Moroccan citizens have few channels through which to make their voices heard or to learn about the work of their representatives in Parliament. Although web-based tools were essential to the organization and campaigning of Arab Spring protesters, efforts to leverage technology to help citizens more effectively participate in political discussion have lagged.
Nouabook – literally a Facebook for parliamentarians – aims to enable citizens to express their concerns to their representatives and to encourage the latter to respond on the platform. Logging into the platform through Facebook or email, citizens post their questions in written or video format. After moderators ensure that questions meet the criteria set forth in a code of conduct, questions will be posted publicly and sent to the parliamentarians to whom they are addressed. In addition to posing questions, which will automatically be posted to the Facebook pages of those who choose to login with their Facebook accounts, citizens can vote for questions submitted by other website users. A goal is to harness the virality of social media to enhance discussion of public affairs.
Nouabook, which will be launched during the Spring legislative session of 2014, is being implemented by SimSim-Participation Citoyenne, an independent, non-partisan civil society organization. SimSim-Participation Citoyenne seeks to enable citizens to play a more effective and constructive role in public decision making, while helping government institutions better respond to citizen demands. The term “SimSim,” or “sesame,” is a reference to the story of the fictional character Ali Baba, whose cry of “open sesame” opens the gates of a cave where his treasure of gold is hidden. In this case, information is the gold.
Nouabook’s target audience Moroccan youth and the nearly 9 million Moroccan users of Facebook. To appeal to populations in towns and smaller cities, SimSim-Participation Citoyenne plans to enable participation through video media, such as YouTube. By helping to integrate policy discussion into social media, SimSim hopes to bring politics to the citizens and build greater trust between elected officials and their constituents.
The Indigo Trust is supporting the implemetation of Nouabook.ma with a grant of £28,422. The grant will primarily support the development of the Nouabook platform, as well as salary and consulting fees throughout the first 12 months of the project.
Thanks to Andrew Mandelbaum of SimSim for providing this guest blog post.