Appropriating technology for accountability

Research report by Rosie McGee with Duncan Edwards, Colin Anderson, Hannah Hudson and Francesca Feruglio: “Making All Voices Count was a programme designed to solve the ‘grand challenge’ of creating more effective democratic governance and accountability around the world. Conceived in an era of optimism about the use of tech to open up government and allow more fluid communication between citizens and governments, it used funding from four donors to support the development and spread of innovative ideas for solving governance problems – many of them involving tools and platforms based on mobile phone and web technologies. Between 2013 and 2017, the programme made grants for innovation and scaling projects that aimed to amplify the voices of citizens and enable governments to listen and respond. It also conducted research and issued research grants to explore the roles that technology can play in securing responsive, accountable government.

This synthesis report reviews the Making All Voices Count’s four-and-a-half years of operational experience and learning. In doing so, it revisits and assesses the key working assumptions and expectations about the roles that technologies can play in governance, which underpinned the programme at the outset. The report draws on a synthesis of evidence from Making All Voices Count’s 120+ research, evidence and learning-focused publications, and the insights and knowledge that arose from the innovation, scaling and research projects funded through the programme, and the related grant accompaniment activities.

It shares 14 key messages on the roles technologies can play in enabling citizen voice and accountable and responsive governance. These messages are presented in four sections:

  • Applying technologies as technical fixes to solve service delivery problems
  • Applying technologies to broader, systemic governance challenges
  • Applying technologies to build the foundations of democratic and accountable governance systems
  • Applying technologies for the public ‘bad’.

The research concludes that the tech optimism of the era in which the programme was conceived can now be reappraised from the better-informed vantage point of hindsight. Making All Voices Count’s wealth of diverse and grounded experience and documentation provides an evidence base that should enable a more sober and mature position of tech realism as the field of tech for accountable governance continues to evolve….(More)”.