How do you increase citizens’ interest in and improve their knowledge on complex tax-related issues? One way is to let them take part in the decision-making on how public funds are spent. Being immediately concerned with issues of public investment can sensitize people on the benefits of paying taxes. Together with the Center for Research, Transparency and Accountability (CRTA), citizens, city council representatives and media experts, the project developed an interactive e-map of the city of Belgrade as an innovative tool for participation in public finance.
On the e-map, citizens can indicate via Instagram, Facebook, sms or twitter where they see the need for the state to intervene with tax-money. They might for example take a picture of a damaged street lamp or a broken swing on a public playground in their neighbourhood and post it on the website. They might also have recognized other pressing needs that require public funding, such as an additional street sign or traffic light at a dangerous crossroads. They will then explain their suggestions shortly in writing and upload everything to the e-map including the coordinates of the place. By moving the cursor on the e-map, the photos and suggestions will pop up and make public spending needs instantly visible to local authorities and other citizens. Running the portal, its administrators will uphold the principles of data protection and privacy and will ensure that the e-map is not misused for denunciation.
Furthermore, the website will provide in-depth, easily understandable information on public finance in general and the municipal budget in particular and will feature news reports based on professional research and the processing of related data. Journalists will be encouraged to follow up on the suggestions and stories submitted by the citizens and do additional research to substantiate their news articles and broadcasts that will be published in the media as well as on the website. Doing this, the media participating in the project draw attention to the e-map and can motivate other citizens and users to give notice of shortages in their quarter. After the launch of the e-map, dialogue forums will be organized to discuss the use of public budgets with all relevant stakeholders and to stimulate citizens and local officials to use the tool when determining investment priorities in their communities. Hence, the e-map is a vivid, interactive tool for participation and will serve as a virtual citizen-driven wiki for tax and financial topics.
The e-map is already online, but not yet officially launched.