Why should funders be interested in “the Digital Dividend”?

Why should funders be interested in “the Digital Dividend”?
août 4, 2015 Sarah Pugh

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Loren Treisman is the Executive of Indigo Trust, a UK foundation that supports organisations to use mobile and web-based technologies to stimulate social change in African countries.  Loren is also a member of this year’s Ariadne Grant Skills Day planning committee.

I am delighted to be involved with Ariadne’s Grant Skills Day, which this year will focus on the ‘Digital Dividend for Social Change and Human Rights Funders’.

So what’s this got to do with me as a human rights or social justice funder, I hear you say?  While new technology isn’t a panacea for all social problems, its use enables us to share and create information at a cost, scale and speed never before possible.  Therefore, when its use is integrated into well devised campaigns and programmes, it can dramatically amplify their impact.

Take the example of the Bagega community in Northern Nigeria.  Poor mining practices in the area had led to thousands needing urgent healthcare but the $5.3 million allocated never arrived. Follow The Money collected evidence (photos, testimonies etc), created an infographic and then partnered with other organisations to drive a Twitter storm that targeted MPs and other officials. The result?  Within forty-eight hours the Nigerian government had committed to releasing the funds.

Examples are emerging from across the globe of technologies that have helped civil society organisations to gain feedback from their beneficiaries in real-time – amplifying the voice of marginalised communities and ensuring that they are able to obtain critical information about the issues affecting them in areas like health, education and agriculture.  Technology is also helping to inform citizens about their elected representatives and the laws that govern them and is supporting them to mobilise and hold government to account.

We have supported the UK-based mySociety, a leading developer of democracy and citizen participation, to partner with organisations in Africa to establish  the People’s Assembly site in South Africa and similar sites in Ghana (Odekro), Nigeria (Shine Your Eye) and Kenya (Mzalendo). These websites provide information on parliamentary proceedings and elected representatives and encourage citizen action by asking people to sign petitions and participate in campaigns and elections. The sites also help in the drive for open democracy by revealing for instance, the attendance record of Ministers and the details of their contributions to parliamentary committees and plenaries.

I think the Ariadne Grant Skills Day is important because it will give funders the opportunity to learn more about the technologies driving change, to improve their practical skills and their understanding of the different applications and to appreciate the opportunities and threats so that they and their grantees will be able to make better use of these technologies.

To find out more about the Grant Skills Day please email lori.stanciu@ariadne-network.eu

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