8:30: Arrival, Coffee and Croissants

The use of social media to enlarge the democratic space in sub-Saharan Africa will not thrive without intervention by donors*

Discuss. The croissants will be served nine hours from now.

*From a Danida report that’s just out, Using ICT to Promote Governance and can be downloaded from Dunia ni Duara (to whom thanks for the pointer). To be discussed at a conference in Copenhagen today.

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3 responses to “8:30: Arrival, Coffee and Croissants

  1. The report follows up with: “Why is this? The citizen sector is weak. The entrepreneurial sector is in a start-up phase, with software developers racing to be “first-to-launch” in the most profitable business niches. In the area of social media, these apps include music downloads, news aggregation, and dating/social meet-ups. Governance and citizen advocacy are not viewed as profit centers.”

    I don’t think YouTube is seen as a governance and citizen advocacy initiative, but it has that potential. So does Facebook, Twitter, blogging, the whole social web, etc. I know that this is already happening here in Tanzania, and if it’s happening here then it’s surely happening elsewhere as well. That’s enlarging the democratic space, and it’s thriving without donor involvement.

    Yes, there are things that donor funding can usefully do in ICTs, but to say that not much will happen without donors is clearly wrong.

  2. I have some sympathy for the authors on this quote. Most of the high profile initiatives – Ushahidi, iHub, Shujaaz, Twaweza, Jamii Forums – are to some extent dependent on donor funding (JF maybe least dependent). Even MPESA was DFID funded initially, with vital technical support from a UK firm.

    But your point is also true – there are lots of other things happening. The report is of course a slave to the client’s – Danida – ToR. They may have learned more by asking “how do people use social media and how are states responding” rather than trying to put things in a ‘governance’ box from the get go.

    They also missed a trick by ignoring the push back from governments. Mobile phone registration is one example as well as this week’s proposal by Kenya’s CID that cyber cafe users must register, as in China. It’s a contested space.

  3. We had a call for business ideas to apply for our pre-incubation program in TANZICT (tanzict.or.tz). We did not promise funding. About half of the ideas were linked to better goverment service provision or good governance. These initiatives may benefit from donor support, but I think it is arrogant to say they would not happen without donors.

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