Crowdsourcing accountability: ICT for service delivery

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We examine the effect on service delivery outcomes of a new information communication technology (ICT) platform that allows citizens to send free and anonymous messages to local government officials, thus reducing the cost and increasing the efficiency of communication about public services. In particular, we use a field experiment to assess the extent to which the introduction of this ICT platform improved monitoring by the district, effort by service providers, and inputs at service points in health, education and water in Arua District, Uganda. We find suggestive evidence of a short-term improvement in some education services, but these effects deteriorate by year two of the program, and we find little or no evidence of an effect on health and water services at any period. Despite relatively high levels of system uptake, enthusiasm of district officials, and anecdotal success stories, we find that relatively few messages from citizens provided specific, actionable information about service provision within the purview and resource constraints of district officials, and users were often discouraged by officials’ responses. Our findings suggest that for crowd-sourced ICT programs to move from isolated success stories to long-term accountability enhancement, the quality and specific content of reports and responses provided by users and officials is centrally important.

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