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About the Author

Wouter Dijkstra
ICT4Development researcher (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Personal: Wouter Dijkstra is a Social Scientist, interested in the use of new and old media to strengthen public debate and mechanisms of accountability in Africa. With degrees in both Anthropology and New Media and an extensive background in Africa he is based firmly in contemporary theory but even more in practical reality. In 2009 he went to Uganda together with the ICT4Uganda research group, guided by Dr Geert Lovink. He finished research on the power of talk-radio and the emergence of mobile telephony in Uganda. Based on this research he coined the term ICT4Accountability. This is still an ongoing research. At this moment he is working for TRAC to set up platforms for public debate in east-Africa, through the use of mobile telephony and FM radio. This organization is currently in a startup phase.

Post

ICT4Development, Corruption and Accountability

Published 13th April 2010 - 5 comments - 4843 views -

Corruption is one of the biggest evils in Africa. During the 3 and a half years I spent in sub saharan Africa, some fundamental questions concerning development of the continent lead back to the problems surrounding greedy and fat men trying to absorb as much resources as they can get their hands on while others die of malnutrition or easily prefentable disease. Uganda is one of the most fertile countries in the world, yet, people die of hunger. During the past 5 month stay in Uganda, I did research on the way civilians in Uganda are able to check up on their leaders and their ability to hold them accountable for the management of the country. Within this question I focussed on the way (new) media technologies could play a part in monitoring and creating awareness and transparency. 

The people engaged in corruption are the people handling the money. To prevent the ones engaged in handling money to use it for their own benefit, monitoring of these people is a must. ‘Quis custodiet ipos custodes?’ (Old Latin saying meaning: ‘Who will watch the watchers?’). The answer to this question is: everybody. Although ICTs will not provide food, clean drinking water, medicine or good roads, they can be used to scrutinize the ones who promise these basic needs. My blog entries will revolve around this reasoning and will identify how ICTs can help civilians to hold governments, NGOs and other organizations existing to serve the people's interest accountable for the way they handle the money.

ICT4Development (ICT4D) is a wide field of study concerned with the ways in which information and communication technologies can impact development in developing nations. Within the last decade the level of interest in ICT4D from various stakeholders has grown substantially and there seems to be a “consensus on the potential of ICTs to promote economic growth, combat poverty and facilitate the integration of developing countries into the global economy” (Annan, General Assembly meeting, 2002). One particular field within ICT4D deals with the ability of ICTs to promote democracy by promoting civic engagement. This blog deals with the way ICTs can practically be employed to promote democracy in an African setting.

In recent debates in Holland and around the world, some development analysts argue for the complete stop of development aid, in this way, African governments would be forced to run their country efficiently and would reduce corruption. This is the main argument brought forward by Dambisa Moyo, who's book Dead Aid is discussed in “Dead Aid”: A Review. The solution to the accountability problem Moyo suggests does not seem to solve the problem that it puts forward. She advises western donors to stop direct aid to African countries and suggests that African countries should start trading with China. However, By ‘looking east’ to China, where no requirements are attached to bilateral money transactions, African despots can do what they do best: use the state for their personal benefit. (How is China Changing the Way we Think about Aid to Africa?)

Instead of looking for a Macro-Economic solution, like Moyo does, the main purpose of my contributions to this blog will be to approach the problem from a (New) Media perspective and argue that channels for information and feedback in the dialogue between civilians and government are obstructed leading to deficient civic engagement and an unsuccessful public debate within African nations. Furthermore, I will propose a new way of approaching the problem of government accountability with the use of ICTs. A new term for this specific field of research is ICT4Accountability. 

In this TED talk, you will get an overview of the problem of corruption, aid and development. Andrew Mwenda is a leading thinker on African development and runs The Independent magazine which is the leading intellectual magazine in uganda.



Comments

  • Aija Vanaga on 13th April 2010:

    Corruption always have been a problem. And it changes just when punishment or risk of punishment is greater then benefits.


  • Wouter Dijkstra on 18th April 2010:

    Punishment requires a functioning justice system.. And if this justice system is also corrupt the problem gets worse. Its a bottom up approach, with people demanding accountability, that is needed to tackle the problem. Thanks for the reply!
    Wouter


  • Andrea Arzaba on 20th April 2010:

    Thank you for this post! Will be waiting for more smile


  • Hieke van der Vaart on 21st April 2010:

    Me too! Would be interesting to see how these technologies are implemented.


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