The internet generally provides easy access to information and swift communications, while enabling flexible options for citizens to engage in civic matters by allowing them a choice of when and where to participate from. These attributes are widely believed to be boosting citizens’ interest in democratic affairs and enabling formerly excluded communities to engage in civic maters. Indeed, in a growing number of African countries, ICTs are being used to promote citizen advocacy and to increase government transparency and accountability. How are digital technologies being used to enhance civic participation in democracy? What are the challenges and the prospects? What are the innovative ways and platforms being used? CIPESA is involved in research on these matters, while also working with some grassroots organisations working in the ICT and participation/ governance arena.
CIPESA is a member of the ICT4Democracy in East Africa network (www.ict4democracy.org), which is premised on the recognition that ICT enhances communication and the right to freedom of expression, as well as the right to seek, receive and impart information. In Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, partners of the Swedish Program for ICTs in Developing Regions (Spider) are leveraging ICTs to hold leaders accountable to the citizens, as well as to fight corruption, monitor service delivery, and contribute to building a democratic culture in the region.
CIPESA’s iParticipate project, we are leveraging ICTs to catalyse civic participation and democracy monitoring in Uganda. The project seeks to create awareness of how Ugandans (citizens, groups, local governments) can use ICTs and empower them to effectively use ICT tools in support of democratic governance. The project further defines and documents the needs, knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAPs) of users (and non-users) of ICT tools. As part of this project, CIPESA has completed research on the How ICTs are Promoting Citizen Participation in Uganda. The report provides baseline information that could directly benefit ongoing and planned interventions in the ICT for democracy arena.