Infomediaries and accountability (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1347)
Infomediaries refers to actors who synthesize, translate, simplify and direct information on behalf of others.
A synthesis of what the existing evidence says (and where there are gaps) on: (1) What role might ‘infomediaries’, and specifically the media have in helping translate transparency into greater government accountability? In generating that accountability? In empowering citizens? (2) In what contexts or types of contexts do ‘infomediaries’ and media play such a facilitating role, and why? (3) What enabling factors contributed to success? (4) What role, if any, have donors had in supporting these sectors in this capacity? (5) What risks exist in this space?
The term “infomediaries” – or information intermediaries – is used to refer to actors who “synthesize, translate, simplify and direct information on behalf of others”. There appears to be strong evidence of the link between free media and better governance and government responsiveness on a range of issues (e.g. public spending on education and health). A DFID review on corruption (2015) reports a small body of evidence that finds the freedom of the press as an intermediate factor moderating the relationship between transparency and accountability.
There appears, however, to be a research gap for in-depth comparative or meta-analysis examining how, where and why the media – or other infomediaries – has helped translate transparency initiatives into greater government accountability. Nevertheless, the small but growing body of single case studies does indicate the kinds of accountability impacts that infomediaries are helping to generate. Examples include: improving people’s knowledge of key governance issues and sometimes their political participation, and catalysing changes to service delivery such as increasing school budget allocations.
Carter, B. Infomediaries and accountability (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1347). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2016) 14 pp.