Does Democracy Improve the Quality of Life for its Citizens?

Title: Does Democracy Improve the Quality of Life for its Citizens?
Authors: John Gerring, Strom Thacker, Rodrigo Alfaro
Source: Democracyspot
Publisher: Journal of Politics
Date (published):
Date (accessed): 30/08/2012
Type of information: blog post
On-line access: yes
Abstract: Does democracy improve the quality of life for its citizens? Scholars have long assumed that it does, but recent research has called this orthodoxy into question. This article reviews this body of work, develops a series of causal pathways through which democracy might improve social welfare, and tests two hypotheses.

ICT for Democracy in East Africa: Project Update

Title: ICT for Democracy in East Africa: Project Update
Author: Ashnah Kalemera
Publisher: Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA)
Date (published): 01/11/2011
Date (accessed): 14/12/2011
Type of information: article
Language: English
On-line access: yes (HTML)
"Launched in May 2011, ICT for Democracy in East Africa (ICT4DemEA) is a network of organisations undertaking collaborative projects where Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is used in various ways to promote transparency, accountability and democracy.

The network, with seed funding from the Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions (Spider) comprises of organisations in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. These are the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET); Transparency International Uganda (TIU); The Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA); iHub (Kenya) the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and Tanzania’s Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG).

The projects spearheaded by each organisation leverage on ICT with the aim to fight corruption, enhance the right to freedom of expression, monitor service delivery, hold leaders accountable and encourage civic participation. During the recently concluded Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Nairobi, September 27-30, 2011, the regional network partners met to discuss the progress of their projects."

Open Government: Which Way Africa?

Title: Open Government: Which Way Africa?
Pages: 4 pp.
Source: CIPESA ICT Policy Briefing Series
Publisher: Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA)
Date (published): 26/09/2011
Date (accessed): 13/12/2011
Type of information: briefing paper
Language: English
On-line access: yes (pdf)
"The Kenya government scored what many billed a first in Sub- Saharan Africa, when it launched an open data website in July 2011. To put it plainly, the government opened itself to greater scrutiny from citizens and oversight institutions by providing them better access to information in its hands, including on expenditure and procurement. Increasingly, other African governments will be put to task to follow suit, as progressive governments the world over move to embrace the concept of open government, of which open data is a crucial element.
South Africa seems to be leading the pack in Africa in embracing open government, a benchmark on which governments should increasingly be evaluated in terms of their commitment to be accountable to their citizens. In fact, South Africa is the only African country that is part of what is set to become a powerful and popular global movement to place openness at the centre of governance and development.

Who is in The Open Gov Partnership?
The Open Government Partnership (www.opengovpartnership. org), or OGP, is a new multilateral initiative that aims “to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance”. The African countries currently eligible to join the OGP are Kenya, Liberia, Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda – and of them, by September 20, 2011, only Tanzania and Uganda had not indicated their plans to join the OGP. These countries derive their eligibility from their “demonstrated commitment to open government” in the key areas of budget transparency, access to information, asset disclosure by politicians and officials, and citizen engagement.

Overseen by a steering committee of eight governments and nine civil society organisations, the Partnership launches in September 2011, when the eight governments on the steering committee will embrace an ‘Open Government Declaration’ and announce their country action plans. More countries will subsequently be invited to join the partnership."

Global Information Society Watch 2011 : Internet rights and democratisation : Focus on freedom of expression and association online

Title: Global Information Society Watch 2011 : Internet rights and democratisation : Focus on freedom of expression and association online
Editor: Alan Finlay
Pages: 267 pp.
ISBN: 978-92-95096-14-1
ISSN: 2225-4625
Source: Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch)
Publisher: Association for Progressive Communications (APC) / Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (Hivos)
Date (published): 06/12/2011
Date (accessed): 11/12/2011
Type of information: report
Language: English
On-line access: yes (pdf)
"…Unlike any other medium, the internet enables individuals to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds instantaneously and inexpensively across national borders. Unlike any other technological development, it has created an interactive form of communication, which not only allows you to send information in one direction, but also to send information in many directions and receive an immediate response. The internet vastly increases the capacity of individuals to enjoy their right to freedom of opinion and expression, including access to information, which facilitates the exercise of other human rights, such as the right to education and research, the right to freedom of association and assembly, and the right to development and to protect the environment. The internet boosts economic, social and political development, and contributes to the progress of humankind as a whole; but it is especially an instrument that strengthens democracy by facilitating citizen participation and transparency. The internet is a “plaza pública” – a public place where we can all participate.

The past year has been a difficult time globally: whether the aftermath of the tsunami in Japan, unsteady global markets, post-election riots in Nigeria, civil war in Libya and a military clampdown in Syria. But there have been positive, and equally challenging, developments in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt. Throughout the year people around the world have increasingly used the internet to build support for human rights and social movements. This edition of Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch) offers timely commentary on the future of the internet as an open and shared platform that everyone has the right to access – to access content and to have access to connectivity and infrastructure.

Through the lens of freedom of expression, freedom of association and democracy, the thematic reports included here go to the heart of the debates that will shape the future of the internet and its impact on human rights. They offer, amongst other things, an analysis of how human rights is framed in the context of the internet, the progressive use of criminal law to intimidate or censor the use of the internet, the difficult role of intermediaries facing increasing pressure to control content, and the importance of the internet to workers in the support of global rights in the workplace. Some call for a change of perspective, as in the report on cyber security, where the necessity of civil society developing a security advocacy strategy for the internet is argued. Without it, the levels of systems and controls, whether emanating from government or military superpowers, threaten to overwhelm what has over the years become the vanguard of freedom of expression and offered new forms of free association between people across the globe.

Many of these issues are pulled sharply into focus at the country level in the country reports that follow the thematic considerations. Each of these country reports takes a particular “story” or event that illustrates the role of the internet in social rights and civil resistance – whether positive or negative, or both. Amongst other things, they document torture in Indonesia, candlelight vigils in South Korea, internet activism against forgetting human rights atrocities in Peru, and the rights of prisoners accessing the internet in Argentina. While the function and role of the internet in society remains debated, and necessarily so, in many contexts these stories show that to limit it unfairly will have a harmful impact on the rights of people. These stories show that the internet has become pivotal in actions aimed at the protection of human rights..."

Technology Is Not the Answer

Title: Technology Is Not the Answer
Author: Kentaro Toyama
Source: The Atlantic
Date (published): 28/03/2011
Date (accessed): 01/04/2011
Type of information: article
Language: English
On-line access: yes (HTML)
"Technology is not the answer.

That's the conclusion I came to after five years in India trying to find ways to apply electronic technologies to international development. I was the co-founder and assistant director of Microsoft Research India, a Bangalore computer-science lab, where one of our objectives was to research ways in which information and communication technologies could support the socio-economic development of poor communities, both rural and urban...

In one of our early projects, we worked with a rural sugarcane cooperative a few hours outside of Mumbai. They had a network of village personal computers that allowed the cooperative to report sales results to farmers. To reduce costs, we experimented with a mobile-phone-based system that replaced some of the PCs. Our system was faster, cheaper and better liked by farmers, but when it came time to expand the pilot, we were stymied by internal political dysfunction at the cooperative.

In several projects to design educational technology for schools, we found that teacher and administrator attitudes were the real keys to success. Then, when we connected low-income slum residents with potential employers, limited education and training posed critical barriers. And again, when we used gadgets for microfinance operations, a capable institutional ally was indispensable.

Our successes were due more to effective partners, and less to our technology.

In project after project, the lesson was the same: information technology amplified the intent and capacity of human and institutional stakeholders, but it didn't substitute for their deficiencies. If we collaborated with a self-confident community or a competent non-profit, things went well. But, if we worked with a corrupt organization or an indifferent group, no amount of well-designed technology was helpful. Ironically, although we looked to technology to attain large-scale impact into places where circumstances were most dire, technology by itself was unable to improve situations where well-intentioned competence was absent. What mattered most was individual and institutional intent and capacity"

ICTs for democracy: Information and Communication Technologies for the Enhancement of Democracy - with a Focus on Empowerment

Title: ICTs for democracy: Information and Communication Technologies for the Enhancement of Democracy - with a Focus on Empowerment
Author: Association for Progressive Communications, APC
Pages: 94 pp.
Publisher: Sida, Department for Empowerment
Date (published): 05/10/2009
Date (accessed): 18/02/2010
Type of information: research report
Language: English
On-line access: yes (pdf, 2,07 MB)
This report examines the potential of information an communications technologies (ICTs) for advancing democracy and empowerment, with a special focus on Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
Access to and the strategic use of ICTs have been shown to have the potential to help bring about economic development, poverty reduction, and democratisation – including freedom of speech, the free flow of information and the promotion of human rights. Based on signs of current democracy deficits in the case study countries, it is crucial that ICTs be made central to development cooperation and to approaches to advance democracy in the three countries.
The report concludes by making a set of recommendations of possible strategies and actions to support democracy efforts in the three countries, though the use of ICTs. Three strategies are proposed as priorities:

Raising awareness and building understanding of (I)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; (II) democratic principles and practice; and (III) the potential of ICTs for advancing democracy.
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.
Strengthening community voice in public debate and decision-making and in maintaining transparency and accountability by government.

E-Gov Versus Open Gov: The Evolution of E-Democracy

Title: E-Gov Versus Open Gov: The Evolution of E-Democracy
Author: Jenn Gustetic
Pages: 10 pp.
Publisher: Phase One Consulting Group
Date (published): 11/12/2009
Date (accessed): 12/12/2009
Type of information: research report
Language: English
On-line access: yes (HTML)
How is the Obama Administration’s Open Government (Open Gov) initiative different from the Bush Administration’s E-government (E-gov) initiative? There are many people who use the two terms interchangeably but this paper argues that although they are distinct initiatives in the United States, they are also part of the same E-democracy maturity continuum. Thus while they should not be handled totally separately, they should not be combined either. This paper provides a short history and terminology discussion and then compares and contrasts the two initiatives.

(via )

Online Deliberation : Design, Research, and Practice

Title: Online Deliberation : Design, Research, and Practice
Editors: Todd Davies and Seeta Peña Gangadharan
Pages: 350 pp.
ISBN: 9781575865546
Source>: Center for the Study of Language and Information - Lecture Notes, Volume 182
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Date (published): 04/11/2009
Date (accessed): 09/12/2009
Type of information: book
Language: English
On-line access: yes (pdf, Attention! 12,45 MB)
Can new technology enhance local, national, and global democracy? Online Deliberation is the first book that attempts to sample the full range of work on online deliberation, forging new connections between academic research, web designers, and practitioners.
Since the most exciting innovations in deliberation have occurred outside of traditional institutions, and those involved have often worked in relative isolation from each other, research conducted on this growing field has to this point neglected the full perspective of online participation. This volume, an essential read for those working at the crossroads of computer and social science, illuminates the collaborative world of deliberation by examining diverse clusters of Internet communities.

Local Governments Offer Data to Software Tinkerers

Title: Local Governments Offer Data to Software Tinkerers
Author Editor: Claire Cain Miller
Publisher: The New York Times Company
Date (published): 06/12/2009 (07/12/2008 in the print edition)
Date (accessed): 09/12/2009
Type of information: article
Language: English
On-line access: yes (HTML)
Many local governments are figuring out how to use the Internet to make government data more accessible. The goal is to spawn useful Web sites and mobile applications — and perhaps even have people think differently about their city and its government.

“It will change the way citizens and government interact, but perhaps most important, it’s going to change the way elected officials and civil servants deliver programs, services and promises,” said Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, which is one of the cities leading the way in releasing government data to Web developers.

(via )

Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0

Title: Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0. Draft Report of the Government 2.0 Taskforce
Pages: 159 pp.
Source: Government 2.0 Taskforce blog
Publisher: Government 2.0 Taskforce Secretariat. Australian Government Information Management Office
Date (published): 07/12/2009
Date (accessed): 07/12/2009
Type of information: government document
Language: English
On-line access: yes (pdf)
The Taskforce was asked to provide advice on how government information can be made more accessible and usable in order to establish a pro-disclosure culture around public sector information.
Recommendation summary:
The Government should make a Declaration on Open Government that states:
• Public sector information is a national resource, and that releasing as much of it on as permissive terms as possible will maximise its economic and social value and reinforce a healthy democracy;
• Using technology to increase collaboration in making policy and providing services will help achieve a more consultative, participatory and transparent government;
• Online engagement by public servants should be enabled and encouraged. Robust professional discussion benefits their agencies, their professional development, and the Australian public; and
• Open engagement at all levels of government is integral to promoting an informed, connected and democratic community, to public sector reform, innovation and best use of the national investment in broadband.

The document also available in HTML, MS Word here.

via ( )

Syndicate content