Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow, National Endowment for Democracy
with comments by
Founding Coeditor, Journal of Democracy and Co-chair, International Forum for Democratic Studies’ Research Council, National Endowment for Democracy
International Forum for Democratic Studies
About the event
In recent years, a majority of the 15 ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) member countries have enjoyed expanded political freedoms and have passed a variety of reform measures to combat corruption, including the establishment of a regional anti-corruption institution. Despite this progress, the region still confronts instability, limited transparency, and weak democratic governance.
In response to these ongoing challenges, countries across West Africa have begun to harness the power of information communication technologies (ICT), primarily as a tool to monitor elections. Beyond their application in electoral environments, however, the full potential of new technologies to enable transparency, fight corruption, and monitor public service delivery has yet to be fully realized.
In his presentation, Kwami Ahiabenu provided an overview of how new digital technologies, including online platforms, mobile apps, SMS, and social media, are being used to promote democratic governance and economic transparency in ECOWAS member states. He assessed relevant projects, identified gaps in project deployment, and offered recommendations for the effective use of technology to strengthen democratic governance in West Africa.
His presentation was followed by comments by Larry Diamond.
About the speakers
Mr. Kwami Ahiabenu is founder and president of the International Institute for ICT Journalism, an Accra-based organization that promotes journalistic innovation and professionalism across Africa through the effective use of information communication technologies (ICT). Under Mr. Ahiabenu’s leadership, the Institute established the African Elections Project, which seeks to enhance the ability of mainstream media and citizen journalists to harness the power of ICT technologies to provide timely, relevant, and impartial election coverage and analysis. One of Ghana’s foremost experts on information technology and democracy, Mr. Ahiabenu has conducted numerous ICT trainings for African journalists and has written extensively on the political uses of information technology, including mobile phones, micro-blogging, community radio, and social media. He is also involved in accountability projects aimed at strengthening the media’s monitoring role over the extractive sector in Ghana and Uganda. During his fellowship, Mr. Ahiabenu is working to develop guidelines for enabling ordinary citizens to use information technology to track local government expenditure and ensure that public funds are being used for their intended purpose.
Mr. Larry Diamond, the founding coeditor of the Journal of Democracy and the co-chair of the Research Council of the International Forum for Democratic Studies of the National Endowment for Democracy, is the director of Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law.