Information and communication technologies (ICTs) and democracy development in the South: potential and current reality

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) and democracy development in the South: potential and current reality

How can the potential contributions of ICTs to democracy in the South best be harnessed?

This paper explores some of the potential and current reality of using ICTs to strengthen democracy development in South Africa. Focus is on a project of the Institute for Democracy in South Africa that has sought to make use of ICTs in an applicable, appropriate and useful way in an African context.

Some history of the project is given, including existing electronic products aimed at facilitating public participation and providing access to information. Some anecdotal evidence of impact is also explored.

The paper articulates lessons learned and difficulties encountered in the context of using ICTs for democracy development in the South. Some of these lessons are stated as:

  • local content is necessary
  • it is important to retain email as a significant aspect of the work, email discussions and other personal contact is successful
  • develop appropriate and flexible systems that do not require extra technical expertise

It concludes that there is a place for ICTs in democracy development, that access to information does play a crucial role in informing citizens about government activities, and thus encouraging people to engage with decision makers on issues of governance.

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