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Where Digital Literacy, Social Media, and Fighting Corruption Converge

PotnisSocial media provide tools for people across the world to utilize in versatile ways – and in some cases, they can change countries. One aspect of this phenomenon was recently studied by School of Information Sciences Associate Professor Devendra Potnis and two SIS students, Hilary Jasmin and Lindsey McLennan. Their research, for the United States Embassy Nairobi Economic Affairs Section, focused on ways that people in countries with corrupt governments can use social media as a means for lasting, positive change.

Potnis and his students’ research focused on the correlation between digital literacy and a government’s ability to manage good governance. They looked into how digital literacy makes it easier for governments to implement good governance measures, but also observed whether digitally literate populations put governments into a place of increased accountability. The project’s aim was to help United States diplomats address real-world challenges in developing countries and to illustrate the value of information literacy and digital literacy for addressing research questions and real-world problems at the intersection of public administration, e-Governance, communication, and information science. The research was also intended to inspire the students who worked on the project to serve their country through research and to train them in research methods.

“Hilary Jasmin, one of the MSIS students who worked on this project, was so inspired by this experience, including interacting with officers from the US Embassy Nairobi Economics Section that she has decided to pursue a public service career and is currently preparing for the relevant exams,” said Potnis.

Potnis and his students researched these points:

  • Types of corruption in various levels of governments, and ways to detect and prevent it.
  • Ways in which corruption creates barriers to good governance and its adverse effects on citizens.
  • The role of electronic governance in creating transparency and accountability to alleviate corruption.
  • Dimensions and degrees of digital literacy of citizens measured broadly in terms of their ability to access and use information and communication technologies and digital information.
  • The role of digital literacy of citizens in shaping the mode and degree of their electronic-participation in creating good governance.
  • Factors influencing willingness and capability of citizens to apply digital literacy for preventing corruption.

As a result of this research, the US Embassy plans to use the team’s guidelines for using social media for training citizen journalists to fight corruption in developing countries, and they are interested in several of Potnis’ research papers and ongoing projects related to e-Governance and social media.

Submitted by Hillary Tune