Quick Look

Votenaweb allows citizens to compare their vote on congressional bills with the politicians'.

Beginning Date: 
November 14, 2009
Project Scale: 
Types of Tools: 
Specific Tools: 


Vote na Web ("Vote on the Web") is a tool developed by WebCitizen, which was launched in November 2009 at TEDx São Paulo. Using a clear interface, congressional bills are translated into simple language with clearly defined context and consequences. In addition to monitoring the voting records on particular bills, users can also interact with the political landscape by symbolically voting for or against each bill. The result of this interaction is displayed on simple and easy to understand graphics. Furthermore, it is possible that users compare the votes among themselves and not just with politicians.

Vote na Web contains: 1) "Bills of the week" with an abstract, the politician who wrote the bill, and statistics about users and politicians votes; 2) A link for the full text of the bill; 3) A list of the politicians with basic information such as their career, the number of bills proposed in Congress, and their voting records; and 4) A users' space where anyone can check their similiarties with politicians and/or other users based on voting records. Furthermore, users can comment, send e-mails to friends or parliamentarians, and share information about a bill on Twitter and Facebook.

Priscila Marcenes, the project coordinator, says: "Only people who are already politicized really use those government data the way it is currently shown: visually unattractive, and in a very complicated and bureaucratic language. We went to work with this data to promote a type of transparency that is accessible to all citizens without exclusion." The main obstacles to overcome include the amount of time it takes to translate congressional bills into simple, accessible language, and the sheer volume of legislation which appears each week in Brazil's Congress.


What are the biggest obstacles to your success?: 

Getting society to take ownership of the project, and make it grow.

What problem is your project aiming to overcome?: 

We believe that for citizens to approach policy, we must approach political questions using visual and written languages available, in addition to bringing together entertainment and knowledge. All the data we use are public. But we realize that only people already politicized could use the data as they are currently shown with their very complicated and bureaucratic language. We went then to work on this data to promote, in effect, a transparency that is accessible to all citizens, without exclusion.

What are the roots of that problem?: 

The use of new technologies and the Internet to facilitate understanding of government information is still very new in the world. And the Brazilian government does not have a history of unleashing the potential of the Internet for the benefit of its citizens.

How does the information published on your website turn into offline change?: 

For us, the existence of the tool with its 3000 users and over 56 thousand votes is a real change in society. A change in the mentality of 3000 people who are using the Web to get closer to government decisions.

Promoting discussion among users about the applicability of a law is a change: those who are more knowledgeable explain to others how the law works. By spreading what they've learned via networks like Twitter, users realize that they can do something. This is the beginning of a transformation. There is a change, but we can not measure but that we believe will come, greater political awareness about the importance of voting. It's a turning point that should mean much more than the ballot box. With Votenaweb we want to draw citizens' attention to the fact that their vote is still there every day. And so it is important that it approaches these issues. Furthermore, we hope that politicians are also aware that they represent citizens and that their wishes must govern government actions. With Votenaweb, the politician can also track what is the interest of citizens and thus identify their real needs.

How many people work on your project?: 
What are the most time consuming tasks?: 

A major difficulty is to translate those law projects to a simple and accessible language. Another point is the sheer volume of law projects that appears weekly in Congress.

How do you extract value from large amounts of data? How do you build engagement around it?: 

Well, a lot of information is a large sample of society. This is the basis of any research conducted in the world. That's how we learned that the majority of the population is more interested in safety or health, if you have a fridge or two car garage ... In the case of Votenaweb, the information gathered is the impression of citizens and the political record. One of the ways we have found to enhance the work with this information are the filters and graphs. In each project, you can see which are the states that most Brazilians voted for or against. And also the total votes cast for or against.

The number of votes per project is also an indicator of issues that matter more or less to citizens. The comments serve as a more critical space, with the record of what they think about voting or about the project. Every institution or person may use such data as they'd like.
The civic engagement part of this premise is that people have information and knowledge to exercise their civic role. This is the main pillar and we are working with him. The citizens' sense of inclusion - not exclusion of systems - is essential for him/her to participate.

How do you verify the identities of participants on your website?: 

Yes, they register which must be confirmed via email and their votes are recorded in the user profile.

How do you attract new participants?: 

We launched the project during the first meeting TED in Brazil, TEDxSP, an event that was attended by over 800 thinkers from different areas of knowledge and expertise. A great start. Then we work with social media, where we had great visibility, beyond the traditional media that sought to spread spontaneously in the project. We also partner with networks, through direct communication, so that more people are representing us. Furthermore, we are being sought by the mass media channels such as Globo News, to talk about the project.

Has legal action been taken against your website?: 

There is no legal obstacle against the project.

What metrics do you use to judge your own success?: 

We use the traditional web metrics, such as registration of new users, increasing their participation, and social space in traditional media, among others. And we still have other metrics, less objective, such as the constant invitation to participate in events, whether related to politics, is related to innovative digital initiatives. Among them, the invitation to present the initiative at Expo Showcase Gov 2.0, a major event in the field, where we will be the first Brazilian action to be present.

What skills and expertise would be of assistance to your project?: 

We work with a multidisciplinary team involving experts in law, communications, management, programming and design. These people work with the update tool as well as monitoring and relationship with citizens, users, politicians and tracking the daily movement of organic and traditional media to work with social issues of relevance to citizens.

How do you plan on financially sustaining your project? : 

Currently, the project is supported by Webcitizen. We use the profits that we have with other clients to develop projects to achieve what we believe in.

What other organizations are you working with?: 

Directly, we do not work with any other organizations. However, we seek dialogue and common interests with several organizations including Cidade Democrática (tool that mobilizes citizens to change the city), the Esfera (which works with the opening of data), the Escola do futuro - School of the Future - (research center the largest university in Brazil), the University of São Paulo USP, which is working with enough innovation in the issue of junk mail), the TEDxSP, the HUB São Paulo (the core of coworking and incubator for innovative companies that mobilizes change the world), among others.

Has there been any communication between your project and government officials?: 

There is no systematic reporting. Contacting government representatives is not part of our routine. However, we've sought to answer questions or suggest the inclusion of projects.

What are your plans for 2010 and 2011?: 

We want to expand the participation of users, both quantitatively and qualitatively. And with that, we become an example, inspiring new acts like this. We want to contribute to the exercise of democracy and transparency.


Brazilian hope

We've hope to Brazil. Now we can know what is happening at politics, with clearly and transparency form.

I'm proud to be part of this transformation.

Great project... Every

Great project... Every country should have something like this!


Vote na Web has a good focus: the Congress, which is usually overlooked in public discussion in Brazil once the Executivo branch of government has become a “superpower”. The Brazilian Congress is usually depicted as a place of horrors, full of corrupt and useless politicians. Well, unfortunately, that’s not a totally inadequate image, but for sure not every congresmen is a bad guy.
From this perspective, Vote na Web performs a very positive job as the project intends to exhibit, by using public data, an important part of congresspeople work: the bills representatives and senators present and how they all vote.
Additionally, Vote na Web’s webpage is very simple and intuitive. And I’m happy to learn the project has already reached 3,000 users. It’s a great start for a five-month-old project.
However, I see some minor problems in “Vote na Web”.
First, It is not clear what criteria is used to select the bills — assuming not all bills are listed by the project.
Second, the webpage does not correctly exhibit the author of the bill. Example: the famous “Ficha Limpa” bill is signed by 22 representatives, but only the first, in alphabetical order – Antonio Carlos Biscaia –, is pointed as the author in the home page of Vote na Web. Ok, if one goes to the bill’s internal page, he or she cand read the 22 names. However, when it comes to hugely known and celebrated bills, it does make a difference when your face is at the home page of a project like Vote na Web.
Third: it seems the bills sent to Congress by the Executive is not shown in Vote na Web. In the past years, the president has been the author of the most important bills in Brazil. It happens with Lula, just the same way as it had happened under FHC (Lula’s predecessor). According to a recent report, around 80% of the bills passed in the Congress have been proposed by the Executive.
Well, these three minor problems can be easily solved by the funders of the project. The most important challenge of Vote na Web, however, is much more difficult to achieve: I believe the project will not have offline impact if it does not reach a large number of people.
Only if politicians note hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions of people are continuously following the bills, they’ll consider voters' opinion.
In order to reach a larger number of visitor, Vote na Web will have to look for various partners in civil society, such as unions, religious groups, social movements, academic reasearchers, mainstream media. Otherwise, I won’t succeed, once in Brazil access to Internet is not widespread — and most of those who access the Internet do not use it for political purpose.
I wish Vote na Web luck. It won’t be easy to reach such a goal.

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