The use of telephony and digital technologies has increased dramatically since 2000, especially in countries in the global South. Hence, Hivos and others in the international development community have invested in technology for transparency and accountability initiatives with the aim of deepening democracy and improving developmental results.
A well-known example, which Hivos has supported, is the use of texting for election monitoring. Citizens can send a text to a central number to report fraud at a polling station, and the data gathered is visually represented on an online platform and used for lobby and advocacy purposes.
Not surprisingly, 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 arose whether enough attention was being paid to the people expected to use these technological tools. The underlying assumption is that giving ordinary people greater access to these tools increases their engagement with their surroundings and encourages them to act.
To gain a better understanding of whether and how citizens currently use technology for transparency and what constraints exist on their taking action, Hivos commissioned the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) to do a learning study on the users of two existing platforms currently supported by Hivos and other partner organisations.
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 initiatives are transforming governance and accountability and targeting the right people in the correct way with interactive communication.