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Voice or chatter? Developing a theory of ICT-mediated citizen engagement

IT for Change

Project type Research 

Support £75,000

In partnership with The Co-operative University College of Kenya; University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa; Foundation for Media Alternatives, the Philippines
“Although we know digital technologies present new opportunities, e-participation is no magic bullet. Not enough is known about the conditions that make ICT-mediated citizen engagement transformative for democratic governance” — IT for Change
Start date
January 2016
End date
April 2017
Period: 16 months


Until now, most research about citizen engagement through using ICTs has focused on describing different forms of citizen action. This seldom provides general insights about governance.

Very little research has been done to examine the interplay between citizens and government institutions, or to understand the conditions under which citizen engagement using ICTs promotes democratic governance.


IT for Change is using its funding from Making All Voices Count to carry out eight empirical case studies of citizen engagement through ICTs, looking at how this shapes new forms of participation, how it re-distributes power between government and citizens, and how the interactions between different actors continuously shape governance. These case studies – from two developed countries, three Making All Voices Count focus countries, and three other developing countries – will ask:

  • how does citizen engagement through ICTs give rise to new governance regimes?
  • under what conditions can citizen engagement through ICTs support and promote democratic governance?

The study will also develop an index that can be used to evaluate the impact of citizen engagement on democratic governance. It will help draw attention to the policy issues and governance practices that matter for meaningful citizen engagement.


IT for Change is an Indian NGO that works on the theory and practice of information societies from the standpoint of equity, social justice and gender equality. The research it carries out empahsises applied knowledge that inform policy and programming.

IT for Change prioritises concrete change, and activities include workshops bringing together civil society and governance actors, participation in expert committees and task forces to influence government policy, and capacity-building programmes for policy-makers.


In November 2016, IT for Change convened a workshop in New Delhi to bring together 60 key stakeholders to work together on evolving a comprehensive policy approach to data-based governance and digital democracy, grounded in a rights and social justice framework. Read more about the workshop here.

The project has produced a set of research briefings, a set of country reports, a synthesis report and report summary.



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