The use of public ICTs to empower and enhance citizens’ participation in the North West Province
Ndlovu, Abednigo Thamsanqa
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Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are broadly recognized as being of paramount importance in empowering and enhancing citizen’s participation. The government and non-governmental organizations as well as private organizations have contributed extensively towards public ICTs which include public libraries, internet cafes, telecentres and many more. Public ICT centers have been built in urban areas in the North West province, some are operating some are not, some have skilled personnel some do not. Some have the capability to accommodate diverse citizen’s needs including those citizens with disabilities while some do not accommodate disabled citizens. With all these public ICTs put in place, there is no evidence whether citizens are being empowered, participate and benefits from using public ICTs. This study therefore, aims to place the use of public ICTs as an artifact that can empower and enhance citizen’s participation in politics, health, agriculture and education in the North West (NW) province. This study employed both quantitative and qualitative research methods (mixed method) for the research design and methodology the study was therefore, qualitative in a nature where interviews were conducted for data collection as well as quantitative where questionnaires were administered for data collection. The study concludes that public ICTs can be used as an artefact that the government can use to empower and enhance citizens’ participation. The enquiry also concludes that both the poor and the rich citizens have equal chance to be empowered and get access to different kinds of information through public ICTs. Moreover, the study concludes that the use of public ICTs have closed the gap between public inclusion and public exclusion. The recommendations emanating from the study are that, public ICTs should also open during public holidays and after working hours. Training should be provided to citizens on how to use the equipment found in public ICT centres. Public ICT centres must be structured in a way that people with disability are accommodated.