The intersection of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and civic engagement continues to gain popularity as more citizens adopt the use of tools to engage with each other, and with civic organisations and the state. While empirical evidence suggests that the rate at which this is happening remains debatable, the ICT4Democracy in East Africa network is using various forms of ICT tools to promote civic participation in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda and working to overcome challenges such as gender and geographical disparity in use of ICT.
We thus present highlights of our work in catalysing the use of ICT in civic processes over the course of 2015, which includes rural communities demanding improved service delivery, reporting human rights violations, corruption alleviation, and improved monitoring and accountability of duty bearers. The report narrates how partners have worked with side-lined and detached communities such as women, the rural poor and youth, into sparking interest in becoming active citizens that connect and engage with other citizens and with leaders, and play a role in local decision-making.
Comprised of seven partners working across Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, the network leverages on both traditional and modern ICT tools and platforms including mobile phones, radio, digital cameras, SMS platforms, geographic-mapping software, toll free lines, polling platforms, blogs, crowd mapping platforms and social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter.
Over the course of the year, network partners faced challenges but recorded many successes too. The challenges included a deteriorating legal environment and limited access to ICT tools for a large number of citizens in East Africa. However, there was less resistance by duty bearers to participate in dialogue with citizens. Further, in 2015, more women actively participated in the network’s activities, reflecting the shifting attitudes on the role that women play in advocating for transparency and accountability in governance in rural communities. The network’s target is to have women constitute at least 40% of participants in all our activities. However, achieving this ratio remains a challenge due to socio-cultural and economic dynamics which still influence the extent to which women participate in community affairs.
The network awareness and advocacy efforts leverage platforms including broadcast media, participation at relevant meetings, and social media. Further, research produced by the network has been cited in publications looking to understand the cross points of ICT and human interactions in democratic spaces in Africa.
The network as a whole has increased visibility among like-minded organisations at both regional and international levels, and we continue to play a pivotal role in network building, learning and knowledge exchange for both partners and members of the wider ICT for Democracy community in the region. Our work has also featured in academic journals and conferences such as the Conference on e-Democracy & Open Governance (CEDEM) for 2014 and 2015.
As part of the annual network meeting, in September 2015, partners participated in week-long capacity building training to reinforce their skills in adopting and integrating human rights in their project implementation and results monitoring. The knowledge and skills acquired will inform strategies for the network’s onward activities. We remain grateful for the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the Swedish Programme for ICTs in Developing Regions (Spider).
Read the full Network annual report 2015 here.