NDI Study: Participation & Technology

NDI Study: Participation & Technology

We’ve recently released a study that examines the role digital technologies play in increasing citizen participation and fostering accountability in government through our programs. Along with many in the #tech4dem community, we’ve known that better insights are needed into the relationship between new technologies, citizen participation programs and the outcomes they aim to achieve.

The study provides an overview of NDI’s approach to citizen participation, and examines how the integration of technologies affects programs. To further publicize these findings we’re convening a panel of experts to discuss key findings from the study on how technology is affecting citizen participation in emerging democracies.

The study uses case studies from countries such as Burma, Mexico and Uganda to explore how the use of technology in citizen participation programs amplifies citizen voices and increases government responsiveness and accountability, and whether the use of digital technology increases the political clout of citizens.

As we’re all very busy people, and may not get the time to pour through a 65 page tome (or flick through an ePUB), we’d like to highlight some of the key findings on this blog. We welcome thoughts and comments on Facebook and Twitter.

Finding: Technology can be used to readily create spaces and opportunities for citizens to express their voices, but making these voices politically stronger and the spaces more meaningful is a harder challenge that is political and not technological in nature.

While many agree that digital technologies are transforming politics, designing programs that harness the distinctive dynamics of new digital media platforms - many-to-many communications, collaborative production, crowd-sourcing, etc. - to dramatically increase the quality of democratic governance has proven challenging.

The research findings suggest that a more involved process is often necessary in order to maximize the potential for democratic development.  Key to the success of programs is recognizing the importance of incentives as drivers of human action and the role of organizations and institutions in producing outcomes such as laws and public actions.

For a technology intervention to have the desired impact, it requires a technology strategy integrated with the development of clear political goals, opportunities for leadership development, substantive work with intermediary groups, and for relationships with public officials to be fostered and established.

All of these take time and resources.

For example, in several case studies political leaders do not offer substantive modes of digital exchange with their constituents and citizens because policy-makers see little gain, and perhaps risk, in that exchange.

We’ll take a look at additional conclusions in upcoming days. In the meantime, enjoy the event (livestream), and join the conversation (#tech4dem).