One of the objectives of CommGAP and this blog is to strengthen citizen voice in the public sphere, particularly of those who are often marginalized in public spaces. This voice in the public sphere is important for any advocacy effort or social movement and also an essential right for every individual. As one part of the process of building this voice, participation in various decision-making and policy processes is seen as an integral part of development work. In fact, it has been a development buzzword since the late 1970s. But sometimes participating can be a setback.
The World Region
A large number of posts on this blog have revolved around citizen engagement in the policymaking process. Some have centered on public participation in public sector budgeting. We have featured, among others, a deliberative poll in Zeguo Township, China, participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and a book on participatory budgeting with examples from six countries, including India, Mexico, South Africa, and Croatia. We have also talked about the much touted success of newspaper publication of education sector budgets in Uganda. Public Expenditure Tracking Surveys found that public access to budget information led to a strong and significant reduction in corruption.
In my mind, these examples break down the wall which 18th century political philosopher Edmund Burke erected between the “trustee” vs. “delegate” models of democratic representation (he favored the former).
In the context of a discussion of ICT/education policies, GeSCI's Jyrki Pulkkinen takes a step back and asks, who really needs policy? While he doesn't provide answers to this question himself in his note (yet -- I suspect this is coming), he follows up with a set of high-level, practical guiding questions for people involved in these processes.
When thinking about the questions that Jyrki poses, I had a few questions of my own: What are best practices for the development of such policies and plans? Where can we turn to for examples of such policies and plans to help inform work in this area?
Net neutrality is a hot topic right now in various countries around the world, with the debate over its value and its feasability being tied to discussions about broadband penetration and service delivery over the internet.
For a quick definition of the concept, here's an excerpt from Wikipedia:
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) schools in India has just announced a mobile phone ban, echoing similar calls in many other places (from Sri Lanka to South Korea, from the UK to the Philippines to France) to restrict student access to what are often seen as 'devices of distraction'.
Why then will the World Bank will be kicking off a study next month looking at "The Use of Mobile Phones in Education in Developing Countries"?
California’s recent budget debacle is not an isolated case. An opinion piece entitled "Budgets by the People, for the People" by Chris Elmendorf and Ethan J. Leib in The New York Times reports that since 2002, 14 States in the U.S. have experienced delays in budget approval. They also suggest a solution. The key to resolving budget deadlocks is citizen participation.
Here’s what they propose.
Technical specialists like to name social problems using the language of their disciplines, and of whatever narrow policy community they belong to. What they often forget is that to secure broad support within the relevant political community how you define the problem that you are asking society to focus on and do something about matters. It matters a great deal. In fact, it can be the difference between getting the attention of legislators and broad publics or having your issue ignored.
For a live example consider the current efforts to implement health-care reform in the United States, something that presidents have been trying to do for about 50 years. Let's ask: What's wrong with America's health care system? What needs to be fixed? In other words what is the definition of the problem?
The recent release of the World Bank's new flagship publication on ICT for development (ICT4D) contains much food for thought for educational policymakers. IC4D 2009: Extending Reach and Increasing Impact takes an in-depth look at how ICT, and particularly broadband and mobile, are impacting economic growth in developing countries.
How can education systems help develop the type of workers increasingly needed for jobs that increasingly require familiarity (and in some cases mastery) of ICTs -- a challenge complicated by the fact that many of these jobs may not yet even exist?
A CommGAP colleague and I recently spent a week in Kampala, Uganda, to attend a workshop with communication and media research teams from 14 African and Asian countries. These country teams make up the BBC World Service Trust’s Research & Learning (R&L) Group, headed by Dr. Gerry Power, who also manages an expert group in their London head office.
More than 15 development-oriented projects were presented during the workshop, including media productions, capacity building and training efforts, and public information and advocacy campaigns.
As interdependence between the developed (North) and developing countries (South) becomes greater, the economic policies of the North will invariably impact on the South.