Tezpur: UNICEF, in partnership with CivicDataLab and National Service Scheme (NSS) at Tezpur University, conducted a half-day workshop with NSS volunteers to improve the participation of youths in the making of the Assam State budget on February 15. The workshop was attended by more than 70 participants from NSS.
The workshop aimed at enabling youths to understand the State budget better using Open Budgets India’s Assam Budget Explorer - a web-based open data platform that helps citizens visualize key budget trends and analyze grant-wise detailed expenditure, receipts and other budgetary information. The Assam Budget Explorer was developed by CivicDataLab, an organization which works with the goal of using data, tech, design and social science to strengthen the course of civic engagements in India.
The Government of Assam has been conducting ‘citizen suggestions drive’ for the State Budget since the financial year 2018-19. With the support of the Deputy Commissioner and Treasury Officers; the department facilitated orientation sessions, made physical and online forms available and digitized the responses collected for further consideration. For the financial year 2019-20 alone, more than 2,500 unique suggestions were given by citizens. Of these suggestions, more than 35 per cent were from the age group of 14-25 years.
Based on the report published by Transparency International India in May 2019, Assam ranked No.1 among all Indian States on the transparency index. The government continues to invest in this effort with more involvement of people, especially the youth of Assam. As a part of these initiatives, a vision for the workshop was established.
The workshop focused on three crucial questions - what is the budget, why youth participation in providing suggestions to the budget matters and how the youth today can engage in this process. The students chose an area of their interest, put on their thinking hats as the relevant department in the State Government like Education, Health, Public Works, and came up with innovative ideas and schemes that they believed should be considered for Assam Budget 2020-21.
During the workshop, the students were oriented on using the U- Report tool for suggestions for the Assam Budget 2020-21. UNICEF’s U-Report is a social messaging tool (available on Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger and Telegram) and data collection system developed by UNICEF to improve citizen engagement.
The event ended with showcasing commitment by the students of Tezpur University to become Youth Budget Ambassadors and further facilitate the process of citizen participation in the State budget.