The Contribution of Digital Technology to Citizenship, Accountability and Rights: An Evidence Review
IDS Evidence Report 208
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The use of digital technologies has risen dramatically in the past century, building excitement among governments and technology experts about applying technology to improve accountability, transparency and the effectiveness of authorities.
All 193 member states of the United Nations now have, for example, national websites. Among these, 101 have enabled citizens to create personal online accounts; 73 to file income taxes; and 60 to register a business. For the most common core government administrative systems, 190 member states have automated financial management, 179 have used such systems for customs processing, and 159 for tax management. This readiness is the result of a change in the dynamics of citizenship, accountability and rights (CAR), which demands a rethinking of the roles and relationship between governments and citizens.
The use of technology in development, and specifically its potential to close the gap between citizen voice and state responsiveness, holds great promise. Emergent conceptions such as e-governance are considered to have the power to inspire new tools and practices for citizenship, as well as to make existing practices more effective. While the use of digital technologies has made communication with citizens much easier, an increased and empowered citizen participation, by which citizens are able to hold governments accountable, remains still a distant dream.
This report is an attempt to see the extent to which digital technologies can enable citizens and state agencies to increase the flow of information, challenge powerful interests, increase levels of institutional responsiveness and protect citizens’ rights, therefore making it imperative to examine the connection between the role of citizen participation in monitoring the enforcement of rights and in demanding public scrutiny and transparency. Furthermore, the questions that this report attempts to answer are: (a) What is the contribution of digital technologies to CAR?; (b) How can the use of technology influence the structuring, restructuring, shaping and reshaping of the relationship between citizens and governments?