People's Virtual Government: a Developing Country Consultants Project
How it works
Jeffrey Steeves is working to give a voice to the poor and leading the development of the People's Virtual Government at Developing Country Consultants.
In Support of a People's Virtual Government
The idea of a People's Virtual Government arises from the reality that the voices of the poor and absolute poor are often ignored, or if consulted, these voices are likely to be lost in the design of policies, programs and projects. When it comes time to implement development programs or projects, local elites move quickly to capture the benefits for themselves and their client supporters. Local participatory committees and other governance structures as well on occasion, civil society organizations, are captured by powerful patrons within local society. People's Virtual Government presents an alternative approach to this continuing dilemma of how to reach and then listen to and to involve the voices of the poor over an extended period of time.
Developing Country Consultants has designed an internet-based People's Virtual Government to act as the intermediary between the poor and the international community to both engage and empower the poor either in rural or urban settings. A virtual village assembly will be created so that individuals and groups can participate
in discussions to identify the needs and priorities of local society and to build consensus on the strategies to advance the interests of those within the margins of society. The assembly will allow individuals to express their views on a continuing basis in order to participate in decision-making and as well to be able to voice their concerns as program and project implementation takes place. It is crucial to ensure that monitoring and evaluation of development efforts take place at the grassroots of developing country environments as it is only the targeted poor who can address the effectiveness of assistance in alleviating their conditions of despair.
To give effect to this new form of 'direct democracy', Developing Country Consultants will undertake an intensive analysis of the social structure of local society. Our attention will focus sharply on the prevailing distribution of social, economic and political power. This analysis will enable us to determine the process of marginalization of the poor and absolute poor. Then it will be possible to meet directly with those who have been marginalized and integrate them into our system of virtual government. We have to be cognizant of the reality that even the most intensive field extension service may only work to advantage those who are already well beyond the world of poverty.
Even now, a recognized research institute in Kenya continues to present policy overviews which devote their attention predominantly to men in rural society. This gendered bias contradicts completely the central place of women in African agriculture. We will not be insensitive to the need to be gender inclusive. Having engaged those in poverty then the key is to give them a mechanism to express their political and developmental voices. Each individual is given a pass access to a virtual assembly to define their needs, their priorities and to arrive at consensual decisions on how to define and articulate development projects. Given that the virtual assembly is on-going and accessible at any moment, then the task of monitoring agreed projects is straightforward. The key is to ensure that the benefits and opportunities of each project are reaching the intended recipients and not being captured by the more privileged members of local society. The continuing opportunity to express one's interests and concerns represents the innovative potential of a people's virtual government. Developing Country Consultants will work to ensure that this potential will be met.
Dr. Jeffrey Steeves
phone: 1 (306) 221-8921