TR14: Rural Electrification and Democratic Engagement

As the purpose of this paper is to give a broad overview of the importance of energy access for democratic political engagement, such issues are not robustly tackled within this comparatively
brief insight into what is a vast and constantly changing arena. The goal here is to give an insight into the potential of the Internet and social media (enabled by energy access) to facilitate informed rural political participation and to outline a selection of the core modern means by which this may be made possible.

The report aims to provide food for thought for energy practitioners when thinking about the
possible impacts of their initiatives by drawing on a range of literature. Raised political awareness and other democratic engagement and social indicators ‘have not been the main focus of electrification impact evaluations to date’ (Lee and Miguel, 2016). More focus on such outcomes is required. Hence, the purpose of this paper is not to evaluate the impact to date of rural electrification on making voters more informed, but instead to establish why impact evaluation should be concerned with such outcomes, and the value that can be supplied by electrification to the working of modern democracy.

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