Information is power. Two-way information flows from government to citizens and from citizens to government are critical for responsible citizenship and responsive and accountable governance.Informed citizens are better equipped to take advantage of opportunities, access services, exercise their rights, negotiate effectively, and hold state and non-state actors accountable. Without information that is relevant, timely, and presented in forms that can be understood, it is impossible for poor people to take effective action. Information dissemination does not stop with the written word, but also includes group discussions, poetry, storytelling, debates, street theater, and soap operas-among other culturally appropriate forms-and uses a variety of media including radio, television, and the Internet. Laws about rights to information and freedom of the press, particularly local press in local languages, provide the enabling environment for the emergence of informed citizen action. Timely access to information in local languages from independent sources at the local level is particularly important, as more and more countries devolve authority to local government.
Most investment projects and institutional reform projects, whether at the community level or at the national or global level, underestimate the need for information and underinvest in information disclosure and dissemination. Critical areas include information about rules and rights to basic government services, about state and private sector performance, and about financial services, markets, and prices. Information and communications technologies can play important roles in connecting poor people to these kinds of information, as well as to each other and to the larger society.
Back to Overview