This newsletter highlights new research on ICT-mediated citizen engagement its impact on governance in six countries.
Voice or Chatter? - led by IT for Change - is a multi-country case study analysis about how ICT-mediated citizen engagement can be empowering for citizens, and transformative for democratic governance outcomes.
Here we highlight three of the seven research briefs that project has produced so far. Looking in turn at India, the Philippines and Uruguay, they describe the landscape of governance where the structures of technology meet the structures of democracy, and the ways that these shape and are shaped by citizen engagement.
The full report of the study – sharing insights about how and where meanings, norms and rules shift and moments of transformative citizen engagement happen – will be published later in the summer. Several members of the research team will join Deepti Bharthur of IT for Change and Rosie McGee of Making All Voices Count in a GPSA Webinar on July 5th.
A citizenship in crisis: voice, welfare and other contestations in the digital state
Data-based decision-making in India is part of a larger trend that seems to displace the complex ingredients of participatory governance - dialogue, deliberation, audit and answerability - in favour of a system that disempowers citizens. Whether it is biometric based authentication systems, online grievance mechanisms or Big Data-based beneficiary rationalisation, the absence of modes for meaningful rights - to contest, to be heard, and to seek accountability - decouples citizenship from rights and justice. Digital technologies in governance and data-based solutions need to be harnessed towards strengthening grassroots democracy rather than alienating it. If the much-acclaimed openness of the digital movement cannot be put to the service of participatory grassroots democracy, democracy itself runs the risk of being cannibalised.
"The transition to a ‘digital by default’ regime has seen foundational shifts in governance cultures – key among which are an increasing substitution of democratic deliberation with data-based decision-making."
Read the brief | Read Deepti Bhartur’s two blogs: Voice or chatter: Towards new meanings of citizen engagement | Voice in the Indian context: furthering accountability
Open data in the Philippines: An issue of access and awareness
The Philippines, a founder of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), has a history strong government commitments open government and citizen participation. As a result the country has a complex layer of open data initiatives, systems and laws. But effective implementation of open data initiatives has been constrained by lack of inter-operable systems within government. And a strong digital divide means that issues of access and awareness constrain the reach and impact of ICT-mediated citizen engagement. Without a broader reach, the benefits of open government accrue to the democratic citizenship of relatively few individuals, rather than to democracy as a whole.
New pathways for citizen agency: Open Government National Action Plans in Uruguay
Since the implementation of the first OGP National Action Plan (NAP) in Uruguay in 2012, open government has evolved from a focus on e-government that was non-participatory, towards a multi-stakeholder, transversal approach to public policies, with its own budget allocation. But are the ICT-supported citizen engagement processes underpinning the NAP transformative of democratic governance, or are they a superficial exercise to reinforce politically correct visions of open government? Analysis of the bargaining processes among stakeholders engaged in widening citizen engagement, suggests that the actions of those taking part in the governance process created by the implementation of OGP-NAPs are gradually modifying the dynamics of governance, creating adaptations and small transformations in governance structures.
Other new research blogs
Learning from tech use in the development sector (Laeticia Klein)
Looking back on Map Kibera (Erica Hagen)
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