Mr Douglas Quartey, Programmes Manager at YBF, said it was important to go beyond the traditional ways of disseminating information to citizens and getting their inputs through the use of public information systems to using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) channels to involve more people, especially youth.
In a presentation at the 66th Annual New Year School in Accra, Mr Quartey said it was disturbing that Ghanaians did not show interest in district level elections as they did in national elections, noting that citizen participation in district assembly elections had fallen to below 30 per cent since 1992 compared to about 57 per cent in 1988-89.
“If the people are not interested in electing the people who will ensure development of their communities, how then do we talk of citizen participation or accountability,” he said.
It is in this direction that the YBF focuses on getting the youth to understand the decentralisation process, what it does and what avenues exist for their participation.
“We recognize the power of technology to help government to be more effective by closing the feedback loop,” Mr Quartey said.
In line with this, the YBF in collaboration with a German organization, ‘Liquid Democracy’ and with funding from the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) developed the online platform ‘Ybridge’ to improve youth participation in local governance.
The platform, which is an adaptation of an existing platform for youth mobilisation in Europe, is aimed at engaging the youth without their having to be physically present at a location and to allow them to express their concerns and ideas.
The platform is focused on governance and local development issues and is currently being piloted in four districts of the country, with the hope of extending the service to other districts in all the regions.
The foundation is also planning to link the platform to mobile telecommunications services in order to allow those who do not have access to the internet to access the platform through text messages.
It would also allow those who are not literate to also contribute to discussions using voice messaging in various local languages.
Mr Quartey, however, noted that a major challenge was getting enough funding for such projects and commended the KAS for supporting the Ybridge project.
“The use of ICT is the now and the future and no district should be left out,” he said.