Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) hold great potential to transform citizen participation and service delivery tracking and influence government decision-making and execution. Frameworks like Huduma, built on the Ushahidi platform, can positively impact citizen-government engagement and be used as a tool to amplify citizens’ voices. However, there is still little empirical evidence on the ways in which ICTs interact with the unique structures and practices characterising good governance. Lately, the terms governance and good governance are being increasingly used in development literature, although the concept of governance has been around in both political and academic discourse for a long time. The cornerstone of good governance involves high quality service delivery, quick and efficient response mechanisms, easy access to necessary resources, and high civic engagement.
Good governance is not yet achieved in its totality in Kenya today. If Kenyans are to attain sustainable economic and social development, all must work together towards this ideal with the aim of making it a reality. The Government must lead other supporting members, such as the local administrators in the different counties, to the individuals who will identify the biggest issues at the grassroots level and communicate these issues to the Government.
Innovations in the ICT sector can extend human capacity and help in attaining good governance. It is important to remember, nevertheless, that such innovations cannot replace human communication. Thus, it is vital to understand the balance between use of such ICT tools and the limitations. Research is needed to understand the participatory value-add of such technology platforms and the real effect on improving governance. This research involves integrating first generation initiatives of E-governance with the mobile platform, thereby leading to M-governance.
The paradigm shift from E-governance to M-governance can leverage the convergence of mobile and communication technologies to usher in a multi-mode approach to delivery of government services. Such service delivery can bypass the need for traditional networks of physical interaction and communication. Bypassing physical interaction has many effects, one of which is limiting the amount of corruption that can take place.
The successful implementation of a sustainable hybrid governance requires supportive ICT infrastructure, government commitment, and active citizenry as shown in the diagram . This can be greatly achieved with the principles of subsidiarity--where matters should be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority--, and solidarity--unity that is based on common interests. If the Government can demonstrate these principles to its citizens by sharing authority with local administrators in the different counties, the citizens must also respond with full-participation and strong advocacy for important community issues. If local administrators across Kenya can serve as hubs to mobilize and engage citizens to participate in government processes, Kenya will have more effective dialogue, reporting, and a greater governance structure.
This opinion piece by Hilda Moraa ([email protected]) is based on information obtained from an “ICTs and Governance in Africa” conference held in Nairobi, Kenya from August 18 - 19th, 2011. Please contact the author for more information.