All Publications

Voice or chatter? Making ICTs work for transformative citizen engagement

Date added: September 14, 2017

Download - 1.4MB

What are the conditions in democratic governance that make information and communication technology (ICT)-mediated citizen engagement transformative? While substantial scholarship exists on the role of the Internet and digital technologies in triggering moments of political disruption and cascading upheavals, academic interest in the sort of deep change that transforms institutional cultures of democratic governance, occurring in 'slow time', has been relatively muted.

This study attempts to fill this gap. It is inspired by the idea of participation in everyday democracy and seeks to explore how ICT-mediated citizen engagement can promote democratic governance and amplify citizen voice

ICT-mediated citizen engagement is defined by this study as comprising digitally-mediated information outreach, dialogue, consultation, collaboration and decision-making, initiated either by government or by citizens, towards greater government accountability and responsiveness.

To do this, the study used the theory of structuration, developed by Anthony Giddens. The central premise of the theory is that individual actions, interactions and the social system are reciprocally active and not independent of each other. It also borrows from Parvez’s work on e-democracy and the double structuration loop approach.

The research sought to answer four questions:

  • how do institutional norms become implicated in the situated practices of governance and citizenship?
  • how do institutional structures of democratic governance shape and construct shared meanings and visions of ICT-mediated citizen engagement?
  • how does techno-design produce and shape citizen engagement?
  • how do citizen-end practices of technology remake digital democracy?

The study involved empirical explorations of citizen engagement initiatives in eight sites – two in Asia (India and Philippines), one in Africa (South Africa), three in South America (Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay) and two in Europe (Netherlands and Spain).

The authors make the following recommendations on how public policies and programmes can promote ICTs for citizen engagement and transformative citizenship, and discuss three inter-related dimensions:

  • calibrating for equality - the research points to how transformative shifts in citizenship call for cultural pluralisation, racial and distributive democracy. The future of democracy depends on the calibration of digital approaches in governance to empower the last citizen
  • coding for democracy - the design of techno-public space has deeply political consequences and must be made with due consideration to democratic and social inclusion imperatives
  • norming for accountability - for citizen engagement to be given a central place in digital governance, deep and abiding system integration of democratic values is called for.

 

A summary of this research report can be downloaded here

 

Download - 1.4MB
Share