Digitalization in developing countries: Catalyst or hindrance for inclusive governance?

Digitalization strategies by developing countries and donors (eg the World Bank's Digital Development Partnerships) aim to use technologies for improved sustainable development. The question often remains open as to how the use of technologies should be regulated and what significance this has for the political development of developing countries. Therefore, the project aims to generate recommendations for (a) the use of digital technologies in governance development and (b) the framework for the use of digital technologies in African development processes.

Project Lead:
Sebastian Ziaja

Project Team:

Jana Bante (African Studies)

Felix Helmig (European Studies)

Lara Prasad (Politik- /Verwaltungswissenschaft)

Lea Scheu (Int. Studien/Friedens-/Konfliktforschung)

Christoph Seipel (Politikwissenschaft)

Helge Senkpiel (Development Management)

Time frame:
2019 - 2020 / ongoing

Project description

This project explores whether digitalization fosters democratic consolidation in Botswana and Namibia. Expectations about the impact of internet and communication technology (ICT) on governance were high in the early 2000s. The internet was hailed as “liberation” technology due to its potential to improve transparency of government action and to facilitate coordination among civil society. Recent literature, however, shows that authoritarian rulers employ the internet as a repression tool.

In Botswana and Namibia, the political regimes have been largely democratic since independence in 1966 and 1990, respectively. But politics is dominated by the ruling parties and leaves little room for civil society. Here, ICT may fulfil its promise and empower both organizations and citizens to utilize their political rights more proactively.

We look at a particular application of ICT: the delivery of public services. Governments employ digital technology to make the provision of services more effective and efficient. At the same time, digitalization standardizes access to these services and makes them more transparent. Standardization and transparency may provide an experience of equality and eligibility to the citizens and empower non-governmental organizations to claim the people’s rights more effectively. We thus investigate whether the introduction of digital technology in service provision improves democratic governance, popular participation, and support for democracy.

The project will generate insights on the impact of strategies of digitalization in governance. This is of particular relevance to development policy, where digitalization is promoted by many donors (e.g., the Digital Development Partnerships of the World Bank). The project also contributes to the larger research agenda of DIE’s research programme “Transformation of Political (Dis-)order” by examining determinants of regime change and the cross-cutting topic of digitalization.

Project Coordination

Bettina Beer

Current Publications

Slow onset climate risks require a strong governance mechanism

Aleksandrova, Mariya/ Idil Boran
The Current Column of 14 October 2019

More than money: does climate finance support capacity building?

Stender, Frederik / Ulf Moslener / Willem P. Pauw
Externe Publikationen of 11 October 2019

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