ICTs for Democracy: information and communication technologies for the enhancement of democracy – with a focus on empowerment

ICTs for Democracy: information and communication technologies for the enhancement of democracy – with a focus on empowerment

Enhancing the potential of ICTs for advancing democracy and empowerment in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda

Access to and the strategic use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) have been shown to have the potential to help bring about economic development, poverty reduction, and democratisation. This report examines the potential of ICTs for advancing democracy and empowerment. It focuses on Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda where it argues that governments are currently not adequately equipped for – and in the cases of Uganda and Tanzania, disinclined towards – any critical engagement with civil society and the public.

In Tanzania and Uganda there is limited state support for political parties and political activism by NGOs and CSOs is discouraged. Civil society organisations are generally engaged in service delivery with limited scope and capacity for advocacy. Whilst the rights discourse has emerged quite strongly in Kenya politically driven CSOs and NGOs need stronger institutional capacity in order to achieve longevity and sustainable impact. In all three countries, the challenge lies in increasing civil society capacity and scope to engage and influence their governments’ decision-making and democratic practice.

The predominant tool for communication is the mobile phone but access to and effective use of ICTs in the three countries is uneven across:

  • the rural/urban divide
  • between better educated men (with better access to resources) and lesser educated and often non-literate women
  • between the rich and the poor.

Slow growth of internet uptake and usage is also attributable to:

  • limited infrastructure
  • low internet usage by government, schools, and health and agricultural institutions
  • low ICT literacy
  • a lack of local content on the internet
  • low income levels.
  • However, the region is poised to gain access to broadband within the next two years, and access could become more affordable to the broader population with the right policy frameworks and regulatory measures in place.

The report recommends three strategies as priorities:

1. Raising awareness and building understanding of: 

  •  the potential of ICTs, particularly in the context of the vast numbers of people who
    are now able to connect in some way through mobile phones 
  • democratic principles and practice 
  • the potential of ICTs for advancing democracy.

2. Institutional strengthening of CSOs, NGOs and media practitioners to engage critically on issues of democracy as well as institutional strengthening of state actors to enhance transparency and good governance.

3. Strengthening community voice in public debate and decision making and in maintaining transparency and accountability by government.

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