Has Kenya’s ICT revolution triggered more citizen participation?
By Making All Voices Count | Communication between the state and citizens is an essential element for an equal and just society. Growing social inequalities, lack of proper public services, and denial of basic human rights all act to widen existing communication gaps.
Key to bridging these gaps is ensuring not only that citizen voices are heard, but also that states have the capacity and incentive to listen and respond. As much of the literature on accountability focuses on citizen voices, a group of researchers from Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania – in collaboration with the Institute of Development Studies – decided to look at state responsiveness.
Trying to find instances of accountable governance, when the state is responsive to citizen voice, this team of researchers interviewed key actors across the state–citizen spectrum who had been involved in landmark social justice policy processes during major junctures of democratisation in these four countries.
In the brief of Kenya, Nyambura Salome surveys the extent to which the country’s information and communications technology (ICT) revolution transforms e-government – implementing decisions with the help of ICTs – into e-governance – using ICTs to help make decisions (Marche and McNiven 2003). Her study of Nairobi, the country’s main technology hub, concludes that ICTs do not necessarily trigger better governance. State actors mistake e-government for e-governance and are often indifferent to citizens’ aspirations for more public participation. On the other side of the state– citizen interface, and despite an explosion of e-government tools, only a small minority of Nairobi citizens use ICTs to engage with the state. At the end of the day, it seems that much of Kenya’s ICT governance revolution is still yet to mature, lacking a concerted effort from state actors to engage with non-state actors.