Hivos International

More accountable and responsive governance: how do technologies help make it happen?

The change Making All Voices Count wants is more responsive, accountable governance. The programme has contributed to this change by supporting tech-enabled initiatives for amplifying citizen voice and nurturing government responsiveness, and by building understanding of when and how the technologies help create and support change.

In March 2017, partners from 34 of the programme's projects met for three days with Making All Voices Count staff and associates in South Africa in order to share their stories of change. The learning event was structured around a framework based on an analysis of the goals and assumptions of Making All Voices Count project proposals, which describes seven streams of tech-enabled change:

  • The information stream - through greater transparency (e.g. open government measures, use of Freedom of Information legislation, information on rights), citizens get access to more information about their entitlements
  • The feedback stream - through feedback provided by citizens or users, governments/service providers know what is thought of them and their performance, and can respond accountably
  • The naming-and-shaming stream - technologies are used to expose and shame actors responsible for corrupt, inefficient or unaccountable practices
  • The conducive innovation system stream - public and private actors invest in stimulating and enabling tech innovation systems that bolster citizen voice and increase government responsiveness
  • The connecting citizens stream - tech-enabled connectedness can help to mobilise large numbers of citizens, which in turn can achieve greater government accountability or responsiveness
  • The infomediation stream - digital hardware or software, ‘experts’ (people who are more data-literate than most) play a facilitating role at interfaces between governments and citizens. They can make inaccessible government data accessible, and turn citizens’ perspectives and stories into data or evidence
  • The intermediation stream - intermediaries (e.g. advocacy organisations, communications media, academic institutions) work with citizens to use technologies to bolster voices to achieve government responsiveness. They also have a role in navigating power relations.

This event report elaborates this framework, discusses its application to four Making All Voices Count projects and one of the learning visits that were part of the event, and discusses some of the strengths and weaknesses of the approach.

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