UN-Habitat and Cellent AG, the Austrian coordinator of the European Union's Future Policy Modeling (FUPOL) consortium, teamed up with the Kenyan authorites at a two-day seminar this month to take advantage of the country's technology boom so that people in every walks of life can use their mobile telephones and other devices to join in programmes aimed at helping combat poverty, especially in urban slums.
The idea is to use the latest information and communications technology (ICT) to solicit the views and ideas of ordinary people so that programmes such as slum upgrading aimed at addressing poverty, land and housing problems can be tailored to what those in need consider the key priorities.
At the two-day meeting November 6-7, UN-Habitat's Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme and the Local Government and Decentralisation team and the EU partner met with various institutions and community based organizations in Kenya to see how ICT enabled participation (e- participation) tools can be used to help achieve community ownership and participation in various projects.
"FUPOL aims at a completely new approach to traditional politics," the consortium said in a statement. "Major innovations like multichannel social computing and crowd sourcing will change the way politicians communicate with citizens and enterprises, and take decisions. The system will be able to automatically collect, analyze and interpret opinions expressed on a large scale."
Although young people are more likely to use twitter, facebook and other modern platforms, participants agreed that any new e-participation tool would have to be complemented by other mechanisms to secure the engagement of all sectors of the society, especially their elders.
"With this e-participation tool, UN-Habitat expects to increase the participation of all in the community throughout a development intervention," the agency said. "One challenge of developing a community-led and owned project as identified was that participation is only emphasized in the problem identification stage – but barely when it comes to the stages of planning, design, resource mobilisation, implementation and monitoring." UN-Habitat expects to pilot an e-participation tool in Kenya during 2013.