them are normal internet users without much experience in either human rights or technology, but understanding that technology can be a powerful platform which gives us all additional strength to achieve greater participation, accountability and transparency.