Increased access to the internet combined with the lowering cost of digital media, such geographical positioning systems and video cameras, are supporting a wave of social and technical innovations aiming to empower citizens in developing countries to access information and organise themselves to affect positive social change.
These developments have gained momentum in the last three years, through the use of ‘open’ information and communication technologies (ICTs), which include open source software programmes and digital data repositories that can be freely used and modified. These resources are seen to support new architectures of participation that are enabling citizens in the South to produce and access critical information for the lives and livelihoods in settings where formal development actors have failed to do so.
This collaborative research project provides a basis for critically evaluating these claims through a detailed case study of the Map Kibera project, a citizen mapping and media project, in Kibera, Nairobi and a examination of similar initiatives in Haiti, Peru and Georgia.
The research, which was supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), examines whether and how open ICT projects designed to support the poor can make a difference in their lives and livelihoods. In the context of the study the benefits of these initiatives are understood in connection with the actors and partnerships that drive their development, their governance arrangements, the provisions and capacities of community stakeholders for meaningful participation and for translating information into action.
The study also sought to facilitate learning between technologists involved in the design and implementation of these initiatives, researchers and development practitioners. This was based on recognition that this latest wave of innovations offers great opportunities for the development of practices that are informed by an in-depth understanding of technology, insights from participatory approaches to development and scholarly work on citizen action and mobilisation.
The final report of the project can be downloaded here:
- Mediating Voices, Communicating Realities: Using Information Crowdsourcing Tools, Open Data Initiatives and Digital Media to Support and Protect the Vulnerable
- Lessons from the study are shared on the Map Kibera Blog and the UN Global Pulse blog