My studies at American University, led me to a passion for ICT4D and the intersection of technology, development, and policy. Here are a few examples of my research regarding ICTs and policy in the developing world.
SIS 645 Communication and Cultural Policy
This paper I was tasked to create a policy recommendation as an international organization. I choose to analyze Kenya’s ICT policy on behalf of the World Bank. Disclaimer this was not an actual report submitted to or on behalf of the world bank.
This report analyzes the Republic of Kenya’s Information Communication Technology (ICT) Draft Policy focusing on polices surrounding e-governance on behalf of the World Bank. This report will provide a detailed background on the information landscape in Kenya, issues surrounding governance, and an overview of the e-governance policy. This report will then provide substantive analysis utilizing global communication models to provide contextual analysis for this policy. Next, the characteristics, cultural perception, and political implications will be explained. The report will then analyze the strength and weaknesses of the e-governance policy, illustrating the great potential e-governance possess but also the possible pit-falls and challenges to implementation effective policy. Finally the report will conclude with recommendations for the Republic of Kenya to improve e-governance measures in order to ratify the ICT draft policy.
Kenya has created a draft Information Communication Technology (ICT) policy to address the rapidly growing ICT landscape. This policy was created to work in conjunction with the recent passage of the Kenyan constitution and Kenya’s development strategy Vision 2030. The policy’s intention was to build an information society, construct a regulatory framework for emerging issues in the sector, and improve government operations. A portion of Kenya’s ICT policy addresses e-governance, a technological system that reinforces institutional and political reform facilitated by technology (Hanna et al. 2009). While this draft policy is a step in the right direction, there are improvements that can strengthen the e-governance policy into concrete actions, which are in-line with development goals. This report will conclude recommendations for improving the policy.
The ICT sector has experienced a rapid expansion and has become one of the fastest growing sectors in Kenya. The Internet Telecommunication Union (ITU) reports that in the year 2000 the penetration rates of Kenya were .07% which represented approximately 200,000 Internet users; by the year 2010 penetration rates were 9.7% with an estimate of 3,995,500 users (“Kenya Internet Usage”). This dramatic shift in digital competencies has led to digital convergence, which can increase information access, streamline services, and allow greater access to services to users technology (Hanna et al. 2009). While this sector has experienced a significant increase, a large portion of the population do not have access to these services in what is known as the digital divide. To address these issues Kenya has created an ICT draft policy in order to navigate changes in communication environment.
Mawasiliano ya Kisasa (Contemporary Communications)
In August 2010 Kenya ratified a new constitution, which decentralizes government control incorporating values of convergence, or the dissolution of boundaries between services achieved by digital means (Hanna et al. 2009). One of the significant changes in the constitution is the adoption of a more free information environment, which includes provisions granting citizens the right to access all state information and that the state shall publish any important information relating to the nation (Kenya Constitution). In addition, Kenya has established a strategic plan Vision 2030 which aims to develop the country with regard to three pillars: economic, social, and political governance (“Kenya Vision 2030 Pillars,”). The political governance pillar, details a plan of creating a government “that is issue based, people centered, results oriented and is accountable to the public,” it goes on to list specifically the strategic plan of “transforming democracy and public service delivery, and transparency and accountability,” (“Kenya Vision 2030 Pillars,”). It is under this context that Kenya’s Ministry of Information and Communications released the ICT draft policy in February 2011 (“Kenya ICT Draft,”).
E-Governance Policy Overview
Kenya’s e-governance policy objective is to stimulate the ICT sector, encourage populations to adopt ICT initiatives, and serve as a tool for citizen to access information. The policy details several provisions for e-governance initiatives. Section 11.8.1 a. states:
“Launch a special initiative to cater for delivery of e-government applications through other electronic channels other than Internet such as wireless mobile communication devices and digital TV as an integral part of ANYTIME, ANYWHERE, ANYHOW E-governance service delivery.”
In addition the policy goes on to detail plans for streamlining technology to various government ministries and public institutions, continue electronic documentation management, and create Smart ID cards to facilitate electronic identification (“Kenya ICT Draft,”).
The crux of this policy is to construct programs to facilitate the convergence among citizens and government, with the goal of creating better access to government services.
Global Communication Model Analysis:
Kenya’s e-governance policy can be categorized under the development model of communication policy. The ultimate goal of the e-governance policy is to serve public interest of economic development (Venturelli 2012). It utilizes government interventions to enhance technological developments and promote good governance to achieve the state goal of development. Although e-governance strategies are being utilized in developed countries, Kenya’s policy has been created to resolve the problem of impunity and corruption. Transparency International reported in their 2011 corruption index report that Kenya is the 21st most corrupt country in the world (“Corruption index 2011,”). In addition, in 2007 Kenya experienced political upheaval due to post-election violence, which was largely attributed to corruption in election systems (“Kenya president ratifies,” ). The creation of an e-governance initiative would grant citizen access to government data sets further enhancing transparency with the hope of dissuade corruption, and allow for greater government oversight.
Characteristics, Cultural Perception, Political Implications of E-governance
Traditionally the government of Kenya controlled information. Under President Daniel Arap Moi news publications were often harassed or bullied for disseminating controversial information (Moggi). Culturally, a highly centralized government monopolized the locus of control over information, as a result the information environment could be described as hostile. Characteristically e-governance is considered a “disruptive technology” because it challenges the information hegemony held by ruling governments (Hanna et al. 2009). The political implications of enacting an e-governance policy could aid in increasing transparency by providing access to government data sets and documentation. Further e-governance has the potential to spur innovation through cross-sector collaboration, engaging multiple agencies in development goal of transforming the delivery of public services.
The creation of Kenya’s e-governance policy demonstrates the government’s commitment to the development of ICT and efforts towards digital convergence. The liberalization of government data outlined in the policy puts Kenya on the cutting edge of ICT policy and e-governance agenda. A portion of the policy states that databases will be shared: “in order to facilitate information sharing and communications within and across ministries and departments” (“Kenya ICT Draft,”). This type of sharing is beneficial to avoid problems with project duplication, promotes a common information infrastructure, and encourages cross-collaboration. Additionally, the implementation of shared datasets has begun through Kenya’s Open Data Portal, which makes all government data sets available for public use and encourages developers to create visualizations and applications with the datasets provided (“Kenya Open Data”). This multi-stakeholder approach provides the opportunity for civil society to link data with development objectives.
The policy also addresses the need to implement e-governance service delivery through multiple communication channels. The policy names wireless mobile phone communication and digital television as alternatives to traditional Internet channels to access e-government. This aspect of the policy acknowledges various ways Kenyans interact with communication channels and aims to make provisions for issues surrounding the digital divide. Involving e-government users from various socio-economic statuses are necessary for effective implementation of policy goals.
While the e-governance policy can be considered innovative, there are significant weaknesses that can impede the goals of the policy. The most considerable weakness of the document is its failure to create institutional mechanisms for how various initiatives will be funded or implemented. Creating e-governance projects to span across Internet connections, mobile devices, and television will require a significant allocation of resources towards creating these platforms. The policy also goes on to describe four proposed projects for e-governance; while each represents innovation with in the ICT framework, without outlining a comprehensive approach to achieving these goals the outcome will largely remain merely rhetoric. These four projects are indicators that the government has yet to prioritize which initiatives most align with their development goals and are feasible to achieve. This draft policy fails to establish a framework for proper institutional coordination.
In addition the policy also makes assumptions about the accessibility of these polices by users from various socio-economic statuses. While Internet penetration rates are increasing in Kenya, there are still many barriers to access e-governance tools. Even with Internet penetration rates at 9.7% indicates that nearly 90% of the total population do not have access to Internet (Hanna et al. 2009). In order for the government to experience significant reform with these processes they must address barriers to access, and improve upon them. A failure to formulate an institution process that addresses the digital divide will have negative ramifications on development strategies.
The creation of an ICT draft policy regarding e-governance signifies a momentous step in digital convergence and open government. This policy is presented in a rudimentary form and reform is needed before it is ratified. Recommendations for improvement include:
The Kenyan government should prioritize projects that will most align with their development goals and have the highest impact.
The policy should outline how the government will allocate the proper resources to the project and explore the possibility of obtaining Private Corporation to assist with implementation.
The government of Kenya should analyze the barriers to accessing e-governance and implement provisions on all of their potential projects.
The e-governance policy would also benefit greatly by adding a strategy for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of their e-governance programs. These monitoring and evaluation could provide comprehensive feedback and allow the government to adapt to quickly changing needs of this sector.
The creation of an e-governance policy demonstrates the transformative steps the government of Kenya has taken to enhance government process and oversight though the use of ICTs. While this policy takes an innovative approach, it fails to create institutionalized mechanisms to ensure that these initiatives are implemented effectively. In addition, the policy makes assumption about the ability of the population who are able to access the Internet. The recommendations suggest ways the Government of Kenya could improve the Draft ICT policy. If the government of Kenya implements these policy recommendations the World Bank will support the ratification of this policy.
“Corruption index 2011 from Transparency International: find out how countries compare.” The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/dec/01/corruption-index-2011-transparency-international (accessed July 1, 2012).
Hanna, Nagy and Christine Zhen-Wei. “Information and Communication for Development.” The World Bank (2009).
“Kenya Internet Usage and Telecommunications Reports.” Internet World Stats. http://www.internetworldstats.com/af/ke.htm (accessed July 1, 2012).
“Kenya Open Data About.” Kenya Open Data. https://opendata.go.ke/ (accessed July 1, 2012).
“Kenya president ratifies new constitution.” BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11106558 (accessed July 2, 2012).
Kenya Constitution. Part 2. Chapter 36. Section a. 2010
“Kenya Vision 2030 Pillars.” Kenya Vision 2030. http://www.vision2030.go.ke/index.php/vision (accessed July 1, 2012).
Hanna, Nagy and Christine Zhen-Wei. “Information and Communication for Development.” The World Bank (2009).
Moggi, Paola. “Media Status Report:Kenya.” Media Status. http://zunia.org/uploads/media/knowledge/kenya.pdf (accessed July 1, 2012).
Technology and Contentious Politics : Kenya Post Election Technology
Monica Nymabura called her husband, panicked, as soon as she got off work. The day was December 30, 2007, the day the Kenya Election Commission announced Mwai Kibaki, the incumbent President and member of the Kikuyu tribe, as the winner, a dramatic shift from previous voter calculations that originally favored Ralila Odinga. Monica came home to find leaflets strung about her apartment complex, asking individuals to reveal all members of the Luo tribe, the tribe of her husband. As a Kikuyu, she knew she would be afforded more flexibility from individuals seeking members of the Luo tribe, although she knew that she would face scrutiny for being the spouse of a Luo. This story was not unique during Kenya’s post-election violence. Ethnic division between the Kikuyu and Luo tribes, following the election December 27, 2007, led two months of blood-shed. As a result more than 1,000 people died, and 500,00 were internally displaced. Technology served as platform for both ethnic violence and social actions. This paper will explore how different information communication technologies were utilized during the post-election violence and explore how the technological structures of each have affected their usage. It will expound upon the benefits of the Internet as a communication tool, with the example of Ushahidi, a crowd sourcing software program used for crisis reporting days surrounding the post election violence. It will conclude with recommendations for governments, private corporations, and civil society have a responsibility to promote greater Internet access and take action to stop hate speech.
Monica Nymabura found an empty apartment when she arrived to her home in the Rift Valley, she tried once again to call her husband and finally he answered. “He told me he was inside of the water tank, hiding because they were coming after all Luo’s” Monica said. Soon there was a knock on the door, a group of men came to question Monica about her tribe. “ I told them I was Kikuyu, they didn’t believe me until I showed them my identification card, then they continued to ask me where my husband was, I told them I didn’t know.” The questioning continued for an hour until finally the group left, in the middle of the night Monica and her husband escaped to a safe location in the capital of Nairobi. “ I think cell phones contributed to the violence, it’s the only way they could of coordinated so quickly.”
Ethnic division and conflict have long dominated Kenya’s political landscape. The British administration divided administrative borders according to tribal associations, restricting political activism within these borders. The main division exists between the two largest ethnic groups: the Kikuyu tribe and the Luo tribe. This conflict has created political tribalism, a concept where tribes compete for resources leading to elections fueled by ethnic violence. It was within this backdrop that the 2008 elections took place between incumbent president Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Ralila Odinga. Voting took place on December 27, 2008, and reported record turnout and peaceful voting processes. The mood quickly changed in December 27, when Ralila Odinga’s one million vote lead was suddenly over taken by incumbent Mwai Kibaki. December 30, the Kenya Election Commission declared Mwai Kibaki the winner. Following the announcement, violence erupted throughout the country, specifically in the slums of Nairobi, the opposition party home Kisumu, and the Rift Valley, which historically experienced political upheaval during elections.
Radio, Misinformation and Hate Speech.
Minutes after the announcement of the win, Mwai Kibaki was sworn in as President. Immediately following the broadcast, the Minister of Technology suspended all live national broadcasts, as the street erupted in violence. This was a strategic move by politicians to effectively “cut-off” access to information by the more trusted national news source. While the national broadcasts were banned, commercial and vernacular stations were still able to broadcast. These broadcasters were characterized as having very little journalistic standards and obvious bias towards their tribal affiliation. This led to a frenzied information environment that was full of speculation and inaccuracy. The corroboration of information is often a problem experienced in Africa. According to a report issued by the African Center for Strategic Studies, entitled: Africa’s Evolving Infosystems: A Pathway to Security and Stability; misinformation fuels political tensions and violence and often lead to a “cycle of violence”.
Radio is the most pervasive information system in Kenya, with a 87% penetration rate. While this platform provides access to information to a wide audience, the technical composition of radio depends on a hierarchical structure, which is unidirectional, and has very little interactivity. Guests are able to call into radio programs but are ultimately the decision to air their comments are left up to the discretion of the producers of the program. The vernacular radio stations, catered to their specific audiences, and allows listeners to call in and use hate speech to promote ethnic violence, without providing an avenue for the opinions of the opposition. The radio station KASS FM (which catered to the Kalenjin tribe) aired coded messages used by politicians supporting the opposition candidate Ralila Odinga. Message included references against the Kikuyu tribe such as, “the mongoose has stolen our chickens” referring to Kikuyu’s living in land that ancestrally were inhabited by the Kalenjin tribe. The threats continued and suggested that listeners should “cut the grass” and “get rid of the weeds” in reference to driving out Kikuyus. Jospeh arap Sang was among the DJs at KASS FM, facilitated these discussions on his radio program, and is now under investigation from the International Criminal Court for promoting hate speech and inciting ethnic violence.
Text Messaging Hate Speech and Mobilization
Text messaging was another tool used to fuel ethnic violence; unavailable in previous elections it allowed for instant and cheap mobilization. Cell telephone technology is the most rapidly adopted technology in history. Kenya has more than 20 million mobile phone subscribers, representing a 50% penetration rate. Text messaging is the most widely used digital application in Kenya. Text messages sent out during post-election violence allowed people to systematically utilize a many-to-many communication network, and offered users the accessibility of forwarding these messages rapidly through other networks. A popular text message forwarded stated “Fellow Kenyans, the Kikuyus have stolen our children’s future. Hope of removing them through the ballot has been stolen. We must deal with them the way they understand, violence. We must dominate them.” Like radio, text messaging was used to send out hate messages and incite violence, although it differs in its technological structure which allows for multidirectional communication. Mobile phone users are able to actively reply to messages without moderation, while allowing for opposing views to be shared as well. In an effort to quell hate speech, the largest cell phone provider in Kenya, Safaricom, sent text messages encouraging users to keep peace.
Internet, Crowd Sourcing, Reporting
As vernacular radio continued to report inaccurate information, and text messages mobilized populations toward violence, a group of concerned Kenyan activists and web developers began a project to report the violence they were witnessing. Kenyan activist Ory Okolloh sought out a way to report violence she stated on her blog: “Google Earth supposedly shows in great detail where the damage is being done on the ground. It occurs to me that it will be useful to keep a record of this, if one is thinking long-term. For the reconciliation process to occur at the local level the truth of what happened will first have to come out. Guys looking to do something – any techies out there willing to do a mashup of where the violence and destruction is occurring using Google Maps?”
The result was Ushahidi—a crisis mapping mash up of Geographic Information System in the form of Google Earth, and reporting submitted via the Internet and text messaging. Ushahidi, which means testimony in Swahili, received 45,000 reports of violence, and Google Earth was used to visualize patterns and areas experiencing violence. The structure of Ushahidi provides a “commons-based peer-production” model in the same vein as Wikipedia, which allow for mass participation. This level of participation varies from other technological structure such as radio, because it does not rely on a hierarchy and one-way transmission of information. The Internet as a technological platform allows for greater inactivity, populations are no longer passive receivers of information, but poses a sense of efficacy about the information published. In the absence of reliable traditional media, the Internet allows users to find objective information, as exemplified by the Ushahidi platform.
Analyzing the technological structure of radio, text messaging, and the Internet, it is clear that the Internet provides the best platform for accurate reporting and interactivity. While the Kenyan government has taken steps to ensure a more
1. Increase infrastructure and access for better Internet access
2. Create and enforce hate speech legislation.
B. Civil Society
1. Ensure access to and proper training on Internet Access.
2. Enable technologies to utilize crowd sourcing reporting and increase access to these resources.
1. Monitor and record hate speech and lend information to government or commissions.
2. Promote the usage of Ushahidi and other reporting tools through network.
All technology is not created equal, the ethnic violence that spread throughout Kenya demonstrated the different ways technology was used as both a platform for hate speech, and also led to the creation of structure to promote citizen journalism and crisis mapping. As Internet penetration rate increases, more study is needed on the effects of the technology and it’s usages. In Kenya the Internet created a less hierarchical system that allowed for greater participation, and greatly benefited the country.