Published February 2012.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are helping increase citizen participation, positively transforming the relationship between citizens and their government, and ultimately resulting in more effective public service delivery.
Mobile phones are performing a key role in enhancing transparency and accountability. Mobile penetration in the DRC is increasing rapidly, from 16% to 47% in 2013. In addition, 55% of the country’s population resides in areas currently covered by mobile networks, including most rural areas from the eastern province of South Kivu.
The country has long suffered from conditions that have prevented the full development of its citizens and communities. Citizens have suffered the effects of conflict, and remain, in many cases, unable to access the most basic public services. “Our realities are African realities,” explained Thomas Maketa, a DRC-based member of the ICT4Gov team. While many citizens in the province don’t have access to water or electricity in their homes, they do have mobile phones.
The World Bank Institute’s ICT4Gov program is introducing mobile technology to enhance participatory budgeting processes. Citizens are now empowered to demand and work towards improved governance. Through mobile technology, citizens can now express and vote on the priorities that are most pressing for their communities. When they have reached an agreement the local government devotes a percentage of the local investment budget to the project selected by the citizens.
To enhance these efforts, ICT4Gov is using mobile phones for four purposes:
• To invite citizens to the participate. Mobile phones are used to invite citizens to the budgeting assemblies through geo-targeted SMS messages. These messages, reaching all the phones receiving signal from a particular tower, announce the date, time and location of the assemblies.
• To vote. Citizens are invited to send a text to identify which of the priorities they would like to see addressed in their community.
• To inform. To announce the voted decision, making the process more transparent and inclusive than ever before.
• To give feedback. Finally, mobile phones are being used to asked citizens about the projects that had been chosen. Through text messages, citizens are able to offer feedback and monitor the projects.
Over 250,000 text messages have already been sent throughout the different stages of this initiative.