Women and young people are often left out went policy decisions are taken. Now, in Kayes, new digital opportunities are created to get involved and engaged in politics thanks to the "Mon Elu" application.
Kayes is a 618 km drive away from Mali's capital Bamako. It is the country's foremost region; it is also one of the hottest in the country. The city of Kayes is nicknamed the city of rails for the trains that once brought prosperity to the region; what remains of the "Trans Kayes" now illustrates the precarious situation the city is in.
Unemployment leads young people to migrate and others to take refuge in drugs. Despite the harshness of life, some young people get involved in politics and try to achieve change. Moussa Diawara is one of them. He runs the association Kirmaga Kafo; he is 31 years old and has a master's in geography/land use planning. Moussa is from the Sahel commune and a member of the Association Guidimakha Kafo Communes (ACGK).
Moussa Diawara (© Ousmane Makaveli)
What motivates your engagement?
I understood that just by myself I cannot do anything impactful and sustainable for our communities. The challenges that young people face are many: education and vocational training, unemployment and underemployment, access to essential services, culture, leisure, etc.
Our concerns are rarely taken into account by elected representatives. That is why we have to unite in order to jointly initiate timely actions but, above all, to support local elected representatives.
What issues have you come across in this area?
The main problem for us is the lack or poor quality of communication between elected representatives and young people. We do not have the right to speak. When there are meetings, the elected representatives listen to the traditional authorities. This is a great pity, because we have things to say and we consider that only young people can speak on our their behalf.
Many of us have little understanding of political and civic life. Young people do not always know their rights and how institutions function. You need tools to effectively monitor the commitments of elected representatives and the various achievements of the commune and, if necessary, to mobilise, denounce situations or launch petitions.
According to a survey of ISOC Mali 63.62% of people in Mali spend an average 5 hours per day on the internet. And 29.69% use WhatsApp.
Moussa is using "Mon Elu" application (© Ousmane Makaveli).
Do you think that digital technology can promote citizen's participation?
We are already very active online. We use Facebook and WhatsApp to communicate and plan activities in the field.
We fortunately discovered apps like “Mon Elu” and “Xensa”. These are platforms that allow us to directly contact local elected representatives. This is important because there are things that we do not dare to say in front of the elected representatives but with the applications we can express ourselves freely and we have the impression that our voice is heard. To use "My Elu", you must just have a smartphone with Android and download the application via "Play Store". Once the application is installed, all you have to do is create a user account and register in your commune and participate in the platform.
Very often our questions on the platform remain unanswered. Surely, because our questions are disturbing. A total of 274 people are registered on "Mon Elu", including 17 elected representatives. Some elected representatives did not take the tutorial on how to use the application or they are not familiar with digital tools. It requires a little time to get familiar with the tool.
I also use “Xensa”, a web application that you can easily find via Google. Like with “Mon Elu”, by creating an account, we can launch a petition, question an elected representative or an institution, or denounce a situation. To date, for the Kayes region, “Xensa” has registered 209 reactions (15% from elected representatives) and 17 committed citizens (question, petition or claim)
I, for example, launched a petition on the poor state of the roads in the commune of Kayes, especially within the Kayes Ndi district. The petition was signed by 30 people but the mayor of the commune did not react. My ability to mobilise people was a little limited because, at that time, it was not possible to share the petition on other applications like WhatsApp and Facebook. I also published an article denouncing corruption on roads. Police racket is often encouraged by citizens. Those who commit the offences do not want to be punished and pay the fines. This article received some comments.
Reactions are careful, but it is a good start. Digital technology allows us to raise our voices and make proposals for the development of our community.
I think it will take a little time for people to become familiar with digital innovations, but I am sure that we will have an impact once citizens are more comfortable with digital tools. With just a phone we can make ourselves useful to our community. In my opinion, digital technology is the future of citizenship.