Democratic governance and mobile phones

“Don’t get grandma hear it” was what US soldier Stephen Philips was reported in the Newsweek as saying when his cell phone redialled home during a fire-fight in Afghanistan and broadcast the chaos into his parent’s answering machine . Though it would have been traumatic for the parents of Stephen Philips, yet this is an example of how mobile phones connect us all to far-flung yet vital realities. From Zimbabwe and Kenya to China and Kuwait , from electoral processes and women’s suffrage to the voicing dissent against oppression, mobiles are already revolutionising our approach to and understanding of public participation in governance. Mobiles have already demonstrated in many countries around the world that in the hands of a vibrant civil society they are powerful tools that hold government and public institutions accountable, their interactions transparent and their transactions efficient. Conversations inspired, produced, stored and disseminated through mobiles are rapidly changing the manner in which we imagine the State, interact with government and participate in the mechanisms and institutions of democratic governance.

Read my full paper here

UPDATE – 13th June 2008

This essay is published in the i4D magazine June 2008 issue. Download and read the PDF as it appears in print and online here.


  1. Some thoughts on mobile phones and the digital divide « ICT for Peacebuilding (ICT4Peace) - August 3, 2008

    […] is this really a problem? I note in a recent paper on mobile phones and governance that, From Zimbabwe and Kenya to China and Kuwait , from electoral processes and women’s suffrage […]

  2. The great leveller: Mobile phones in India flag potential for m-gov elsewhere too « ICT for Peacebuilding (ICT4Peace) - May 12, 2009

    […] have written extensively about the potential of mobiles for governance. One risks dissapointment by hoping that ICTA in Sri Lanka will stop its nonsensical scatter of […]

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