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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Monday, May 16 • 10:45 - 11:30
Giving Citizens Actionable Information LIMITED

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Limited Capacity seats available

What keeps people awake at night? Can they influence or participating in how their governments develop and implement policies to meet the SDGs?
For many citizens, the media is still their main source of information and it is through the media that many of them are becoming aware of the SDGs and what their governments have committed to achieving. It is also through the media that citizens have been able to express their concerns over the failures by governments to provide services.

Most governments have in the past adopted policies that have made information sharing an anathema which has meant that decisions about public spending, resource allocations have been shrouded under a cloud of mystery and half-truths. For governments to monitor whether they are on track in achieving the SDGs, they have to collect and analyze data which is used to enhance decision making and improve service delivery.

In its watchdog role, the media has an important role not only of interrogating government policies and spending but also enabling citizens to engage with the data that is being collected about them. The media through innovative use of technology can then present the citizens with the necessary tools or platforms to address the real life challenges that they are facing. These tools also provide strong feedback loops as it gives citizens ways of addressing some of these challenges they face.

For example, incidents of quacks operating clinics and treating patients were quite rampant and led to the development of the Dodgy Doctors tool which allows patients to confirm whether the doctor attending to them is registered. It also enables patients to confirm which hospitals are covered by the National Hospital Insurance Fund and can even be able to locate a medical specialist in their region. This information is easily available on SMS.

Another example of a data driven tool is GoToVote which allows citizens to locate voter registration centers, check registration requirements and track polling results. This is information which previously was difficult to get but is now accessible through a simple SMS.

These tools also need to be action oriented to be meaningful. They should help citizens decipher and navigate the complex forces shaping their worlds. They should support evidence-based public discourse and decision making. An example is WaziMap which provides census and financial allocations broken down into categories allowing comparisons with either the county and or national averages.
In South Africa's Nkomazi region considered the epicentre of the HIV/AIds infection, a Cholera epidemic led to a local newspaper taking the lead in developing a water quality sensor network to track the trend of infections.The sensors made from cheap phones help in detecting the levels of contamination in the rivers and sends SMS alerts to citizens.

While media has never caused revolutions, with innovative application of technology, media can help generate political discourse, enhance citizens' abilities to participate in such discourse and compel governments to action.

avatar for Omar Mohammed

Omar Mohammed

Knight International Journalism Fellow, Code for Africa
Omar is spearheading the establishment of the country’s first data journalism initiative, as an International Centre For Journalists (ICFJ) Knight Journalism Fellow and is also helping civic watchdog organisations harness new digital tools and open data to drive social change... Read More →

Monday May 16, 2016 10:45 - 11:30 EAT
Giraffe 207