iHub Research hosted a governance workshop on Thursday, October 27th, 2011, bringing together governance stakeholders from academia, government, civil society and the technology community. The purpose of the workshop was to identify important issues within Kenyan governance structures, especially looking at different stakeholder roles and relationships. The workshop also explored areas where technology may be able to facilitate and potentially enhance good governance.
The session was part of the SPIDER Governance project that iHub Research has recently embarked on, and was conceived of as a means to obtain a diverse, balanced view on what governance, and good governance in particular, is to different sectors of society. The participants were representative of all the sectors the workshop had intended to reach, and their experience, outspokenness and creative ideas made the session that was moderated by iHub Research Strategist; Hilda Moraa – lively, thought-provoking and insightful.
A point of consensus was that there is indeed failure in Kenyan governance, especially in accountability, transparency, civic participation and engagement and service delivery. Reasons cited for this lapse included:
- an uninformed and misinformed citizens that are not aware of their basic rights and the power of the masses
- an entrenched culture of corruption in both the citizens and the government where personal gain outweighs personal accountability
- lack of structures to enforce good governance such as lifestyle audits for public servants, and socio-economic constraints, with many citizens too pre-occupied with the struggle to fulfill basic needs such as food to engage in governance discourse.
The participants were of the opinion that changing peoples’ attitudes and mindsets was the first and most important step towards the achievement of good governance. People have to start viewing governance as an issue they should be involved in and not a reserve of ivory-tower academics and civil society organisations. People also have to be made aware of the benefits they will reap from good governance, such as improved living standards. The next step is creation of avenues and structures through which people can engage in governance issues.
ICT comes in handy as a tool to disseminate information and create awareness. An informed citizenry can make sound, informed decisions. This can be achieved through education using ICTs. ICTs such as radio, mobile phones and other mass media can serve the purpose of educating citizens on their rights, provide channels of communication between citizens and the government, mobilise citizens to take action when services are not delivered as they should be and enable them to seek redress. The mobile phone was singled out as a potentially powerful tool due to its wide reach, with over 60% of citizens able to access mobile technology, and its personal, private nature which gives citizens an opportunity to engage in governance solutions in a discreet, personalised way, anytime, anywhere.
A characteristic of a good brainstorm session is that it gives more food for thought. The workshop opened up new perspectives on governance matters and gave the research team food for thought. The session provided a forum for different stakeholders to network, fostering the possibility of working together in the future to realise the dream of good governance in Kenya.