Politicians on digital platforms: A resource or a threat?

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University of the Witwatersrand
Political discourse in Africa has historically been a one-sided affair: a monologue whereby politicians speak to the electorate in a political rally context. Digital platforms have changed that narrative, providing opportunities for genuine two-way discourse. In an environment where politicians are often demi-gods, armed with only a smart phone, even residents of remote areas are now able to reach local and national level politicians and institutions via social media. With the proliferation of the mobile phone and social media usage on the rise in Africa, there has never been a better opportunity for more robust political debate, and more importantly, an increasingly people-centered and needs-driven public policy agenda. Is this the reality though? Unfortunately, the prevalence of disinformation presents a significant challenge with respect to false narratives perpetuated online, and hence relations between politicians and the electorate. This paper, therefore, seeks to examine the extent to which access to politicians through digital platforms has resulted in improved policy, legislation, or service delivery. Furthermore, it interrogates the threats disinformation poses to relations between politicians and the electorate.
African Governance, Digital Age, Politicians, Digital platforms, Political discourse, Social media