Sustainability of e-participation through mobile technologies
Muganda, Nixon O
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The social sustainability of ICT for development projects such as e-government in developing nations remains a challenging issue. Particularly pertinent to the concept of e-government is that of electronic participation (e-participation) of citizens in services offered over an e-government platform, yet studies claim that such initiatives exacerbate social exclusion problem. Globally, and specifically in Africa, the ineffective participation of citizens is marked by waning confidence in service delivery capabilities of political institutions, yet e-government is considered as one of the reform instruments for the attainment of good governance. Governments and pressure groups in many countries are realizing that these trends are problematic, and are seeking to broaden and deepen citizen participation in governance, notably through the use of mobile technologies that continues to play a vital role in the trajectory of ICT development in Africa. This study advances the prominent role that mobile technology will play in anchoring e-participation strategies and policies to improve the social sustainability of ICT4D projects geared towards improving governance. The paper presents the results of cluster analysis of a South African survey aimed at assessing the accessibility, attitudes and the skills necessary for embedding mobile technology as part of an e-participation strategy. The results indicate that, despite the predominant perception that socially excluded groups typically lack the skills, equitable access and the right attitudes for e-inclusion mobile technology provides a viable platform for enhancing e-participation. The results also highlighted skepticism related to the potential of mobile technology in augmenting government services. Our analysis revealed that the skepticism is partly linked to aspects of electronic illiteracy. We therefore recommend that for e-government to achieve long term sustainability there should be a focus on electronic literacy in the formal educational sphere and also in work practices.