Mexico has an area of 2 million square kilometres with a 9000 km coastline and a climate that varies from tropical to desert.
By the early 1300 AD, the Aztecs established roots on an Island in lake Texcoco, site of present day Mexico City. In 1521 the Spanish explorer Hernan Cortez captured and razed the Aztec city, building a Spanish city in its place. In 1821, Mexican revolutionaries captured Mexico City and broke all ties with the Spanish crown. The city was occupied by the United States in 1847 during the Mexican War and by France for four years starting in 1862.
Heavy fighting ensued from 1910 to 1915, the years of the Mexican Revolution. The end of the Revolutionary movement marked the beginning of a period of dramatic social changes which led to the creation of the Mexican Constitution of 1917. Widespread land reform and nationalization of the country's basic industries were achieved during the 1930's.
The last 60 years have been characterized by industrial expansion, rapid population growth and political domination. In the first six years of the 1980's development slowed down as a result of a recessionary world economy. Vast austerity and strict debt restructuring measures were a direct result of that decade for the Mexican economy.
In the past few years, the Mexican government has carefully tried to steer a new and prosperous Mexico in the direction of becoming a first-world economy. However, and despite the efforts in allying itself as partner in trade with Canada and the United States unexpected political and economical events in the early 1990's have conspired to delay achievement of this goal.
Today Mexico has a GDP of 484 billion with 4% growth in 1999. It has 23 Internet hosts for every 10000 population, 112 telephone mainlines per 1000 population and 44 PCs per 1000 population. The population stands at around 100 million and it has a growth rate of 1%. In the year 2000 Internet hosts numbered 41 per 10,000 population.
The Public Sector in Mexico faces issues similar to those faced by other public sectors around the world and these are issues of transparency, lean government, deregulation, private-public partnerships, efficiency, e-Government, etc. In addressing these issues e-Government is seen as a tool for the development of a better public sector for Mexico.
The Government of Mexico has initiated a number of initiatives that have placed it on the map of e-Government. Some notable projects relate to access to government information. The pilot project Mexico On Line is developed by the President's Office. Its goal is to diminish the distance between the citizen and the government by involving the former in the public decision-making with a 24 hours a day 7 days a week digital broadcasting channel, working interactively with Internet users, crossing the country's geographic boundaries and allowing every connected Mexican in the world to be in touch with his/her Government. This channel is only the first step in a long-term Citizen's Participation Plan, which eventually will intensify online consultations.
The creators of Mexico On Line aim to break the old paradigms about the citizen-government relationship. By using the new technologies they seek to foster a democratic participative culture, where citizens can express their opinion, ask questions and solve their problems relating to governance/government.
To date, there has been a provision of information, interactive facilities and routing of citizen concerns to the appropriate authorities. In the future, the service seeks to enhance its credibility, introduce opinion polling and provide consultation for public policy formulation.
The broadcasting channel can be found in the President's Web page which also downloads free software for its use. At present the channel provides three main features:
Live broadcasting of the programme "México en Línea" (a "phone-in" discussion programme)
Broadcasting of the President's Programme
The radio programme transmitted by the President every Saturday is broadcast on this channel at the same time.
The remaining transmission time is dedicated to Mexican music and public campaigns supporting the federal government's programmes.
Another initiative is direct access to laws, regulations, official documents and government programmes, electronic systems for the procurement of Government, a social security system and the use of information technology in the educational sector.
The Mexican Government also intends developing further the use of IT systems in order to improve the quality of service provided to citizens, carrying out studies to establish norms and standards for the application of IT in the provision of services to the citizen. The new tax administration system is one such programme available on the Internet whose objective is to modernise and strengthen tax administration, ensuring that tax collection is carried out in an opportune and effective way. Another project is that of the federal register of transactions which is a project developed by SEDOCAM and which incorporates the various transactions that are carried out by departments and various entities within the Public Sector. SEP has also developed a system, Tele-SEP, which consists of a system of transactions and services, public directories and general educational material contained in one database and also accessed by one telephone number or through the Internet.
The Ministries of the Federal Public Administration all have an Internet site that describes the services offered to the citizens, the organizational structure, directory of the principal civil servants and the most important activities carried out. A large majority of local governments have a website which is used to consult information related to the different economic activities of the different governments, their industry, tourist attractions as well as state information. The Government of Nuevo Leon State is directly incorporating the concept of e-Government. It is now offering the electronic payment of motor taxes and it is announcing that in this year the payment of house taxes, commercial taxes, water services, driving license renewals and general citizens enquiries will be available through the Internet. The Mexican City Government better known as the Federal District provides not only information but also uses the benefits of commercial electronic banking to pay motor taxes and performs opinion polls about governance issues.
In terms of consultation processes, a good example is Mexico's Citizen's Consultation and Participation System for Science and Technology.
Soon after the presidential elections of July, 2000, "transition teams" were set up for different public issues. Their main goal was to define and plan the direction that the new government was to take on each topic. The Science and Technology Transition Team considered the use of the Internet for public consultation.
The goal was to create an effective way of communication between the Transition Team (the authority) and the science and technology community to foster its participation, exchange of experiences and knowledge as well as its proposals about new projects. The Transition Team pursued the scientific community's participation recognizing that the planning and decision making require a permanent consultation with all the actors involved.
The Participation System on the Internet allowed the reception, classification, discussion and publication of the proposals made by the members of the science and technology community. It offered flexible catalogues for the classification of proposals, forums for discussion and a virtual library with statistics related to user's profile. The user could get information about previous proposals for his/her better participation, choose a topic, send a proposal and take part in a discussion forum. Besides, it gave him/her the option of making public his/her participation. Even though at the beginning it was only designed for the scientific community. It was later extended to the whole citizenry. Unfortunately, despite the positive experience, the system was not retained beyond its initial consultation phase.
Another significant project was that for Citizen's Consultation for the 2001-2006 National Development Plan.
The 2001-2006 National Development Plan (PND) represents the main Federation's planning instrument which contains not only the government's principles but also its objectives and strategies. It is the central document for the whole federal public administration and is legally approved by Congress.
In December 2000, at the beginning of the new presidential period, a planning system was organized to promote citizen participation in a nation-wide programme whose purpose was to involve citizens in the drafting of the 2001-2006 National Development Plan. Public servants in Government saw in this process a formal mechanism to note citizen's opinions, proposals and expectations about some relevant development issues at different levels: federal, local, municipal, family and even the individual level.
Citizen participation was possible via mailed surveys and the Internet. Additionally, the Ministries organized citizen meetings in which outstanding academics and opinion leaders participated. Proposals were collected on about 110 national issues classified under the three most important government areas:
A total of 117,040 questionnaires were received by the Internet and mailed surveys, and 196,854 proposals were withdrawn from them. The Internet page built for the PND extended the possibilities of participation, speeded the registration of opinions, and permitted the participation of Mexicans living abroad, who submitted over 43,000 proposals.
The citizen's participation process represented a significant commitment by society and Government. Suggestions were gathered and analyzed and many of them were included within the PND's objectives and strategies. All the proposals were sent to the different public agencies for their analysis and possible inclusion in the PND. Furthermore, all actions taken by society and government to work out the PND will provide important elements for institutional regional or local plans, thus furthering the PND's goals.
There has been some concern that the compilation and integration of the proposals received were not clear to the public, because citizens were not able to verify if their proposals were being used, and if so, how. The offices responsible for the reception and management of the proposals within each Ministry are not publicly known either.
There are also some relevant cases of online consultation at the local level.
A pilot project of online consultation is being conducted in Estado de México (State of Mexico, http://gem.edomexico.gob.mx/portalgem/sectores.htm). The state government designed a Participation Programme for the Modernization of Fiscal Law for the year 2002, with the purpose of receiving by the Internet comments, suggestions and proposals for a legal reform at state and country levels.
Another consultation process is the Consultation Forum for the Creation of a State Attorney for the Protection of the Environment. Inputs will be received by the Internet and through other media. All citizens are invited to participate, as well as environmental organizations, universities and society in general.
On the private and NGO sector side there are a number of websites that focus attention on Mexican Political, Social, Economic and Government Issues the most common of which are those related to the media. The website of the biggest Mexican Telephone Company, Telmex, shows the main political and government news and presents a daily opinion poll about what they consider the relevant issue of the day. The second largest biggest TV Mexican company, Television Azteca, also has a similar website to the former one.