Kenyan eParticipation Ecologies and the Rise of African Techno-Discourses: Methodological and Ethical Challenges in Understanding the Role of ICTs in Kenya.
The objective of this chapter is to demonstrate why there is a real need to shift the current research approach to the study of ICTs for Democracy and Development in Africa and how such shift may occur.
The term eParticipation will be used to define a specific field of study that attempts to investigate how ICTs can be applied to improve citizen/community participation and consequently their capacity to influence government decision-making processes.
The term techno–discourse will be used to describe a system of thoughts composed of cultural and political values, beliefs and media practices that systematically construct the subjects and the worlds that are defined by it. Therefore a techno-discourse should be considered as an interpretative framework built to influence technological innovation processes and their different impacts on different societies.
The production and appropriation process behind the Kenyan eParticipation project Ushahidi generated a techno-discourse about the rise of African cyberdemocracies and the power of crowd-sourcing. This techno-discourse is deeply connected to a specific economical, cultural and political vision of a definable group of people and is currently affecting the Kenyan society at different levels and in different ways.
By using the eParticipation ecology analytical framework, we will try to understand the different phases of this process and its possible future impact on Kenyan society.
Kenya e-Participation Ecologies and the Theory of Games
An e-Participation ecology is composed of five elements—actors, contents, traditional culture of participation, existing media skills and practices, and discourses in conflicts (establishment vs. antagonists)—and three macro-dimensions—cultural/traditional, political, and socio-technological–with which the five elements are interacting (Cavallo, 2010). Game theory can be used to understand how a certain actor or a group of actors can develop a successful strategy in/for each one of the three dimensions. Therefore, the concept of Nash equilibrium (Nash Jr., 1950), developed in physics and successfully applied in economy and other fields of study, can be borrowed also by e-Participation analysts/project managers to develop “Win-Win” scenarios in order to increase e-Participation projects’ chances of success and consequently reduce e-Participation’s “risk of failures,” especially in developing countries where they usually occur more frequently (Heeks, 2002). The Kenyan e-Participation platform, Ushahidi, generated a techno-discourse about the rise of African Cyberdemocracy and the power of crowd-sourcing that is probably more relevant than the real impact that these e-Participation platforms had or will have on the lives of normal citizens and media activists. Download Link http://www.igi-global.com/chapter/kenya-participation-ecologies-theory-games/74966