The Digital Citizen and Development

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The spread of information technologies is engendering a wholesale transformation of citizen (or participative or contributory) sciences. This involves the inclusion of voluntary, non-scientific actors in the process of producing scientific knowledge: their collaboration is enlisted for creating inventories, observing, counting, measuring, and field monitoring (fauna and flora). The technologies are cheap and simple to use, which makes for an increase in the number of projects, the area over which they extend, and the sectors involved. Smartphones with GPS, geographic information systems (GIS) and open access software are the tools now used by NGOs in countries of the South to produce the basic documents needed in providing assistance in emergency situations, in development projects, and in environmental. Whether it involves monitoring the evolution of biodiversity, water, the state of the soil, seismology or the cartography of breeders’ routes, unsurveyed rural community land, or peripheral urban spaces, the involvement of the population, particularly young people, has led to the production of quality documents which public administrations, both regional and local, did not have available. In addition to the wealth of information gathered in databases that no research program nor any administration of a Southern country has the means to collect, the contributions of this shared effort are of prime importance in terms of levers for development. This bridging of the digital divide in a communal endeavor of identification, protection, and development of common goods constitutes a digital, scientific, technical, and innovative civil education. The involvement of the inhabitants introduces local knowledge into a collective heritage; it also develops their abilities, creates awareness that the environment and public space are to be shared and protected, specifies needs, enables mediation, informs demands, and ensures greater transparency.

Collaborative mapping in Senegal

Credit: @pfongue


To quote this article

" The Digital Citizen and Development " World Atlas of Global Issues, 2018, [online], accessed on Mar 15 2021, URL:

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