Accepted paper:

Participation Inequality in Digital Citizen Engagement: Building Civic and Responsiveness Digital Literacy

Authors:

Caroline Khene (Rhodes University)
Leroy Maisiri (Rhodes University )
Hafeni Mthoko (University of Cape Town)

Paper short abstract:

A case study investigation of a digital citizen engagement project in South Africa, called MobiSAM. The research study reveals the inter-connected factors that contribute to participation inequality in the digital initiative, which emanate from a lack of civic and responsiveness digital literacy.

Paper long abstract:

Digital citizen engagement is considered a game changer for development, enabling two-way communication and collaboration between citizens and government. The dimensions of citizen engagement describe the levels that emerge overtime from an implemented initiative. ICTs in citizen engagement typically originate as tools for the provision of (1) information, which then lead to citizen (2) participation in holding government accountable for services. Subsequently, as the programme becomes successful, citizens and government begin to (3) collaborate on developing policies and proposals to address service delivery issues, based on evidence-based data developed from ICTs. The final level of citizen engagement is (4) empowerment, where both citizens and government are empowered to participate in making keys decisions on service delivery that are relevant to the contextual needs of a community. Despite these benefits, digital citizen engagement is confronted with barriers at each level. A case study of the MobiSAM project reveals barriers that result in participation inequality. The MobiSAM platform that is meant to address issues around inequality in order to develop resilience in development progress, have mainly benefited affluent populations in the municipality, leaving most marginalised communities without access (conceptually) to this key service. The research study reveals the inter-connected factors that contribute to participation inequality, which emanate from a lack of civic and responsiveness digital literacy. Understanding these illiteracies in the municipality, is a step towards implementing and planning for strategies that mitigate participation inequality in digital citizen engagement.

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Digital inequalities and development (Paper)