Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

ICT and accountable governments

14 July 2010

Mobile phone

I wanted to share with you the latest issue of the ANSA-Africa Newsletter looking at “the ability of Information and Communication Technology to empower civil society and force governments to be accountable.” The edition was the outcome of a workshop held in October 2009 in Johannesburg.

It includes a nice feature by Samantha Flemming looking at “Local government, social media and responsibility”. It will be useful to monitor the example of the South African Cabinet who has initiated a Local Government Turnaround Strategy aiming at involving citizens in local governance.

Carmen Alpina introduces a tool to promote local government budget accountability online in Kenya, a platform developed by the Social Development Network (SODNET). The online budget tracking tool allows communities to monitor the performance of central government, parliamentarians and local authorities in budget expenditure and disbursements, mainly by covering various funds, the Constituency Development Fund, the Local Authority Transfer Fund, the Youth Enterprise & Development Fund and the Economic Stimulus Package. Unfortunately, the platform at www.opengovernance.info is currently unavailable.

You can download the newsletter here.

(Thx @Katrinskaya for the link)

Change agents versus change networks

7 October 2009

The first session of this year’s Socialcamp in Berlin kept me busy thinking for the whole weekend. Coming from the challenging experience of reaching sustainable change when working with organisations in Africa, Tobias Eigen from Kabissa was looking at questions of the drivers of change, and how to identify these “Change Agents”.

This let me to remember one of the principles of the power of internet, which is that everybody, from Kinshasa, to Berlin, to Port Moresby, can make a difference, can engage and has the opportunity to be an agent of change. While this was true before the internet as well, and limitations of connectivity still exist, the opportunity to scale this engagement has increased exponentially.

Go change the world. Now.

Go change the world. Now.

Now this obviously doesn’t mean that every idea will change the world, but what I find most interesting and exciting is that by simply doing something such as sending a text message, posting an idea or a comment, taking a picture and sharing it, he can be part of a changing world.

In short, this is citizen engagement. How this can be a key factor for influencing the fight against corruption in the future, I have described on this blog and also here.

The concept that was floated during the discussion is the one of a Change Network, in a way taking the concept that every one can be a change agent and planting this person into a societal context. I think the concept of one person driving change is, on a general level, somewhat of a myth. The person is always embedded in a network that reflects, adapts and catalyses the ideas and concepts of change. This does not limit itself to its immediate group, but also to the community or society surrounding.

And without this networks, the change will not happen.

While preparing this text, Patrick Meier from iRevolution did a great summary on the discussion on crowdsourcing and I would like to quote his words which fit quite well here:

We credit the crowd because no one person lives in a vacuum and comes up with innovative ideas that are completely independent from their interaction with the outside world.

This is also true when you think of how dependent change becomes if it is only focussed on one person, rather than a network. It is a challenge the fight against corruption has experienced much to often when having to rely on political will to change the status quo. Once a government changes, all advancements may stop, just because this change was based on only one person.

The question is whether a Change Network can be institutionalised.

I am split on this with my thoughts, but I believe that there needs to be the liberty to engage and create a culture of engagement and action without having to organise everything (and this coming from a German), and let allow that even from slactivism eventually comes true engagement and activism. I like the idea of a possibility for change at every movement. Providing space for the individual to do something and let the network surrounding it create the change. Not everything will be, or want to be NGOised.

What do you think? Is this concept useful?

Blogging for change in Africa

20 October 2008
Kelele | The African Bloggers Conference

Kelele | The African Bloggers Conference

I just came across the announcement for the Annual African Bloggers Conference planned to take place in 2009 in Kenya via the blog of the Association of Progressive Communicators. This prompted me to address one of the key questions when looking at social media for development.

The main challenge for using social media concepts, and the internet in general, is that many people, especially in the developing world, still don’t have access to it (see this statistics overview, wikipedia, as well as this nice map).

However, usage rates are growing tremendously, especially in Africa and the Middle East, and initiatives such as the bloggers conference give hope that the internet, as a genuine grassroots media, can reach not only the few. Through the internet and information sources such as blogs, the entrance barrier to join a political dialogue and the public sphere are much easier than through traditional media and TV.

A while ago, this article looked at South Africa and the influence bloggers and “citizen journalism” have on the political dialogue in the country, arguing that, while not yet in a scale as in the US, bloggers are are joining the discourse and start receiving attention by the media.

Of course, radio on the other hand still advantages providing a platform for discussions. Community radio projects keep to be successful around the world. A great initiative addressing how to tie in both media is the Radio 2.0 for development blog. See also a related post presenting the publication: Fighting Poverty: Utilizing Community Media in a Digital Age.

Merging text messaging and social media tools such as twitter provide another opportunity that will be discussed in a following post.

People are starting to make noise. With corruption being one of the main obstacles for development, there is the potential and the need to start engaging into social media tools and not write off the continent, just because of the technical challenges that still need to be overcome.