Foresight tools for participative policy-making in inter-governmental processes in developing countries

Lessons learned from the eLAC Policy Priorities Delphi

Technological Forecasting and Social Change


The paper shows how international foresight exercises, through online and offline tools, can make policy-making in developing countries more participatory, fostering transparency and accountability of public decision-making. A five-round Delphi exercise (with 1454 contributions), based on the priorities of the 2005–2007 Latin American and Caribbean Action Plan for the Information Society (eLAC2007), was implemented. This exercise aimed at identifying future priorities that offered input into the inter-governmental negotiation of a 2008–2010 Action Plan (eLAC2010). It is believed to be the most extensive online participatory policy-making foresight exercise in the history of intergovernmental processes in the developing world to date. In addition to the specific policy guidance provided, the major lessons learned include (1) the potential of Policy Delphi methods to introduce transparency and accountability into public decision-making, especially in developing countries; (2) the utility of foresight exercises to foster multi-agency networking in the development community; (3) the usefulness of embedding foresight exercises into established mechanisms of representative democracy and international multilateralism, such as the United Nations; (4) the potential of online tools to facilitate participation in resource-scarce developing countries; and (5) the resource-efficiency stemming from the scale of international foresight exercises, and therefore its adequacy for resource-scarce regions. Two different types of practical implications have been observed. One is the governments' acknowledgement of the value of collective intelligence from civil society, academic and private sector participants of the Delphi and the ensuing appreciation of participative policy-making. The other is the demonstration of the role that can be played by the United Nations (and potentially by other inter-governmental agencies) in international participatory policy-making in the digital age, especially if they modernize the way they assist member countries in developing public policy agendas.