The democratic governance of technology in authoritarian regimes: genetic modification in Burkina Faso
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Democratic decision-making and public participation are key elements in any given context of public governance. This also holds true for the governance of technology, as new technologies can have far-reaching impacts on society which makes it desirable for the public to have influence on the decision-making. The current literature about the democratization of technology is based on countries where the overall governance is democratic, while little is known about the democratization of technology in countries with an authoritarian regime. Therefore, the aim of this research was to investigate whether and to which extent technologies can be governed democratically in authoritarian regimes. To answer this research question, the case study of the governance of genetic modification in Burkina Faso was used. The analysis in this research was based on the theoretical framework of Chilvers (2008). Semi-structured interview data of different stakeholders related to genetic modification in Burkina Faso was used for the analysis. The results showed that the democratization of genetic modification in Burkina Faso was hindered by a lack of representativeness and inclusivity, access to resources, transparency and accountability, independence, and efficiency. The limitations to democratic governance of the technology were related to the authoritarian nature of the Burkinabe regime in several ways. First, the government tries to control the media and information flows. Second, corruption is an issue. Third, political diversity is unaccepted. Most authoritarian regimes possess these characteristics to a certain extent and therefore, these characteristics form a barrier for democratic governance of technology in such regimes. This suggests that the governance of technology can only to a certain extent be democratized in authoritarian regimes. Future research can build upon this thesis to explore ways to overcome the identified barriers and to further democratize decision-making for technology in authoritarian regimes.