Government-Citizen Collaboration through ICT
Problem and Context
In his seminal book titled, ‘Collective Intelligence: Mankind's Emerging World in Cyberspace’, Levy writes, “No one knows everything, everyone knows something.” It inspires us to go beyond few experts and established agencies while approaching governance and development challenges, which in the 21st century are too big for any single agency including the government itself, to address. Government, citizens and the civil society must work together, engage in two-way conversations and co-create solutions.
The recent proliferation of information and communication technology (ICT) allows us to translate the above philosophy into actions. Moreover, civil society organizations (CSOs) working to further public interest can also leverage these emerging ICT tools to make their efforts more fact-based and evidence-driven. However, while there is growing ICT literacy and penetration on the one hand, governments and civil society organizations are not being able to use it in a channelized manner - hence resulting in stunted government transparency, limited public participation and stifled government-citizen collaboration.
In order to leverage growing ICT literacy and digital penetration to further public interest and government-citizen engagement, our proposed solution is three pronged:
- We will conduct an ethnographic research on the current tech capabilities of select CSOs (CS:MAP partners), their ICT needs and possible points of tech intervention which can help them in their cause of furthering public interest. These CSOs are spread across 35 districts of Nepal.
- Based on the findings of (1) above, we will conceptualize, develop, test and deploy various ICT tools and platforms for the CSOs. We will also train them on using and maintaining these systems as part of our mentorship program so that these tools remain relevant beyond the immediate life of the project.
- In order to realize government-citizen collaboration on matters of local governance, we will make annual plans and budget of two [rural] municipalities’ publicly open through easily comprehensible maps and infographics. In addition, we will deploy complementary ICT tools that will enable two-way communication between the citizens and the local government - thus enabling both parties to plan, discuss, deliberate and take informed actions on matters of local governance.
These tasks will be carried out under CS:MAP (Civil Society: Mutual Accountability Project). CS:MAP is a five year project supported by the USAID and implemented by FHI 360.
We are heavily involved in ethnographic research across various districts in Nepal. We are working towards assessing the current tech capabilities and future needs of the CSOs. Based on our findings from this research, we have developed a few ICT tools and are testing few of them on field. In addition, we are in the phase of choosing [rural] municipalities and establishing working relations with them in order to institute the tools and processes which will be developed in course of this project.
The ethnographic research is expected to paint a realistic picture of the current as well as potential future of ICT based tools in Nepal’s development sector. Through this program, we also anticipate to build capacity of the select CSOs in understanding, appreciating and using ICT-based tools to further their public interest advocacy campaigns as well as to smoothen their internal operations. The digital tools and platforms to be developed under this intervention will serve as the bridge that connects citizens to its government - thus opening the two-way communication channel enabling democratic deliberation and inclusive participation in government-citizen collaboration towards co-creating solutions.