East Africa has seen an influx in the number of internet users and in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) innovations. ICT tools are being used in preventing and detecting corruption, promoting the right to freedom of expression, enabling service delivery monitoring and improving government accountability and citizen participation. However, despite the potential these tools offer in contributing to improving governance, only a few initiatives have been deployed in East Africa. Challenges such as lack of openness in government operations, low citizen participation in governance, an influx of laws that negate freedom of expression (online and offline) and the right to privacy, low ICT usage levels and lack of knowledge and skills to navigate the different ICT applications, a shortage of spaces for citizens to voice their concerns to duty bearers, and low responsiveness of duty bearers to issues raised by citizens, still stand in the way of improving democratisation in East Africa. This thus offers an opportunity for actors to leverage more on ICT to extend the boundaries of free expression, participation, and democracy in the region. Findings from the region show that the deployment and availability of the right ICT platforms, adequate ICT skills among civic groups and their use of the availed platforms, and the engagement (including online and offline) of duty bearers/policy makers, and women and youth are key drivers for achieving the desired impact for implementing ICT4D projects
This session will showcase the work and lessons learned from the ICT4 Democracy in East Africa project (www.ict4democracy.org). Implemented in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, the project is leveraging ICT to turn more East Africans, including side-lined and detached communities such as semi-literate women, the rural poor and youth, into active citizens that connect and engage with other citizens and with leaders, and play a role in local decision-making. The project works with civic groups, duty bearers, service providers and the media to strengthen democratic governance by holding leaders accountable to citizens; fighting corruption and promoting the right to freedom of expression and respect for human rights via a mix of ICT, such as mobile, interactive mapping, SMS and voice based reporting, social media, and interactive radio.