Herald interview with Pía Mancini, Agustín FrizzeraSunday, August 18, 2013
Networking as a political party
The Network Party (Partido de la Red) will compete for the first time in an election when citizens of Buenos Aires City choose their legislators in October. Formed mainly by Web and technology entrepreneurs, the party’s base is a Web platform where people can express their vote for bills so then legislators can vote in the Chamber according to what the majority had decided. Pía Mancini and Agustín Frizzera, two of the party’s founders, talked to the Herald and revealed the party’s main ideas and their expectations for their first election.
How was the party created?
Pía Mancini: It all started in April 2012 during the Arab revolution. We saw that there was a crisis of representation in the world. As young people, we were good to organize through social media and protest but we had no plans for the future. We started to think of what type of democracy we wanted, so we decided to create a new way for citizens’ to participate and interact with political leaders. We want citizen’s demands to have an impact on politics.
Your proposal is based on a Web platform where citizens can participate. How does it work?
Pía Mancini: It’s a social network for democratic participation. After creating a user name through safety procedures, the citizen will be able to read about bills currently in debate and laws already approved in the Legislature. But also he will be allowed to debate and vote about the bill, so then the legislator can vote according to what the majority has said.
Agustín Frizzera: Not only the user will have to provide his DNI number, but also all his movements on the website will be seen by everybody. The idea is to simulate the three buttons a legislator has at the Chamber to vote in favour or against or not to vote. Citizens who feel they are not prepared enough to vote on a certain issue can pass their vote to someone they trust.
How does the party work internally?
Pía Mancini: We are 200 people who established it and 40 of us are more involved with the organization. Several of us are technology and Internet entrepreneurs but also people who were previously in politics. It’s a horizontal structure that always works as a network. There are some clear leaders but we always maintain that structure.
Since you have a horizontal structure, how will you decide who will be your candidates?
Pía Mancini: We will probably do a network poll and let all the party members decide who will be the candidates on the list.
Agustín Frizzera: We are not worried about it. On September 7 we have to present our list and probably most of our candidates will be the ones who founded the party. The important thing is to offer a solid proposal for the citizens of Buenos Aires.
On what issues would you like to start working if you were elected?
Pía Mancini: We are focused on reducing the digital gap. Internet access is a right citizens have and the government has to see it like that. We also would like to work on improving citizens’ participation, open government and access to information.
Agustín Frizzera: We want Buenos Aires City to have a lot of Internet connectivity. We need it to implement our Web platform, so we will work on obtaining that.
Do Buenos Aires City citizens currently have the necessary tools to participate in politics?
Agustín Frizzera: No, they don’t. Public hearings are done at ridiculous times when nobody can participate. Having the City budget divided into neighbourhoods so citizens can choose how to spend the money it’s a great idea. But now the government doesn’t listen to people’s opinions and do whatever they want. People are demotivated to get involved in the City’s life because of this.
Pía Mancini: The government imposes barriers on people’s participation. We need to think of new ways to attract citizens to politics and how we can make participation easier and more accessible.
Since your project is based on a Web platform, you need to promote the use of computers and Internet. What do you think of government programmes like “Conectar Igualdad” to provide computers to students?
Pía Mancini: They are fantastic, we have to admit that. The fact that 70 percent of the homes in Buenos Aires City have Internet connection facilitates our work and allows us to implement our project.
Agustín Frizzera: We also have to thank tax payers for having supported those initiatives. Nevertheless, now by giving a computer they are not allowing people to use it as a political tool. We have to achieve that.
Both of you spent numerous hours in the street collecting signatures to support the party. How was that experience and what did people say to you back then?
Pía Mancini: Being on the street talking to people about our ideas has been a valuable experience. We had a lot of support from groups we didn’t expect like citizens of BA province and older people. Even though the network allows you to connect and work with numerous people, the personal contact is also necessary.
Do you expect to work with your party on a local level or do you have higher ambitions?
Pía Mancini: Our proposal is audacious and bold so we want to advance slowly. We need to test our Web platform and see how it works and if something needs to be changed. Buenos Aires City is a great place to start working considering the high levels of Internet access.
Agustín Frizzera: We still don’t know if citizens will like our idea and if they will get involved and participate. We depend exclusively on their participation. Starting on a local level is the best way to go.
What would be a good result for October elections?
Pía Mancini: We hope to do the best election we can. We are not competing with the traditional big parties. We want to start a new participation method and we can do that with just one legislator, who will be able to represent the interest of all the citizens through our Web platform.
Agustín Frizzera: Our ballot will be badly located at the polling booth since we are only running for legislators in the City and not for Congress as the rest of the parties. We need citizens to split the ballot.