Tools to speak truth to power – ICT & Accountability

Another interesting blog post, this time from Anne-Katrin Arnold from the World Banks CommGAP programme. She reports back from her attendance at the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2010. She outlines the following as key emerging points:

  • Accountability needs “bottom-up transparency”.
  • Information needs to be organized.
  • Information needs context.
  • Accountability needs sanctions.
  • Accountability needs a Community of Practice.
  • Accountability needs multiple platforms.

What she doesnt articulate explicitly is the question that I know CommGap is focussed on, and thats politics.

  • What is the political environment in which accountability processes function?
  • What are the political pre-requisites for bottom-up accountability efforts to be effective?

I think Anne’s reference to the importance of multiple platforms is part of the answer – for communication processes to be effective in holding power to account, they must speak to wide coalitions of people. Why? Because public demand translates into political will.

An interesting example of how that can work is Daraja’s ‘Keep up the Pressure’. This Tanzanian initiative aims to link individual accountability actions (public SMS to local government when water pressure falls) with the power of mass media to mobilise political responsiveness (un-responded to SMS are forwarded to the President, and if he doesnt then newspaper and radio follows up).

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