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

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%.

Discussion

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).

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Information and Communication Technologies and Development (2010)

Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (VIII). e-Government

Notes from the Fifth IPID ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium 2010, held at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain, on September 9-10th, 2010. More notes on this event: ipid2010.

e‐Government in the Global South: machine politics as usual?
Ramlal Satyan

Machine politics: electoral/democratic competition and exchange of (in)tangible services for electoral support; political inerference in the bureaucracy; intermnediaries between state and clients; gatekeeping and information hoarding.

The starting point of the research is that politics shapes e-government: there are political incentives and policy outcomes in technology use, and thus technology becomes not neutral.

The fact that poor people rely on intermediaries only aggravates this problem. The expectations are that poor people need to maintain good/cordial relationships with intermediaries, and that these leverage over bureaucracy and telecentres, telecentres are being captured by intermediaries, having these the ability to hoard information and maintain monopolies (gatekeeping).

Some open research problems: no difference might arise; clientelism encompasses more than just (a set of) services; choice of location and e-gov services; telecentres are a form of extra mediation; methods: within cases over time, or between cases?; training in network analysis.

Ward Berenschot Riot politics: communal violence and state society mediation in Gujarat, India.

ICT for accountability, transparency and participation
Johan Hellström

In the last year, of all the national elections in Africa, only one was considered fair in its process: Ghana. In the meanwhile, many people have lost their right to information. Is there a field in ICT for Governance? can we narrow into ICT4 transparency? ICT4 Democracy?

The project is to use crowdsourcing tools to monitor 2011 national Ghana elections.

Do we have a theoretical framework?

Discussion

Ismael Peña-López: I suggest some lines to explore: (1) Knowledge Gap Theory; (2) the debate on whether direct democracy might actually worsen democracy, because it will get people out of the system due to the high costs of being an active citizen; (3) talking to Evgeny Morozov and Ethan Zuckerman; (4) consulting data from the Freedom on the Net index and the OpenNet Initiative (ONI).

Standardization and Regulatory Challenges in the implementation of e‐Government in Ethiopia
Jorro Yigezu Balcha

The development of ICT infrastructure, literacy rate, lack of commitment from leaders, human resources, development issues, political instabilities, legal and standardization issues, etc. are mentioned as the major challenges in the implementation of e-government services. Ethiopia is no exception in this aspect.

Among others, there are dire standardization challenges: local language issue, the process itself of standardization, lack of trained manpower in the area, enforcement of the standards, coordination of major stakeholders, etc.

Regulatory challenges: Manpower issues, lack of legislatures to support the service, enforcement.

The stakeholders that are involved in the process of standardization and preparation of legal framework don’t have equal sense about the importance and urgency of the standards and legal frameworks and their approval and enforcement.

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Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (2010)