Investigating Tech for Social Cohesion in Tunisia
Technology helped Tunisians unite on- and offline to unseat a despot in 28 days. But one year later, creating a more participatory future in Tunisia remained a work in progress.
Uncertainty proliferated across the country, with transitions in every sector of society, from politics to business to education. Technology played a key role in removing President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, enabling dispersed individuals to express their frustrations as a powerful collective. On the anniversary of revolution, Tunisia faced the challenge of integrating these ever more influential online communities into the institutions guiding the country’s future.
So we asked…
Using an ethnographic approach, we sought to create a point-in-time snapshot of a wide swath of Tunisian society. We traveled throughout the country, with an intentional focus on Tunisia’s interior where resources and power have historically been scant. We interviewed over 130 individuals from nine towns and cities, working at dozens of institutions and companies, to learn about their hopes, grievances, and visions for a new Tunisia.
We found that…
Across Tunisia, we found significant optimism about the potential of technology to help communities and the country as a whole. Students, entrepreneurs, and government officials all emphasized that policies should support the growing digital sector and provide citizens with the necessary skills to use technology to improve their livelihoods.
“I want to inspire our government to support innovation at home.”
But we also found that regional disparity between the wealthy urban coast and the underserved rural interior remained a central challenge to social cohesion. Without a concerted, continuous effort to close the opportunity gap, unrest could continue.
And here’s what we’re doing about it…
We published our findings with the World Bank in Tunisia: From Revolutions to Institutions as part of an infoDev series exploring the transformative role that information and communication technologies can have in post-conflict settings. The report highlights opportunities and challenges in the sectors of politics, business, and education, and how these areas are affected by regional inequality and a blossoming online civil society. In sharing these insights, we hope to shed light on how Tunisians and the international community can best identify and respond to the country’s needs.