The techno-centric gaze: incorporating citizen participation technologies into participatory governance processes in the Philippines

The techno-centric gaze: incorporating citizen participation technologies into participatory governance processes in the Philippines

In recent years, government and civil society organisations have increasingly deployed digital tools in their efforts to increase the participation of citizens in various aspects of governance. The term ‘civic tech’ is often used to describe this at the city governance level; however, as this research also considers initiatives that aim to extend citizen participation in global, national and corporate governance, we use the term ‘citizen participation technologies’. Examples of such technologies include interactive government websites, open data portals, online participatory budgeting platforms and text and instant messaging tools. Much of the existing research on citizen participation technologies takes the technology as its starting point, focusing primarily the identification and analysis of technical barriers to adoption and assessing opportunities for technical improvements.

Here, the authors argue that this techno-centric gaze obscures non-use and the reasons that many citizens remain excluded. Instead, this research adopts a human-centric approach, selecting specific user groups as case studies rather than specific technologies, and identifying the contextual social norms and structural power relations that explain the use and non-use of citizen participation technologies.

Qualitative data gathered from semi-structured interviews and focus groups are interpreted through the five ‘A’s of technology access (availability, affordability, awareness, ability and accessibility) and the conceptual lens of the Power Cube, to ask: which forms of power, operating at what levels, and in what sorts of spaces, affect the use and non-use of citizen participation technologies?

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