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Information and Communication Technologies

Bantay Kurapsyon

Sabina Panth's picture

“Research on political participation has identified a number of deep-seated norms and values that are positively associated with the amount and quality of democratic engagement,” explains Delli Carpini, in the Handbook of Political Communication Research.  “One of the most central of these,” as Carpini points out, “is political efficacy, or the sense that one’s participation can actually make a difference (internal efficacy) and that the political system would be responsive to this participation (external efficacy).”  As I read this quote, I am reminded of a case in point that perfectly illustrates this theoretical concept.  

Something for Nothing?

Sabina Panth's picture

My blog posts have been highlighting the significance of empowered citizens and active civil society in driving development efforts.  But in doing so, have I been focusing solely on the voluntary spirit and good-will of the ordinary citizens? If so, is it practical to expect that the momentum will persist long enough to give the continuity and dedication required to realize the undertaking?   There is also a reoccurring theme in my blog posts about aid dependency and the project-based ethos of civil society organizations. Given the scenario, it is difficult to assess the strength and spirit of ‘naturally grown’ vs. ‘project instigated’ community activism.  As it is, community members are hard pressed to make ends meet and can barely afford to partake in community activities. And even when they do, their voluntary contribution is often directly proportional to their incentives. 

Elephants on the Autobahn?

Tanya Gupta's picture

When it comes to use of social media in development, development institutions remind me of lumbering elephants walking down the autobahn.  In any other sphere, development organizations would not be at such a disadvantage.  We have been building roads for ever.  There has not been any fundamental change in the technology of building roads.  Development organizations learnt slowly but well about development challenges in various sectors and are now legitimate experts in these areas.  All the same the title of “knowledge institutions” is a bit hard to swallow.  The reason, probably somewhat unfair, is that knowledge today, for most people is intimately tied to technology, social media too is viewed as a medium for knowledge, much like the network of roads and highways are a medium for commerce.  
 

It Is Indeed a Good Thing That Google Is Not Evil*

Naniette Coleman's picture

I am often amazed with how Google reads my mind when I am typing, giving me numerous options from which to click.  Apparently, though, some words do not produce instant results.  "The Hacker publication 2600 decided to compile a list of words that are restricted by Google Instant." Although many of the words are not surprising (think off-color biological terms), some others might leave you thinking really, this made it to the list (ex. the word butt), but others might educate you on topics (off-color) that you had no consideration or imagination for.  Giggles aside, and yes I did some giggling when I reviewed the list, there is a bit of danger in the idea of a search engine censoring terms.  Based on whose morals, based on whose values and who makes the final censorship decision? These questions worry me.   

Sanumaya’s Tale: Policy Response

Sabina Panth's picture


In my previous post, I narrated Sanumaya’s tale in the context of how development that looks good from the above can be problematic when viewed at the local level, particularly for socially and economically marginalized populations.  The village was building a road that connected to the highway.  Everyone was excited at the prospect of economic prosperity.  Except, it came at the cost of dislodging the poor and vulnerable, like Sanumaya, whose poverty, illiteracy and social status became her entrapment. 

Divide and Conquer Never Goes Out of Style

Naniette Coleman's picture

Malcolm Gladwell’s piece in The New Yorker, "Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted," stayed with me long after I put the carefully folded pages scribbled with my musings into the read pile on my floor. The piece deserves greater attention, meditation, rumination, which I intend to do in future blogs but for today’s blog, I want to explore his take on divide and conquer. Gladwell explores the difference between strong and weak ties in organizing and it is something that should be of the upmost importance to our readers. Decisions on organization, process, and the tools reformers engage to reach their ends are critical. "The medium, after all, is the message" - Marshall McLuhanBut it could also be that the medium signals something about the thoughtfulness of organizers and the level of commitment of participants.

Sanumaya’s Tale

Sabina Panth's picture

Sanumaya lives with her five children and frailing mother-in-law in a rural village in Nepal.  Her husband, Gopal has left for United Arab Emirates as a labor migrant.  Last year, the hybrid seeds sold in the local market had led to crop failure, bringing the family to near bankruptcy.  To save his family from destitution, Gopal borrowed money from the local businessman and set off overseas.  In the meantime, Sanumaya joined a local women’s savings and credit group, from where she takes out loan money to do animal husbandry.  The meager income Sanumaya earns from her business is barely enough to sustain the family.  Gopal has not sent home any money yet.  He’s probably saving it to repay the local businessman.  Fortunately, the ancestral home that Sanumaya and Gopal inherited has a lush backyard, where Sanumaya grows vegetables and lets her goats roam about freely. She hopes to sell the goats someday and make some money.

You Are Not So Smart As Me

Naniette Coleman's picture

Haunting is supposed to be reserved for bad movies and Halloween, none-the-less I have been haunted for several weeks now. You have heard my rants about the importance of translating academic work for use by pragmatists and practitioners.You may have thought that I was finally putting this topic to rest. You thought wrong. I have yet another installment to share.

SMS Gateways for Public Accountability

Sabina Panth's picture


Last week, I attended a presentation on Strengthening Good Local Governance in Indonesia: Lessons from a Demand-Driven Approach.  The $62 million 5-year USAID-funded program focused on both the supply (strengthening core competencies of local administration) and demand (strengthening institutions to ‘lobby’ for good governance) in the context of the recent “big bang” decentralization in Indonesia.  The presentation featured various tools and instruments for good governance.  I was particularly struck by ‘SMS gateways’ - a new e-governance tool that has been used to strengthen public accountability mechanisms in local governance.

Information Gathering for Demand-led Initiatives

Sabina Panth's picture

Access to pertinent public data is crucial to inform and mobilize citizens in demanding better governance.  Experience shows, however, that the process involved in garnering public data is arduous and often confronted with strong resistance.  To begin with, the planning and execution of government programs and budget are seldom performed in a transparent manner and even when the information is made available, the technical use of the language and the procedures involved in the execution make it very difficult for a lay person to decipher and analyze them.  Problems are also encountered with incomplete or badly maintained records of public expenditures and service delivery.  In addition, the officials who are in charge of managing the programs are cautious in releasing the records for fear of consequences from the disclosed information.  In spite of these constraints, methods have been developed to promote transparency in the planning and implementation of public programs and budget through what has been a long process of information gathering and advocacy campaigns.

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