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Call for Feedback: How-To Note on ICT-Enabled Citizen Feedback Loops

The review process for this How-to Note has ended. The paper has been downloaded 47 times and we received 5 comments.

We are grateful to the many reviewers for their valuable comments. The author will carefully review and consider all comments when finalizing the note. The final version of the How-To Note will be published on the Open Development Technology Alliance website and announced in the World Bank blog forum

The Open Development Technology Alliance (ODTA), in collaboration with the World Bank's OPCS' Governance and Anticorruption Team (GAC) and the Social Development Network (SDV), is holding a consultation period to invite feedback on four short How-To reports. These draft papers explore the role information and communication technologies (ICTs) can play to enhance governance, strengthen social accountability mechanism and ultimately improve development outcomes.

You are invited to download and review the how-to note, "ICT-Enabled Citizen Feedback Loops," and submit your feedback in the comments section below.

ICT-Enabled Citizen Feedback Loops

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About the note: The rapid spread of (ICTs) presents an attractive opportunity to collapse communication barriers and amplify the voices of citizens in development. ICT enabled citizen feedback mechanisms need to address more than platforms if they are to succeed, however. This note provides a guiding framework of five key components that should go into architecting technology enabled citizen feedback systems, as well as tools for project staff to identify and manage risk in order to maximize their success.


To learn more about this How-To series, click here.




Submitted by S W Tedo on
I am so interested in ICT4D and have been reading some blogs. I did my MBA thesis in this with which I have visited so many articles and enjoyed them. However, the use and benefit of ICT is negligent in Ethiopia as a country and Business enterprises in particular. Can any one help me in Promoting Information and Communications for Development (IC4D) in Ethiopia in any way possible?????????????

Submitted by Caitlin on
Hello! Quick comment, if this is a how-to note, you might want to include the intended audience. Is this note meant for WB staff? If audience is broader, I may have more comments ;)

Submitted by Samantha Custer on
Hi Caitlin, Thanks for your comment and your interest in the how-to note on ICT-Enabled Citizen Feedback. The primary audience we envisioned in preparing the note was indeed World Bank staff, however, I see the concepts in the note as having broader applicability for anyone interested in architecting feedback mechanisms that leverage ICTs. There are a few World Bank specific considerations, such as how this might integrate with established project cycles, etc. Beyond this, much of the note aims to provide general guidance that would be relevant in diverse contexts. We would definitely welcome any further comments you have, so share away!

Submitted by Ben on
Regarding the section of What new technology options are available that could be employed? Has the ICT-citizen Feedback team looked at the capabilities of the GeoPoll platform from Mobile Accord? The technology currently mentioned, like Frontline SMS, are much more resource intensive and do not allow for larger-scale aggregation of SMS. Where would GeoPoll fall under related to the technology...low or high? I would be interested to hear if this was something worth looking at?????

Submitted by Samantha Custer on
Great comment, Ben! You've given us a lot of good food for thought. I think your comment raises four important points that I want to explore briefly. First, there are a variety of platforms to engage citizens via text message on the market and that are being piloted in field settings in interesting ways. We mentioned Frontline SMS as an illustrative example, however, there are definitely others that we should be watching and learning from. A UNICEF pilot in Malawi is using RapidSMS, a bulk messaging application, to capture health and nutrition information to great effect. In Kenya, a World Bank Water and Sanitation project is prototyping the use of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), a popular local interface between mobile phones and a service provider's computer, to communicate citizen satisfaction and complaints with their water and sewerage services. The African Development Bank has just signed a strategic partnership with GeoPoll to support the processing of mobile based surveys which indicates its potential. These are just a few of many interesting platforms out there. Second, how do we assess such tools in terms of a low-med-high tech categorization? When looking at a given platform, I would ask what is the burden of accessibility for most citizens to participate (i.e. - how easy or affordable is it for them to obtain the requisite tools, such as a mobile phone, to provide feedback). As mentioned in the guidance note, the difficulty with categorizing technologies is that the adoption curve can happen very quickly and what was high tech yesterday may become medium tech tomorrow and low tech in a few years time. I think that continuum is better used to evaluate a specific context at a given period of time. The rapid adoption of mobile phones in many parts of the world is indicative of this and varies widely depending on the context. In places with extremely low mobile phone penetration, such as the Central African Republic (16%) or Niger (18%), accessibility would be an issue for most citizens which may make mobile based applications high tech. Whereas, for places with higher mobile phone penetration, the same technology might be medium tech such as Nigeria (71%) or Ghana (59%). So, Geopoll and other platforms that rely on mobile technology, may be medium or high tech depending on the context. Third, we do need to balance optimism regarding the potential of these tools with a critical eye regarding resource intensiveness and functionality. The more resource intensive or less functional a tool is to manage, the lower the likelihood that a government or international organization is to sustain the system and respond to citizen inputs effectively. However, I would also say that the pace of iteration and the relative newness of these tools makes it difficult to definitively make a judgment on which is best and that is really beyond the scope of the guidance note. What I would rather see is a highly adaptive approach of experimentation with multiple platforms in different settings, capturing of lessons learned and channeling this knowledge back into refining these tools in the future. I think that a tool such as Geopoll should indeed be looked at, along with others, particularly because of the aggregation function. If you are interested in product reviews of different tools, I suggest a site such as which has quite a few objective write-ups on the pros and cons of various platforms. Finally, your comment about text-based polling raises the important point that the way that SMS can be used to engage citizens varies depending on the specifics of a feedback system and its goals. Sometimes the interaction can be highly structured, such as in the form of a survey. This is particularly helpful in standardizing the form of responses and in aggregation. However, this is not the only form of interaction that might be beneficial. More open-ended and free form contributions such as suggestions, questions or complaints are also a valuable way to benefit from citizen views. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

We applaud the intention of this guide, which advocates for improved mechanisms for citizen feedback built into the process of development projects. The report points out asymmetries in information flows created by special interests of small groups of intermediaries, and suggests techniques for managing a number of variables, including ensuring inclusivity of platforms for feedback, deciding who will be responsible for monitoring and responding to feedback, and incorporating feedback into project cycles, in addition to the social context of the intervention. Our suggestions: Ensure that there is an explicit, well-communicated link between feedback received and any adjustments in the project cycle and plans. The guide talks about the importance of both, but not about making the link between them visible to stakeholders. Manage expectations regarding the timing of responses. People submitting feedback may not have an understanding of project phasing or the time needed to incorporate changes. Release aggregated feedback data for transparency. For more comments and details, read our blog post:

Submitted by Anonymous on
This is an excellent piece of work. It goes a long way to building ICTs into the engagement process. My suggestions: Ensure each engagement has clear objectives : be clear about the purpose of the engagement, who the engagement activity is for and what you hope to achieve by it - and what can change as a result. Privacy - ensure that whatever tool you use meets data standards and requirements of the country that you're operating in. With partnerships, ensure there's a shared understanding of data security and what it means. Roles and responsibilites will change according to what ICT tool is chosen. Ensure staff and participants know how to manage and provide feedback. As per the above comment,set expections of what will change based on feedback and what will not. The processes must be seen to have integrity. The type of engagement will impact on the ICT tool thats used (ie. is information provision, two way engagement, information gathering etc) Ensure that tool used matches the requirements of the engagement activity. Upfront, define ICTs and define engagement and the types of engagement ICTs can facilitate.

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