Many claims have been made about the potential of the next generation of
information and communication technologies (ICTs) for community
empowerment and democratisation. Open source information crowdsourcing
platforms like Ushahidi, and open mapping and data initiatives like
OpenStreetMap, are enabling citizens in developing countries to generate
and disseminate information critical for their lives and livelihoods. In
some cases these open ICTs contribute to the creation of a new
information commons, a shared set of information resources.
These tools, which are used in conjunction with commercial Web 2.0
services and an array of digital media, are seen to create new
architectures of participation that have the potential to change the
relationship between producers and consumers of information, putting
communities in the driving seat.
This report draws on an original empirical investigation of Map Kibera,
a community information platform that takes advantage of open ICTs, and
similar initiatives to provide key insights on the challenges and
opportunities for vulnerable and marginalised communities presented by
this latest wave of ICT innovations. The contributions made by these
projects to local capacity building and the build up of a new
information commons needs to be understood in conjunction with:
- challenges emerging from efforts to sustain participation and govern
the new information commons in under-resourced and politically
- complications and risks emerging from the desire to share information
freely in such contexts
- gaps between information provision, transparency and accountability,
and the slow materialisation of projects' wider social benefits.
The study also highlights:
- the role of the open source social entrepreneur as a new development
- the complexity of the architectures of participation supported by
these platforms and the need to consider them in relation to the
decision-making processes that they aim to support and the roles in
which they cast citizens
- the possibilities for cross-fertilisation of ideas and the
development of new practices between development practitioners and
technology actors committed to working with communities to improve
lives and livelihoods.
The report concludes by setting out a research agenda that builds upon
this initial work.
Mediating voices and communicating realities. Using information crowdsourcing tools, open data initiatives and digital media to support and protect the vulnerable and marginalised. Final project report. Institute of Development Studies, Brighton, UK, 83 pp.