The use of telephony and digital technologies has increased dramatically since the turn of the Century, especially in countries in the global South. Hence, the International Development community has enthusiastically invested in Technology for Transparency and Accountability Initiatives with the aim to deepen democracy and improve developmental results.
A well-known example is the use of texting for election monitoring; citizens can send a text to a central number to report fraud at a polling station. The data gathered with these texts is visually represented on an online platform and is used for lobby and advocacy purposes. Funding and implementing agencies, such as Hivos, as well as other stakeholders, such as engaged activists and governance scholars, are closely studying the impact and effectiveness of these initiatives.
The question rose whether enough attention was being paid to the people expected to use these technological tools. The assumption underlying the production of these tools is that more access of ordinary people leads to greater engagement of them with their surroundings. In order to address these questions, Hivos commissioned IDS to undertake a research on the users of two existing platforms currently supported by Hivos and other partner organizations.
The report shows that indeed more attention to these end users is important, when designing and implementing projects. Some of the key lessons revolve around demonstrating that these initiative are transforming governance and accountability and targeting the right people (not just the usual suspects) the right way (with interactive communication).