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By reviewing and comparing literature on the role of ICTs in statebuilding and peacebuilding in Africa, with a particular focus on neighboring Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia, this paper examines whether the claims of the transformative power of ICTs are backed by evidence and whether local knowledge – e.g., traditional mechanisms for conflict resolution – is taken into consideration by ICT-based initiatives. Several key findings emerged, including: 1) empirical evidence on the successful use of ICTs to promote peacebuilding and statebuilding is thin; 2) few differences exist between scholarship emanating from the Global North and from Africa; and 3) the literature exhibits a simplistic assumption that ICTs will drive democratic development without sufficient consideration of how ICTs are actually used by the public.
Download the full paper here.
By Ashnah Kalemera
The eSociety Resource Centre Kasese is a community centre hosted by the Kasese district local government in Western Uganda. It acts as a one stop point for local government officials and community members to access various Information Communication and Technology (ICT) tools and services. The centre provides ICT training programmes, hosts an information library, runs an online discussion group, maintains a news blog and social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube). These are all aimed at enhancing citizens’ competence in monitoring government services, promoting accountability, civic participation and good governance in Kasese District.
Since 2011, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) has provided support to the centre, including computer equipment, internet subscription, centre maintenance and support to an ICT training officer. The support is in the context of CIPESA’s project which seeks to promote citizens’ use of ICTs for improved governance partly through grassroots public ICT access centres. The other partner centres in the project are the Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC) and the Busoga Rural Open Source and Development Initiative (BROSDI).
The eSociety centre hosts an average of 250 users per month, mainly local citizens, journalists and local government officials. CIPESA has offered media and district officials training in citizen journalism, geocoding methodology and data collection, information access and dissemination.
During the course of the CIPESA-eSociety partnership in 2014, we conducted a poll survey amongst a random selection of the centre users to assess their capacity and proficiency in demanding for better services, and participation in governance processes.
The results of the poll survey
On the frequency of internet access through mobile (phone and tablet), and desktop/laptop computer at home, work, internet café or the eSociety Centre 34% indicated daily use of the internet and 33% weekly.
When queried on the frequency of using ICTs to engage with leaders, 28% of respondents said they contacted their local leaders at least once a week, while 22% contacted them daily. Another 22% admitted to never contacting their local leaders.
Discussing a governance/service delivery issue was the reason most people (77%) contacted their local leaders. Second was following up on election manifestos (16%). Only 11% contacted their leaders to request for district budget information.
Email was the most commonly used means of contacting leaders at 72%. None of the respondents used text messages to contact their leaders despite widespread mobile phone ownership. Also, with an increasing number of people, including leaders, using social media, the platform was only used by 11% of respondents to contact leaders.
Table 1: ICT tools used to contact local leaders
|Sending an email||72%||28%|
|Using social media (Facebook, Twitter)||11%||89%|
|Other||Physically/ Word of mouth|
For 89% of respondents, drugs shortages in local hospitals/health centres was the most pressing community need. This was followed by corruption and poor road infrastructure.
Table 2: Pressing service delivery issues in Kasese district
|Issue||Percentage of respondents|
|Drugs shortages in hospitals/health centres||89%|
|Poor state of roads||83%|
|Lack of clean water||78%|
|Poor state of hospitals (facilities and standards)||72%|
|Low staff levels (doctors and teachers)||72%|
|Poor state of schools (facilities)||67%|
Challenges to using ICTs
The most widely cited challenge to the use of ICT tools in accessing service delivery information in the local community was the high cost of accessing and using tools – cited by 78% of survey participants. Another common challenge was the lack of immediate feedback from the responsible officials (17%). Other challenges cited by respondents included unreliable electricity supply, poor network coverage (voice and data), and the long distances that citizens have to travel to access ICT centres/services.
The poll results indicate a good level of citizen engagement and awareness of service delivery issues in Kasese District. They further show that free ICT services provision for the centre’s users has enhanced service delivery monitoring and citizen participation in governance through ICTs in Kasese district. However, there remains need to continue identifying emerging ICT participative practices and needs at the centre, and building citizens’ capacity to effectively engage with their leaders for improved service delivery and governance. There is also the need for more leaders to more proactively engage with the ICT tools that citizens are increasingly utilising to reach them.
CIPESA’s iParticipate Uganda project is part of the ICT4Democracy in East Africa Network which is supported by the Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions (Spider) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).
Featured image from: http://rwecovoice.blogspot.com/2010_11_21_archive.html
By Juliet N. Nanfuka
The growth of the internet has seen numerous efforts to ensure its equitable and sustainable use. A key outcome is the concept of Internet Governance (IG) based on the principle that no single entity owns or controls the internet but rather a range of players who reflect the diversity of users globally participates in its governance.
Over the years, IG has gained prominence through platforms such as the Internet Governance Forums which are hosted annually at national, regional and global level.
In 2013, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) through its e-Africa Programme and the Association for Progressive Communication (APC) established the African School on Internet Governance. The school seeks to address IG issues from an African perspective while at the same time equipping more players from the continent to contribute and participate more meaningfully in the multi-stakeholder model of internet governance.
This year, CIPESA alongside participants and faculty members from over 20 countries collectively shared unique insights, experiences and understanding of internet governance at the school which took place between 21 and 25 November in Mauritius. The participants, from backgrounds including government, academia, civil society and the private sector, explored the complexities of internet governance with interactive talks and presentations. They mapped out the course that internet governance has taken to-date, the various institutions and policy processes, emerging human rights issues, and what different African countries are doing with regards to IG.
“As it often happens, Africans have not been at the forefront of the internet and its related issues, but gradually we are realising the potentials of the internet and the need to make our voices heard in its governance. With platforms such as AfriSIG building capacities of Africans from different stakeholder groups and the worth of information available on the internet, I see a brighter future for Africa in IG issues both at the continental and global levels.” Dora Mawutor of the Media Foundation for West Africa – Participant at the African School on Internet Governance
Central to the school was that participants garnered an understanding of the roles of the different internet stakeholders, the varied interests they have and how all this impacts upon outcomes at an IG multi-stakeholder meeting when trying to reach consensus on an issue.
While initiatives like the Africa IG school demonstrate movements to better equip more people from the African continent to drive IG locally and at international IG fora, in many countries local factors such as poor access, limited local content, low literacy and high costs remain areas that require more focus and locally driven solutions.
However, facets of IG in Africa especially where it applies to security, privacy, surveillance and intermediary liability still require further scrutiny. As seen in the State of Internet Freedoms in East Africa 2014 report, these issues are increasingly impacting upon human rights, freedom of the press, critical opposition and equality, among others, on the continent.
It is also essential that building Africa’s capacity in IG is tailored to also accommodate the unique needs and requirements of its internet users such as the availability of non-Latin script African languages online to contribute towards local content and cultural preservation.
It is, however, worth noting that despite existing challenges, many African governments and civil society actors are making progress in strengthening internet related frameworks that support the fundamentals of a free, open and secure internet. Helping shape the continent’s approach to protecting internet rights are initiatives such as the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms.
Similarly, the NetRightsNG initiative of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria is collaborating other players to champion a Digital Rights and Freedom Bill in Nigeria. In Uganda, the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in partnership with the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs (MoJCA) and National Information Technology Authority, Uganda (NITA-U) have developed a Draft Data Protection and Privacy Bill (2014) which is currently going through a process of review and commentary by citizens.
As more African countries map the way forward for the information age, there remains the need to ensure that valuable contributions are made to global Internet Governance as it is this very participation that will define the further adoption of internet governance principles in Africa.