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The Dialogue Begins

Hi all!

To kick us off, I've attached a terrific paper from a few years ago. It explains the importance of being vigilant about "good governance" and "participation" in the context of women's empowerment. Below is an excerpt. The whole paper's relevant though. Do check it out and leave your comments here!

maria

ICTs for Development and Good Governance: The Power of Voice

There is a basic assumption that ICTs contribute to positive social change primarily through a democratisation of access to information. Whether or not this is true is open to debate. In 1999 in the largest global public opinion poll in history, two thirds of the respondents considered that their country was not governed by the will of the people. This held true in some of the oldest – and most connected – democracies in the world. This sense of powerlessness emerged in a second opinion survey that covered a sample representing a sixth of the world’s population. Commissioned by the World Economic Forum in advance of its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland the poll found that more than half the respondents feel “unsafe, powerless and gloomy” about the future security and prosperity of the world.

This second poll may say, however, more about the war on terror, the state of party politics and the disconnect of democracy in the first world than the power of the information and communication technology in the third. And Africans, it must be noted, were more upbeat than “average global citizen” about their future.

Two key issues underlie the potential of information and communication technology for development and social change. The first is power. Unlike any other tool of mass communication, the Internet represents a promise for bottom up democratic communication. Barriers to publishing, while still very high for rural African women, are low in contrast to print, radio or television and none of those media provide the many to many communication possibility that computer based networking does.

This, however, is potential power. ICTs do not create social change. People do. It follows therefore that ICTs will be as productive and progressive as the organisations, individuals and networks, businesses and governments that use them. Effective investment in technology for development and good governance requires sufficient investment in developing the vision and practice for these concepts.

ICTs can facilitate this process but when the time comes to select and shape tools for governance and development goals, the utility of these tools should be forged through participatory local processes. This, it is generally agreed, is the core of sustainable development. And a central practice of equitable, gender-responsive community development.

As Communication for Social Change Consortium, a newly constituted development communication network says “Worldwide, people of all backgrounds have grasped the importance of hearing their own stories in their own voices – and making their own decisions about what affects their lives.”

Or as Kofi Annan puts it: “States that respect the rights of all citizens and allow them all a say in decisions that affect their lives are likely to benefit from their creative energies and to provide the kind of economic and social environment that promotes sustainable development.”

Advancing rural women’s empowerment: ICTs in the service of good governance, democratic practice and development for rural women
2004, Rebecca Holmes, Women's Net
Original post: http://www.is-watch.net/node/407

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