ICTD2010 (V). Decision making and accountability: citizen-centred ICT platforms?

Notes from the Information and Communication Technolgies and Development — ICTD2010, held at the Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, UK, on December 13-16, 2010. More notes on this event: ictd2010.

Decision making and accountability: citizen-centred ICT platforms?
Chairs: Lotta Rydström

Case 1

Uganda: several examples on how women are using ICTs and especially their mobile phones to participate in local politics, community life, etc. The main issues are, nevertheless, physical access to devices, illiteracy.


SODNET (Social Development Network) works with targeted advocacy, really good data and the right packaging to provide near real time reporting, direct amplification of voices, aggregation of data for ease of analysis and report generation, transparency in organizations, etc.

Given that in Kenya the penetration of the mobile phone is really high, most solutions rely on mobile telephony (and the web too) for them to work.

Approx 25,000 SMS questions/messages vs. 5,000 on the web. An example of the impact was the scandal that was raised on the performance of the Ministry of Water.

A total of 1,523 reports by monitors and citizens on irregularities during the election; 36 out of 40 actionable reports were amplified and responded to by the IIEC (electoral body); 794 reports on “everything is fine”, though there was no requisite to do so.

Key factors:

  • Provide simple technology /media based tools and channels.
  • Let citizens act on their own.

This is what is behind the new project Huduma, a project that the Government has asked the possibility to be able to answer the citizens back, from within the same platform. Same with Map Kibera, a “crowdsource” mapping tool.

Johan Hellström

There are many tools where mobile phones are used to track and store information.

Åke Grönlund

Corruption = Monopoliy + Discretion – Accountability.

There are a lot of corruption indices or ways to measure corruption: TI’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), World Bank’s Corruption Control Index (CCI), Bribe-Payers’ Index (by TI), etc.

ICT actions against corruption: automation (remove the intermediary), transparency, detection, prevention, awareness raising, reporting, deterrence (a real threat to business), promoting ethical attitudes.

A research shows that as the eGovernment index goes up, the Corruption Control Index goes down; GDP/capita up, CCI goes down; free press up leads, notwithstanding, to no significant change. Andersen (2009). E-Government as an anti-corruption strategy.

The Bhoomi project reduced corruption in 66%.


Q: Do we need more tools? Sodenet: most of the tools are already developed, they just need being customized for your own purposes.

What kind of responses have governments given to these initiatives? A: They increasingly want to be informed and seldom participate in the whole project, especially providing feedback. But sometimes too they get scared or simply mad at these projects.

Where is the limit of transparency (e.g. Wikileaks)?

More information

Strand (2010). Increasing transparency & fighting corruption through ICT (PDF file, 5.73 MB).

Information and Communication Technologies and Development (2010)

Fourth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (IX). Specialized Areas Workshop

Notes from the Fourth IPID ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium 2009, held in the Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, United Kingdom, on September 11-12th, 2009. More notes on this event: ict4d_symposium_2009.

Specialized Areas Workshop
Chairs: Åke Grönlund

What’s “for Development”? Isn’t everything for the development of a community or the world as a whole? Is it “for Development” only what happens in developing countries?

On the other hand, development has to necessarily rely on institutional support and adoption. Though it can be initiated and even fostered bottom-up, governments have to acknowledge and, lastly, actively support any initiative that wants to last and have a long term impact.

Thus, institutional reform is necessary… though it is normally slow everywhere, specially in developing countries.


Social sciences should be providing feedback to Computer Scientists on how things work and how they are used. This means not only providing information about the impact, but taking part in the design itself, to feed innovation back.

We could say that ICT4D is to developing countries what e-Commerce is to the developed world. But e-Commerce is a quickly changing “discipline”: if it’s in a handbook, it’s outdated. So, trying to build relevant and useful content on ICT4D is difficult, as it will soon be outdated too. That’s one of the reasons IT researchers and social scientists just seldom come together in the needs and the solutions.

One of the priorities of developing countries’ governments, is how to make money out of ICTs. So we have to be aware of the priorities, which normally are not that people participate more or have better access to government services.

ICT4D is a means to understand societies and cultures and how they will be using ICTs.

There is a need to go multidisciplinary and try and understand others’ points of view and, more important, to learn something about others’ disciplines, so that mutual understanding happens in a easier way.

We should be able to make money out of some e-whatever projects, so that they are seen useful and, at the same time, to make them sustainable. On the other hand, this is usually a high priority for people in developing countries. For this to happen, some capacity building and digital capabilities development would also be a high priority goal.

Three economic approaches to ICT4D:

  • make money locally, enable cash sources: this is what local beneficiaries want
  • be cost effective, efficiency, efficacy, specially in Health, Government/Democracy and Education: this is normally the agenda of Development Studies
  • ICT sector for international commerce (leapfroggers): which might have or might have not an impact in the domestic economy (but only benefit the plutocracy)

Fourth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (2009)