31 August 2008

Mobile phones boost democratic processes in Africa

With mobile phones becoming more affordable and available, users are finding new ways to employ them. CNN reports that improved communications are helping election officials, journalists and citizens ensure transparent and accurate election polls.
25 August 2008, LONDON, England (CNN) -- The humble mobile phone is driving a new revolution which some experts hope could bring fairer elections and democracy to some African states.
Visiting African political expert at Indiana University, Sheldon Gellar, said cellphones were much more accessible than the internet in most parts of Africa, and therefore had greater potential to influence transparency.
Leonardo Arriola, Associate Professor at University of California, Berkeley, is wary about the potential of the technologies to make some situations worse. "... a lot of misinformation can get out that way..."
...scholars and observers agree that pockets full of mobile handsets will not be enough to build stable democratic states and hold future fair elections.
Gellar said a number of other factors needed to progress before a state could move towards a more democratic model of governance: strengthening independent media; growing and ensuring freedom of civil society; decentralizing power, ceding more control to local governments; empowering women; improving judicial systems to ensure independence and power to punish.
"New technology is not a panacea, but it can speed up processes of democratization and should be encouraged," he concluded.
[Source]

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