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Democracy and ICTs in Africa


30 September 2009

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Sida’s new report ICTs for Democracy examines the potential of information and communication technologies for advancing democracy and empowerment with special focus on Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. It recommends the integration and strategic use of ICTs in good governance.

ICTs for Democracy: Information and Communication Technologies for the Enhancement of Democracy- with a Focus on Empowerment.

Publisher: Sida 2009.

Access to and the strategic use of ICTs have been shown to have the potential to help bring about economic development, poverty reduction, and democratisation – including freedom of speech, the free flow of information and the promotion of human rights.

Africa.jpg
Image credits: Google/ ICT in Africa

Based on signs of current democracy deficits, it is crucial that ICTs be made central to development cooperation and to approaches to advance democracy in developing countries.

This report provides comprehensive information on ICTs for democracy, including a situation analysis and estimation of their future potential in Africa. The study is composed of two distinct parts; a theoretical overview and three country studies.

It provides country-level analysis of the context that considers the factors that shape access to ICTs, including ICT infrastructure, costs of access, skills and capacity to use the technology, ICT policy and policy changes.

The challenge for democracy lies in increasing civil society capacity and scope to use the political and public space to engage and influence governments’ decision-making and democratic practice.

The document not only brings out the significance of civil society’s use of ICTs for outreach, advocacy and campaigning but provides insight into how, at the societal level, ICTs are advancing access to democratic processes. It includes discussion of different governments’ e-democracy initiatives.

The potential of ICTs for advancing democracy and empowerment in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda have also been analysed in the report.

The slow growth of internet uptake and usage in the three countries is also attributable to limited infrastructure, including fibre-optic cable and electricity in rural areas; low internet usage by government, schools, and health and agricultural institutions; low ICT literacy; a lack of local content on the internet; and low income levels.

However, the new project of undersea fibre-optic cables running through the  East African coast will help in connecting marginalised geographic spaces and social groups with greater prospects of participation in national debate and deliberation on issues and decisions that impact their day to day life.

The report concludes by making a set of recommendations of possible strategies and actions to support democracy with ICT.

Strategies proposed :

  • The potential of ICTs, particularly in the context of the vast numbers of people who are now able to connect in some way through mobile phones;
  • Raising awareness on democratic principles and practice;
  • The potential of ICTs for advancing democracy;
  • Institutional strengthening of CSOs, NGOs and media practitioners to engage critically on issues of democracy as well as institutional strengthening for good governance; and
  • Strengthening community voice in public debate and decision-making.
 
Source : Sida.se

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