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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:People, technology and spaces: towards a new generation of social movements
Author:Thigo, PhilipISNI
Periodical:Journal of Contemporary African Studies (ISSN 0258-9001)
Geographic term:Kenya
Subjects:information technology
State-society relationship
political change
Abstract:This paper reflects the activist experience of the author at the Nairobi-based Social Development Network (SODNET), one of a new generation of agencies that are seeking to deploy new communication technology for socially emancipatory purposes. The paper makes three claims concerning the political effects of social movement activists deploying ICT. Firstly, it argues that in Kenya, the use of ICT by civil society agencies has helped to open up and enlarge new kinds of political space - 'self-created spaces'. These spaces offer new kinds of political possibilities in contrast to the organised and managed spaces occupied by more institutionalised and officially registered 'non-government organisations'. The author's second claim is that these new spaces are arenas that can accommodate a new type of politics. The communicative network that groups such as Ushahidi and Huduma have embedded within the communities in which they are active facilitate quite novel configurations of collective action. These permit the political effectiveness of less organised groups, they broaden the social range of political expression, and they give equality to different voices - through such instruments as crowd-sourcing. The author's third claim is that popular deployment of communication technology is also opening up novel prospects for advancing the State's capacity. The official Kenyan Open Data Initiative is an unprecedented effort by an African government to provide information about its functions and resources available to citizens. In doing so it represents an important extension of government functionality. Movements such as Huduma and Ushahidi are primarily concerned with empowering poor and rightless groups. However, in their chosen strategy of 'constructive engagement', people-centred ICT networks might also significantly transform and enlarge the bases of African State power. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]