Case Study

Program Advisory for Social Cohesion

How can information and communication technologies support social cohesion after a revolution?

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Technology played a key role in the 2010-11 Tunisian Revolution, enabling otherwise disparate communities to express their frustrations as a powerful collective. But while information and communication technologies (ICTs) demonstrated their ability to topple a repressive government, how they could be deployed in building a responsible one was less clear. Beyond enabling online collaboration, could ICTs also be harnessed to foster broader social cohesion?

Working with infoDev, Reboot led a countrywide investigation to understand how international donors should structure and schedule their ICT investments in Tunisia to support the country’s forward trajectory. Charting the use of ICTs by citizens, civil society, the private sector, and government stakeholders prior to and during the revolution, we identified openings to capitalize on technology’s ability to improve governance, expand economic opportunity, and, ultimately, encourage social cohesion. Our findings and recommendations were published as part of infoDev’s “ICTs for Post-Conflict Reconstruction” series, which formed the foundation of the World Bank’s ICT investment strategy in post-conflict nations.

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In January 2011, weeks of popular protest led to the ouster of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and the formation of the country’s first representative government in over three decades. New technologies played a critical role in these landmark events, enabling otherwise disparate communities to express their frustrations as a powerful collective. ICTs helped people gain a vivid awareness of unequal economic opportunities, uneven social structures, and non-transparent institutions. A vibrant community of activists, especially those organizing online, worked to amplify the voices of regular people in the development of a new social contract.

In the pursuit of a post-revolutionary society, the application of ICTs continues to hold great promise for creating opportunities that can similarly unite and engage disparate swaths of Tunisian society. But in the year following the revolution, how exactly to do so remained an open question. Seeking to inform the engagement of international donors in post-revolution Tunisia, infoDev asked Reboot to explore how various social, civic, and governmental institutions were using technology and, based on these institutional capacities, propose how they could deploy technology in the future to improve service delivery and social accountability.

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