Communicative Ecologies and Mobile Phones: Forging a Way to Increased Citizen Engagement




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Academic Conferences and Publishing International Limited



Peer reviewed



Over the past decades there has been a worldwide shift towards calls for greater transparency and accountability in government. As part of this shift, the way citizens and the state interact with each other has evolved from the traditional top-down governance that has been popular until quite recently, to include more bottom-up governance where citizens initiate interactions with the state. At the same time there has been much discussion amongst academics about the potential of using technology to facilitate greater interaction between these two parties. This paper describes the MobiSAM project, reflecting on the five year research intervention in a small municipality in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. It reflects on the results of two surveys (2014 and 2016) that were undertaken to understand citizens’ access to and use of technology, and participation in local government, to highlight key changes in these areas. It uses the concept of communicative ecologies to identify existing networks within communities and map current communication patterns, enabling digital citizen engagement efforts to be embedded in the existing information and communication structure. The paper then draws from these findings to show how the surveys informed the redesign of the MobiSAM intervention to meet the changing needs of citizens and the municipality.



ICT4D, mobile applications, citizen participation, citizen education, communicative ecologies


Thinyane, H., Siebörger, I., Khene, C., and Mthoko, H. (2017). Communicative Ecologies and Mobile Phones: Forging a Way to Increased Citizen Engagement. 17th European Conference on Digital Government, Lisbon, Portugal, June 2017


Research Institute

Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility (CCSR)