The annual ICT4D Conferences have proven to be an invaluable opportunity for NGOs, private sector organizations, universities, governmental agencies and foundations to share their experience in using ICT to increase the impact of development programs and to learn from each other.  In 2016, 715 individuals from 76 countries and 301 private sector and public sector and civil society explored the ways to harness the full power of digital solutions to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.  Our thanks to Accenture, Catholic Relief Services, Esri, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, iMerit Technology Services, Inmarsat, IS Solutions, Making All Voices Count, Mercy Corps, Microsoft, NetHope, Oxfam, Pandexio, Qualcom Wireless Reach, RTI International, SimbaNet and World Vision for making that possible.

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Thursday, May 19 • 14:00 - 14:45
Tech4 TA/ Open Governance - Where Are We Standing and Where Are We Going? LIMITED

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Tech4 TA/ Open Governance - where are we standing and where do we go?
Open government and open data have become the new pre-occupation of research, civic activism and advocacy in development. Whereas they thus have come to the centre stage in development generally, whether they actually are enabling more effective changes in rules of the game in the relationship between citizens and states is still an area that is still filled with a lot anecdotal experiences rather than forming a consistent evidence. The recent MAVC supported research, as well teased out in the recently published IDS bulletin, shows that the opportunities that are emerging with new technologies should not be over romanticized, given the reality that the same technologies are skillfully used by the powerful to suppress the voices, or otherwise through tokenistic responses that are never about changing rules of the game.

Six Conclusions emerge from the IDS Bulletin regarding T&A and technology :

a) Political will is a necessary but insufficient condition for tech-based approaches to open them up. Where there is a will, tech-for T&A may provide a way but where there is no will, it will not.
b) Opening governance relationships and processes is a much more complex and demanding task than opening government-related products, artifacts and services
c) Data once opened might remain in the public domain but the corresponding governance openings tend to close again as dynamics change. Technology has the potential to contribute to maintaining governance openness but only when taken together with sustaining an enabling environment in terms of the associated social-cultural, political and organizational factors among citizens and within government
d) There is need to close the gap between researchers and practitioners in using the emerging evidence of how to design effective Transparency and Accountability projects. Committing to learning and opening to new knowledge is the way to go
e) Practitioners need to stop and rethink the 'tech-hype' before following, committing to the search for robust evidence on which to ground their work.
f) Funding agencies need to adopt funding models that enable explore politically savvy long-term changes rather than the short-term interventions that might be tactically savvy but strategically of less long-term impact.

Meanwhile, recent readings for a governance practitioner also point to the need to commit learning in action because whereas everyone agrees that context is important, very few people acknowledge that their own premeditated frameworks are often the main hindrance to learning; that local actors in a lived reality have a lot to contribute to finding solutions to their challenges; that the contextual dynamics in play need tech-savvy and development practitioners that can think on their feet to address them effectively. They have to think and work politically, which then challenges their traditional idea of 'policy' change and practice as the central focus of their advocacy efforts.

In the end, therefore, all these perspectives seem to point to the fact that if technology has to be meaningful for development policy and practice, understanding the politics of incentives within government and among citizens are key. This means that, as participants at a recently organised MAVC learning event indicated, 'the typical technologist has to commit to as much learning as the typical development practitioner' (my own re-phrase). The Sustainable Development Goals offer a lot of opportunities for the framing the technology for development thinking, but the real contribution will happen at the nexus between ideas and practice.

avatar for Dr. Fletcher Tembo

Dr. Fletcher Tembo

Programme Director: Making All Voices Count: the Grand Challenge for Development, Making All Voices Count
Dr. Fletcher Tembo is Director for the Making All Voices Count Programme, an international initiative that contributes towards effective governance and accountability by enabling citizen engagement and open, responsive government in 12 countries in Africa and Asia. The programme is... Read More →

Thursday May 19, 2016 14:00 - 14:45 EAT
Jambo Conference Centre