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Investigating the role of anonymity in online governance

Tactical Tech

“To better use technology for transparency and accountability, we need to know more about digital security, privacy needs and the experiences of those who engage with T4T&A platforms and initiatives.” — Tactical Tech
Start date
June 2014
End date
June 2015
Period: 13 months


Technology for Transparency and Accountability (T4T&A) projects aim to leverage technology to illuminate decision-making processes and support new and broader forms of political participation.

However, protection for those who challenge governance institutions and attempt to bring dissenting voices into the political space is practically absent online - meaning that transparency itself may a liability for personal privacy and security, discouraging or even endangering participants.


Tactical Tech, with funding from Making All Voices Count, is investigating the relationships and online privacy experiences of various actors in T4T&A initiatives – government agencies and citizens’ groups that use these digital platforms, and corporate entities that in some cases build, maintain, host and regulate the platforms.

The team is conducting research with partners in South Africa and Kenya exploring:

  • the political and legal context in which T4T&A projects function
  • how NGOs/activists running citizen-led T4T&A initiatives understand data privacy, security and risk, and how they integrate this into their practice
  • how marginalised communities negotiate visibility and anonymity online and offline.

The findings from the research will provide critical reflection on T4T&A projects, helping the programmes to understand both the pitfalls and potentials of using technology to increase political participation.


Tactical Tech is a non-profit organisation, working since 2003 to advance the use of information and digital technologies by advocates and activists worldwide.

Based in Berlin, they work with an international network of partners and collaborators to help rights, accountability and transparency advocates and the communities they work with to use information and digital technologies effectively in their work.


In Kenya, Tactical Tech’s researchers looked at how lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) people in Nairobi use technology to interact in a context that often demands anonymity.

In South Africa, the team worked with economically marginalised housing and urban development rights activists in Johannesburg to see how they use different technology to cooperate, despite limitations such as cost and digital literacy.

Maya Indira Ganesh explains the research aims in more detail in this short video, filmed at the TICTec2016 conference.

Key findings from the two case studies include:

  • marginalised users have different needs for privacy and security online, and T4T&A activities need to integrate these concerns
  • collaborations across and within technology and activist movements and communities must recognise their different histories of engagement with politics, technology and the state
  • without the full enjoyment of human rights, marginalised people’s participation in T4T&A activities is bound to be limited.

Donwlonad an eight-page summary of the full report here>