New digital technologies including social media and mobile phones are increasingly being used by citizens to hold duty bearers to account and making collective voices heard. This major global trend towards the use of new digital technologies is being recorded by all arms of governments such as the executive, parliaments and judiciary as they work to improve quality of public service delivery by enabling them to incorporate citizen’s voices.
The White House, for example, in addition to its numerous applications of digital technologies, has a dedicated website “we the people” website https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/ where citizens’ voices are channeled to the government. E-justice is also growing with Ghana currently implementing e-justice project. Also parliaments all over the world are now making use of ICTs in their work, with http://www.openingparliament.org/casestudies providing some examples. Ghana is also making significant strides in this area; with each passing day recording innovative usage of new digital technologies to enable citizens connect with both unelected and elected public officials better.
On 1st November 2013, Penplusbytes with technical and financial support from STAR-Ghana commenced an exciting 14 months project titled “Providing effective feedback for parliamentary work through new digital technologies” aimed at supporting Ghana’s Parliament Select Committee on Government Assurance (GAC) in executing their oversight work over government promises. The project is designed to increase interaction between the Government Assurance Committee and Citizens using new digital technology platforms such as the online platform www.assurances.gov.gh , SMS (1904 on Vodafone, Airtel & Expresso and 7000 for MTN); social media (Twitter: @govassurance and Facebook: www.facebook.com/govassurancesgh) coupled with structured engagement using the media to enable grassroots to interface with this platform.
The system basically works by listing selected assurances made by government ministers on the floor of parliament; the platform provides an avenue for members of the public to provide feedback on the selected assurances. This valuable feedback from the citizenry will add to the field visits by members of GAC to monitor delivery of promises in their oversight role of holding ministers accountable on assurance made.
In additional to providing easy and accessible information on government assurances especially on Health and Education, the project is creating citizen awareness on government assurances, opportunity for citizens and CSOs to engage with parliament and empowers citizen to advocate for better service delivery.
“Providing effective feedback for parliamentary work through new digital technologies project” will periodically produce reports and alerts which will document status of assurances and relevant citizens’ feedback.
Parliament is the representative of citizens, however, parliaments all over the world are on constant look out for opportunities to effectively engage with citizens especially in between elections, “Providing effective feedback for parliamentary work through new digital technologies project “ is coming at an opportune time to support Government Assurance Committee of Ghana’s Parliament as they play an important role of ensuring promises made by Ministers of state becomes a reality and not empty promises.
SOURCE: Pen Plus Bytes, May 13th 2014: http://penplusbytes.org/detail.cfm?prodcatID=3&tblNewsCatID=15&tblNewsID...