‘Governance-on-the-Go’, or GonGo: the citizen at the center of an IT-enabled governance breakthrough?
By Kaufmann | July 22, 2008 6 Comments »
I am now at the Fortune BrainstormTech, which aims to relate innovations in technology to larger world problems it can solve. The event just started, featuring fascinating evening panels with tech leaders (here). One of the sessions I will co-lead tomorrow, with Ross Mayfield of Socialtext, is on governance. In this forthcoming interactive lab we will try to advance the discussion on the interface between ICT, governance and government. A contribution I will try to make is by distinguishing between e-government and m-governance, and to ask for ideas on how m-governance can be taken to the next stage.
For many years already, the IT revolution has brought about innovation supporting the modernization of the public sector, in industrialized and developing countries. The major advances took place in what is called e-government, namely electronic government, or the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) by government agencies in the provision of public services and in interacting with their constituencies.
This has been highly valuable. But e-government, focused on government services, has under-emphasized broader aspects of governance, particularly those where citizens and institutions outside of government play a key role. People have not been at the center of e-government, and e-government applications have often been static and immobile, relying on IT infrastructure which is out of reach for most locations and citizens in developing countries.
But the good news is that recently a dynamic IT-revolution has been afoot, placing the citizen center stage. It is m-governance, or ‘Governance-on-the-Go’ (GonGo), with the focus on (mobile) governance rather than only on government. ’GonGo’ is enabling open, fluid and interactive ways for people to relate with each other and with institutions, including civil society and NGOs, the private sector, media, parliaments, and also public institutions.
This allows IT to be embedded into the mobile citizen, thanks to the breakthrough synergy of various technologies. In particular, consider what a citizen can do as s/he goes about their day, thanks to the interaction between the cellphone, SMS text messaging (or MMS for pictures and video) and micro-blogging, such as Twitter. These have already empowered millions of highly mobile citizens everywhere to improve governance, democracy, and peace — and also in poor and remote corners of the world.
Some examples include the use of text-messaging during the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the citizens protests in Philippines and Lebanon. Very recently, witness the role of of while micro-blogging, where Twitter enabled on-time reporting of China’s earthquake, in fact a full hour before CNN or other traditional media reported it, and even before the US Geological Site had news. Or the role of text message during Burma’s crackdown on the monks of Burma (Myanmar). And I have written before on the importance of blogging in Kenya, where m-governance has also been effectively used, with Ushahidi, Mashada, and BungeSMS, among others, informing and organizing citizens during and after the post-electoral crisis.
Mobility is essential, hence the power of placing at the citizen’s fingertips an affordable and accessible cell. In Africa for instance, for each 100 inhabitants, there are almost 30 mobile (and due to sharing of cell phones, subscribers the actual access is much larger than that), while there are only about 5 internet users, 3 fixed phone lines, and 0.2 broadband users (here for data).
Of course, infrastructure investments also need to continue so to provide more internet and PC access to citizens. But these need to become more accessible, mobile, and embedded into the person, thus converging with handhelds and cellphony, placing citizens and their mobile needs center stage so to help them further good governance.