In recent years, most of the 15 member countries of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) have enjoyed expanded political freedoms and have passed a variety of reform measures to combat corruption, including the establishment of a regional anti-corruption institution. Despite this progress, however, the region still confronts instability, limited transparency, and weak democratic governance, writes Kwami Ahiabenu, founder and president of the International Institute for ICT Journalism.
In response to these ongoing challenges, countries across West Africa have begun to harness the power of information communication technologies (ICT), primarily as a tool to run elections. Beyond their application in electoral environments, however, the full potential of new technologies to enable transparency, fight corruption, and monitor public service delivery has yet to be fully realized.
This exploratory study looks at how new digital technologies—including online platforms, mobile apps, SMS, and social media—are being used to promote democratic governance and economic transparency in the 15 ECOWAS member states. The report assesses relevant projects, identifies gaps in project deployment, and offers recommendations for the effective use of technology to strengthen democratic governance in West Africa. The results of the study show that although ICT is still in its infancy in West Africa, it is becoming an increasingly important tool in fighting corruption and monitoring public service delivery in the region.
Mr. Kwami Ahiabenu, II is founder and president of the International Institute for ICT Journalism, an Accra-based organization that promotes journalistic innovation and professionalism across Africa through the effective use of information communication technologies (ICT). One of Ghana’s foremost experts on information technology and democracy, Mr. Ahiabenu has conducted numerous ICT trainings for African journalists and has written extensively on the political uses of information technology. During his Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellowship in March–July 2013, he developed guidelines for enabling ordinary citizens to use information technology to track local government expenditure and ensure that public funds are being used for their intended purpose. He also launched a website, www.OpenWestAfrica.org, aimed at combating corruption and improving public service delivery across West Africa.
Watch video from Kwami Ahiabenu’s fellowship presentation at NED on “Using Technology to Promote Good Governance and Economic Transparency in West Africa” on May 30, 2013