Reframing Local Knowledge: ICTs, Statebuilding, and Peacebuilding in Eastern Africa

Carnegie Corporation of New York
Date Range: 
01 Nov 2012 to 28 Feb 2015
Principal Investigators: 

The ICTs, Statebuilding & Peacebuilding in Eastern Africa project seeks to bring greater clarity about the expectations and the realities of the use of communication technologies in developing contexts. In media and development--theory, policy and practice, however, strong normative statements about the transformative power of ICTs have often clouded the understanding of how people and communities actually make sense of, and engage with, the old and new communication technologies that surround them. This two-year project explores the use of ICTs in Eastern Africa.

At the macro level, by examining how norms and practices in the field of ICT which have emerged internationally are adopted, resisted or reshaped at the local level. Donors, international organizations and NGOs have sought to promote standards defining how ICTs should support state-building, peacebuilding, and governance, for example by facilitating transparency and accountability or by opening new avenues for people to raise voice and participate in decision making processes. These attempts, however, have promoted mixed reactions: some governments have embraced them while others have selectively adhered only to some aspects, while marginalizing others. By looking at the way ICT policies have been shaped and implemented in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, we want to understand how different discourses (e.g. development, stability, prevention of violence) and actors (from governments to religious organizations) have been instrumental in shaping ICT policy and practice and how these can support or disrupt state-building and peace-building. At the micro level, by exploring how the practices and policies promoted at the international and national level actually compare to the uses citizens make of ICTs. This second component of the project focuses on case studies which can exemplify the emergent, rather than prescriptive, nature of ICTs uses in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, exploring for example how different actors may coalesce to provide and access services in the absence of a functioning state, or how citizens perceive the attempts of a state to capture ICTs to support its state building efforts, while reducing the space for political competition.