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Let’s Hear it for the Mayors

Let’s Hear it for the Mayors

It’s nearly a cliché by now: ‘Support from the top is vital for the successful replication of a best practice’. But as all DELGOSEA’s success stories bear out, there is a lot of truth in that saying. It is, therefore, high time for the mayors of the pilot cities to share their experiences of the replication process and give their views on what makes the projects work.

Having talked to many of the mayors as part of the monitoring and evaluation process, it became apparent that many of them were closely involved in the implementation of the projects, for example by heading their city’s implementation task force themselves and by taking a personal interest in the progress. As the mayor of Yala in Thailand, Mr Pongsak Yingchoncharoen, elaborates: ‘This pilot project is closely embedded into our way of local governance and has developedthrough participatory governance. My office holds a weekly Open Forum, called “Morning Coffee”, and we rotate through town with our weekly community meetings.’

The promotion of a participatory approach and the integration of the pilot project’s activities in the local development plan were seen by many mayors as crucial elements for success and sustainability. The vice chairman of the People’s Committee in Tra Vinh, Vietnam, Mr. Diep Van Thanh spoke for many when he explained that ‘our pilot project e-government is a success story, well embedded into our longer-term local development plan. It is also a success for enhancing participatory local governance. Within our pilot project we reached out to and included people in the smaller communities.’ Mr Vichai Bandasak, the mayor of Pakkret, Thailand, echoed this view: ‘Public participation is not a new tool for Pakkret municipality. We have already in the past been keen to reach good collaboration through involving local people in the planning processes. We have, however, learnt a different, more systematic approach through taking part in the DELGOSEA project.’

In fact, quite a few of the city’s leaders were appreciative of the role DELGOSEA played in their city’s development, for example Pangkalpinang’s mayor, Drs H Zulkarnain Karimwho felt that ‘the guidance provided by DELGOSEA helped improve the marine environment for the sake of the people and the sustainability of the environment.’ The best practice cities also received credit for their role in inspiring the pilot cities: Mr. Diep Van Thanh emphasized that ‘e-government had actually started five years ago in Tra Vinh, but with the lessons learnt from our BP partner Yogyakarta, we really got a big push forward. They supported us all the time, and we consider the continuous close cooperation between BP and pilot city as a key factor for success of a replication concept.’

Most of the mayors are keen to continue with the project activities and even to become best practice cities themselves, for example Alaminos in the Philippines. Mayor Hon. Hernani A. Braganza hopes ‘to replicate the good experience in other places.’

The mayor of Tarakan in Indonesia, Mr Udin Hianggio, gave perhaps the most eloquent explanation of why there has been such personal commitment from the top: ‘This programme is an investment into the future, into future generations with the schoolchildren to change the mindset. It is not so much about money or immediate rewards.’ This is surely a sentiment everybody can agree with and one that sums up perfectly the idea behind the DELGOSEA project.

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