Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have transformed the way people interact and communicate. The past two decades have seen technology being used with astonishing creativity to bring people together, collect, analyse and spread information.
ICTs hold a great deal of promise for those looking to promote transparency and accountability – yet, as this report argues, they have yet to produce a sea change in the direction of increased accountability.
Technology for transparency and accountability is a nascent field. The evidence base for the actual impact of ICTs on transparency and accountability is weak. This paper seeks to fill this gap. It takes the opportunity to document impact and look at the conditions for success in the use of ICTs for transparency and accountability to help avoid the mistakes of the past.
Using case studies from Brazil, Chile, India, Kenya, and Slovakia, it looks at: what tools are being used, how they are being used and how their strategic use is helping to include wider society in transparency and accountability work. The diverse initiatives examined range from attempts to increase accountability in local government to facilitating consumer complaints.
The authors suggest that those considering harnessing the potential of new technologies to increase accountability pay greater attention to the context in which it will be used. They should take into account what information the technology platform will provide and who will provide it, who will use that information and why and how that use will result in improved accountability. They suggest that the greatest opportunities for using technology exist when it is used to amplify NGO and governmental strategies of accountability. Interventions are more likely to succeed when those who create the technology are embedded in local NGO networks and recognise opportunities to partner with government.
The paper makes recommendations for those funding and supporting technological interventions that aim to increase public or private sector accountability.