Internet and mobile phones crucial for developing democracy in Africa

January 31, 2007.  

ZEFConsult presents study on information technologies in Africa to the German Bundestag


Berlin, 31 January 2007 –


ZEFConsult is a unit at the Center for Development Research (ZEF) of the University of Bonn dealing with evidence-based policy advice. It presents a study on “Information and communication technology for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Sub-Saharan Africa” to the development committee of the German Bundestag in Berlin today. The study was conducted in cooperation with the German software company SAP. Two hundred NGOs in South Africa, Kenya, and Ethiopia have been interviewed between September and October 2006.


“One of the most surprising results of the study is that promoting ICT is of equal importance in Sub-Saharan Africa as promoting basic needs”, says Dr. Hartmut Ihne, director of ZEFConsult. “We can conclude, therefore, that personal computers, internet, and mobile phones are crucial in fulfilling basic needs and building up a civil society. The study shows that ICT plays an important mediatory role in processes of societal change and democratic development”, adds Dr. Ihne.


Another remarkable outcome of the study is that the media forms such as internet, personal computers, and mobile phones are the main sources of information and information technologies for NGOs in developing countries. In fact, they have leapfrogged classical means of communication like radio, TV and even printmedia.


“We endorsed in our recommendations that the educative function of NGOs in setting up democratic societies in Sub-Saharan Africa is of crucial importance”, explains Dr. Ihne. “However, NGOs can only play this pivotal role effectively if a) they can make use of a well-functioning ICT-infrastructure; b) they have well-trained staff who are able to use the ICT structures, and c) a sustainable and adequate funding is guaranteed. We therefore strongly recommend German development politics to engage in efforts of establishing an international NGO fund to support the poorest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa with developing their ICT potential. Also, ICT can play an exemplary role in implementing private-public-partnership programs for NGOs and private companies. All in all the German government needs a comprehensive development strategy for ICT in Africa in which ICT as a promoting tool for democracy play a primary role”, concludes Dr. Ihne.



- Press release (german)

- Study "Die Bedeutung von IKT für zivilgesellschaftliches Engagement" (german)


Alma van der Veen