#DIYAfrica Closing Plenary – The Future of Civic Tech and Journalism Innovation

What is the future of civic tech and journalism innovation in Africa? This was explored during the closing plenary for the Civic Tech Innovation Forum and Jamfest.

Political elites who undermine democracy, repress civil liberties and prevent public participation in the offline and online space, will negatively impact the future of civic tech and journalism innovation in Africa. This sentiment was expressed during the closing plenary for the Civic Tech Innovation Forum and Jamfest, which was held on 13-17 September. The speakers for the closing plenary included Hopewell Chin’ono, journalist and Oluseun Onigbinde, director and co-Founder, BudgIT.

The control of media in Zimbabwe  

“Africa is better than what it was 10 to 15 years ago in terms of media but we are still lagging behind,” said Chin’ono.  He used his country, Zimbabwe as a case study to show the lack of progress in media innovation and the control of media freedoms. Chin’ono said that the colonial governments set up state broadcasting institutions and state newspapers in order to control the flow of information. Chin’ono further explained that these state newspapers and institutions are still being used by the Zimbabwean government to ensure that “the narrative remains that of the ruling elite, which is the ZANU-PF and opposing voices are not given a platform”. 

However, he said that it has been difficult to control the media due to social media platforms, which allow journalists to tell their stories. “Social media is a very powerful tool,” said Chin’ono, as Twitter allowed him to tell the public about how Covid-19 funds were being looted by government officials and resulted in a government official being fired. Chin’ono said that even though social media allows journalists to continually share their stories and frequently communicate with people online, some African governments have been limiting the use of social media by shutting down the internet. He said that the Zimbabwean government has drafted a cyber security and data protection bill that will restrict the use of social media, the internet and communication networks. Chin’ono noted that media controlled by the governments makes it difficult to curtail corruption.   

Civic Tech in Africa 

“The civic space is shrinking due to the current challenges facing democracy”, said Onigbinde. He said for example in Nigeria twitter was blocked and he noted that more instances similar to what happened in Nigeria will continue as governments will create or enact laws that will tamper with the civic space. “The future of civic tech is linked to the protection of democracy,” said Onigbinde, adding that “the abuse of power is an existential issue for liberal societies”. He said people need to innovate around these restrictions such as shutdowns. Onigbinde highlighted the critical elements of civic technology that need to be considered. Firstly, it needs to be human-centred, secondly, it needs to be within the framework of digitalisation and thirdly, it should be solution-orientated. 

Onigbinde explained that there is a need for technology to be human-centred and that people think that technology needs to be specialised but it should be simplified in order to meet the needs of a community. He said that at BudgIT, they had to go into communities and reach the grassroots level in order to engage and create real change. In 2014, the civic tech organisation created a platform, Tracka, which tracks service delivery in local communities, which is their most successful product because it addresses an issue of many Nigerians.

Onigbinde emphasised that a civic tech organisation needs to “innovate around solving issues that are contextually relevant to the communities’ . He also said that with the growth of digital platforms which have allowed for the public to hold their governments accountable, it is necessary for civic technology organisations to build technology that is relevant in the digital space. Onigbinde said it is important for civic tech to be solution-orientated, as the problems that face Africa, differ from country to country. “If there is an opportunity, we will have to merge civic tech and government tech,” he said. Onigbinde said that the private sector is ahead of the government in terms of tech solutions, for example at BudgIT they have influenced the Nigerian government to adopt a simplified budget. “Civic tech in Africa will be more influential in trying to transform governments,” he said.  

Africans need to innovate 

“We’re facing an unprecedented decline of the civic space and we need more work to innovate around that and we will need to build more technology,” said Onigbinde.  

Chin’ono said one of the ways that Zimbabweans have reacted towards shutdowns is by having VPNs on their devices which allows them to keep connected and have access to the internet.  He noted that “governments don’t understand that human rights do not only apply to the civic space but also the economic space”. Chin’ono explained that when there are shutdowns companies are unable to function, which can result in these companies withdrawing or closing their companies in these countries. Chin’ono said that it was important for Africans to innovate and create their own technology as a response to these restrictive laws and shutdowns and not rely on the technology from the West. 

“It is important for Africans to invest in their own institutions,” said Chin’ono, this quote perfectly summarises the aim of #DIYAfrica, the need for Africans to create and innovate their own products which can help with the development and advancement of the continent.  He emphasised that “citizens need to take control of platforms.”  

#DIYAFRICA: Enabling digital activism in Africa

Digital movements and campaigns need to be more inclusive and reach people living in rural and underserved communities

The CTIF21, in partnership with Change.org, hosted a session on democratising advocacy in Africa at #DIYAFRICA exploring how digital platforms have amplified citizen-driven activism on the African continent. The session panelists included Doug Coltart, Legal Practitioner at Mtetwa and Nyambirai, Olga Mugyenyi Chief of Staff, and Acting Regional Director for Africa at Change.org, Nokuzola Ndwandwe, founding Director, Team Free Sanitary Pads NPC, and Tauriq Jenkins, Chairperson, AIXARRA Restorative Justice Forum.

“Covid-19 had us all on lockdown in our homes but it by no means silenced the voices of active citizens and activists. Never before have African citizens had so many channels through which to ask questions, to voice their concerns, and to demand accountability from decision-makers,” said Danai Nhando, Country Director, Change.org, who was moderating the discussion.

She added that “active citizens are the unsung heroes of how change happens on this continent and technology is the infrastructure that African citizens are using to amplify their voices”.

Change.org is the world’s largest platform for social change with over 450 million users globally. People use Change.org in various ways including starting, signing, and supporting petitions on issues that matter to their lives and their communities.

“Our mission is to empower people everywhere to create the change they want to see and our vision is where no one is powerless and creating change is part of everyday life,” said Mugyenyi.

She noted that “more than 17.6 million people across Africa have used the Change.org platform to start and support petitions, every week more than 10 000 new people join Change.org; Africa’s audience making Change.org a perpetual snapshot of what citizens on the continent are working to change at any moment”.

Leveraging technology to amplify campaigns

Even though there has been increased access to technology and the internet resulting in new ways of activism, campaigning, and collective mobilisation; many people who do not have access to the internet are unable to participate in these campaigns. Coltart asserted that it is important to be aware that internet penetration is low in many African countries; “there are still many people being left out in the cold, despite the advances in technology”, he said. He also noted that big dominant players such as authoritarian governments or big corporations can use these online spaces in a “toxic and abusive way” which can result in social media not being a safe space.

Coltart added that “we need to fight to defend those spaces and to keep them as spaces that are advancing democracy and inclusivity for ordinary people in advocacy while at the same time seeking to address the structural challenges that keep a lot of people out of those spaces”.

Jenkins said in order for technology to democratise advocacy it is necessary to combine technology and mobile action. “These are two processes that have different languages but have a tremendous amount of reach must work hand-in-hand,” said Jenkins. He agreed with Coltart that technology can be instrumental in mobilising campaigns but human rights defenders need to be technologically savvy in regards to security, meaning that while technology can be used for good, it also can be manipulated and used for harm. Jenkins explained that narratives and information can be subjected to “acute attacks of disinformation” and it is important to have a safe space where updates can happen and information factually checked.

“One of the other issues we face is data and accessibility,” said Jenkins. He questioned, “what kind of measures can we take to ensure that accessibility is present, to allow communities to be able to participate and actively engage”. Jenkins said that campaign meetings often occur on platforms that cost data and it is necessary to create spaces, such as WI-FI hubs to allow communities to participate and engage. “A campaign is led by those who have the capacity to lead the campaign and just by having that capacity and financial security to do so does not ensure the legitimacy and engagement” he noted.

Nokuzola Ndwandwe agreed with the panelists that technology can democratise technology but it has limitations. “With the digital space we are able to amplify the voices of the voiceless but people in rural areas do not have access to data, technology and are not technologically inclined and there is a need for information around the use of technology,” said Ndwandwe. She echoed Jenkins’ sentiments that the private sector can be malicious and pay bots to spread misinformation and create a narrative that silences vulnerable voices. Ndwandwe noted that there are advantages to access technology and, the digital space by allowing people to mobilise, sign petitions, and join campaigns that can raise awareness on a societal issue reaching decision-makers. Ndwandwe added that petitions can bridge the gap between leaders and community members.

How to make digital movements more inclusive? “Structural changes are needed, in terms of getting more people online which can be done through a range of mechanisms: pressuring government and corporates to lower data prices, installing higher quality internet to underserved communities and combatting fake news and bots”, said Coltart. He added that social media platforms need to account for and combat the disinformation and fake news on their platforms.

The panelists concluded that technology has the ability to create a space for campaigns, activism, and physical mobilisation but it is necessary to create spaces for people in rural and underserved areas in order for them to participate and engage in these campaigns.

#DIYAfrica: Co-creating meaning, identity and solutions in and for Africa

The Civic Tech Innovation Forum (CTIF) and Jamfest festival, themed #DIYAFRICA kicked off with an opening plenary on Monday, 13 September. The opening plenary, as the first session of the five-day festival, explored the role of power in the civic tech arena. While the discussion focused on the potential of data and technology in bringing change, it also touched on the importance of tech and data needing to be in the hands of those who it intends to benefit.

What does our future look like as Africans and how do we co-create this vision together? That was the burning question at the opening plenary, a session that aimed to reflect on solutions to challenges that surround us and our African communities. The opening plenary was a fitting introduction to the #DIYAfrica theme for the CTIF21 and Jamfest 2021.

“Civic tech and media innovators are using digital innovation to address a wide range of societal issues,” says Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Vice-chancellor of the University of Witwatersrand who gave the opening address. Prof Vilakazi highlighted how these communities are contributing to digital transformation, particularly as the world moves into the fourth industrial revolution.

He was also joined by Neema Iyer, founder of Pollicy, Abdul Noormohamed, director for Luminate Africa, Vandita Morarka, founder and CEO of One Future Collective, and Bright Simons, President at mPedigree.

Challenging power dynamics and inherent bias

“Data has the power to bring about change”, said Iyer. She further noted that “when I think about the African context, I think, yes, we may have missed some industrial revolutions, but what’s important is that we play a part in determining what our data future looks like. And in order to do that, we [Africans] have to come together as a collective and figure out what we want, and what we don’t want”.

“The theme of DIY stood out for me because a lot of the work I do in the field of human rights and social justice is centred on the idea of communities and thinking about how to design and [how] data can be decolonized, can be made more just, can have intersectional feminist principles embedded in the way we do things and not just in final products or services”, says Morarka.

She says that “any form of technological innovation has to centre around the communities that it is meant to serve”. She warns that when this does not happen, it often leads to more harm or unintended consequences that have not been accounted for. Morarka adds that people who design or develop these innovations do not have the lived experiences and are unable to understand the unintended consequences. She notes that data needs to be ethically sourced and decolonised.

Meanwhile, Noormohamed, providing a funder’s perspective, said that at Luminate “they have observed that the voices of underrepresented groups are not being heard or are being actively silenced in these dialogues because they have unequal access to technology, but also because of the historical suppression of their perspectives for the benefit of those holding power”. He agrees with Iyer and adds that “technology seems to be amplifying the power of those who already have it”.

Noormohamed says that the type of civic tech organisations that Luminate invests in are the ones whose technologies can enable governments to serve people better and others that empower people to have a voice in decision-making.

“What are we at Luminate doing, holding this space going forward? Our affirmative vision has always been one where we seek just and fair societies for all and to make progress towards this vision. We realise the power must be equitably distributed and exercised, the rights of those who have been disempowered or marginalised must be defended, and they must have greater power to participate in the shaping of democratic outcomes”.

Simons echoed the sentiments of the other panelists regarding control of data and how technological innovations are controlled by Western powers. He said that in addition to power, there are two other dynamics: passion and knowledge.

“If you have a lot of knowledge and passion in a subject, you can become a digital innovator and don’t have to have access the capitalist resources; and the overarching monopoly of capitalist structures have reduced because of the availability of new technologies,” says Simons. He adds that those with “knowledge and passion are increasingly entering a space where they are innovators”.

#DIYAFRICA was a week-long festival that included dialogues, roundtable discussions and exhibitions focused on exploring the African civic tech landscape and the ways in which the civic tech space can continue to grow and develop in Africa.

#DIYAFRICA: Africans must seize the moment and ‘do it themselves’

For our upcoming Civic Tech Innovation Forum, we have chosen the theme #DIYAfrica to illustrate the power of taking things into your own hands. For the African continent to achieve its development goals we need to instil a culture of ‘doing it yourselves’. Our forum aims to provide a platform for movers and shakers in the civic tech industry to accelerate the desired development and do good for the continent.

 

 

We have invited African civic tech innovators, media innovators and stakeholders to connect around the ways in which digital innovators, innovations, initiatives, and their support structures are playing out across the continent in the spaces of civic activism and public services, particularly in this pandemic era. We are interested in the African DIY democracy and how Africans are co-creating meaning, identity, and solutions in and for the continent. 

Dr Geci Karuri-Sebina, Organiser for the Civic Tech Innovation Network said that the DIY theme was inspired by conversations around the future of governance and how governance should be more participatory or engage with communities more. Dr Karuri-Sebina noted that community members can have agency in responding to their own needs and can play an active role in developing solutions and have a say and a hand in what happens in their communities.

We interviewed a couple of our [CTIN] reference group (RG) members to hear what they think about the theme #DIYAfrica and what they think about the idea of people or communities taking charge and doing it themselves.

Jonathan Wilson, a consultant for the Open Data Institute said that “in light of the recent 18 months we have faced, I think the theme of #DIYAfrica is pertinent to the time. The pandemic has seen both a decrease in the capacity of the state to provide services, but also an increase and uptake in the use of technology by citizens across the continent – presenting a unique opportunity”. He added that “herein lies a platform for an overburdened government to hand overcapacity to citizens, and allow for more collaborative and innovative practices to flourish that place everyday people at the centre. 

Shirley Robinson thought that the theme is “relevant and timely given increased governance concerns at the national and intergovernmental level alongside increased decentralisation to the municipal level in Africa. Digitisation offers the opportunity for increased civic participation and empowerment in co-creation as well as holding the government accountable for services to be delivered.”  

Richard Gevers, founder Open Cities Lab said that it is important for people to take charge and do it themselves “because we can’t rely on institutions to create change, and in many examples and places, we’ve seen change come from a person or a group of people that had the energy to drive something forward”. He added: “I’m in full support of not waiting on institutions or authorities to do something, and so what is really important is that we build the frameworks that allow for full support to turn great energy and ideas into organisations that have an impact”.  

We also interviewed a maker, Nelson Sekgota from Tshimologong, who works with young Africans and provides them with access to knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to innovate and solve African problems

The Tshimologong makerspace provides young people with the space to build and create technologies that can tackle current issues facing people. Sekgota, makerspace co-manager said that “DIY Africa to me refers to the continent of Africa and its people finally choosing to realise its potential by rising to solve the problems it has. One of the ways we will be able to do this is by leveraging opportunities that emerging technologies present us”.

He said that “Africa unfortunately is the poorest and the least developed continent, and we are lagging behind in many industries and technologies”. Adding that the continent is facing many challenges and emerging technologies can help solve these problems and provide people with an opportunity to participate.

Register now for# DIYAFRICA to engage with them and other African innovators

#DIYAFRICA: Empowering women traders in East Africa

In conversation with Sylvia Munai, junior project manager at Sauti East Africa, an organisation based in Kenya that provides women-led businesses with market-related information to help them make better business decisions.

Can you just tell us more about your organisation and the work that you do?

Sauti East Africa is a social impact organisation that is focused on understanding the different organisations out there and is more oriented towards the community and improving their lives. Sauti is quite unique as we deal with traders. In East Africa, the majority of small skill traders are women, about 70% of the women who do small-scale trading, especially across borders such as moving goods from Kenya to Uganda, Kenya to Tanzania, are women trading in the East Africa region. The women trade in small commodities, largely agricultural commodities, and they move along the borders. 

The platform was created because we realised when women trade from country to country they are not aware of the documentation they need because when you’re moving goods from one country to another, no matter how small the goods are, you need documentation such as that which proves the food has been checked by plant health directorates. The Sauti platform simplifies the information for women to be able to understand it easier because this information can get quite complicated, especially at the national level. We simplify the information as much as possible for the women to have an easier understanding of what the content entails. 

We also use a mobile application to disseminate information, Sauti uses mobile phones to disseminate information to the women traders. The mobile platform uses USSD and SMS technology. We largely started with USSD as a mass technology, it is an interface where women can get the tailored information they’re looking for. For example, if a woman is trading in maize and wants to know how much it is in a specific region they can easily go to our platform and dial a code, which is the USSD code. Once the code is dialled, the user is able to see the market prices of maize in the different towns within that country. Sauti is in Kenya, Tanzania Uganda, Rwanda and each country has specific USSD codes unique to them. 

Sauti is freely available and can be accessed by dialling *716# in Kenya; *801*35# in Rwanda; *284*111# in Uganda; *149*46*1# in Tanzania, and +254 20 389 3576 on WhatsApp.

How does Sauti use technology and data-solutions to help women-led businesses?

Mobile technologies are the main technologies we use to create social impact and we have a WhatsApp platform. We also have a dashboard, where we collect data for every woman who uses our platform and we are able to capture their user behaviour and what their interests are. On our platform, we have various types of information, we have information ranging from market prices, exchange rates, health, legal aid, agriculture, and information on Covid-19. We are able to see how women are using our platforms and we are able to see what is more important to them in terms of the information that they’re searching for.

What are some of the challenges that Sauti faces?

The biggest challenge when working with the women is that some of them, especially in the rural areas, have low literacy levels. Even if these women have access to information on our platform, they are still unable to read. We have been trying to find ways we can help them and one of the strategies we are trying to incorporate is to have more youth. By educating the youth, they can then go to their parents, their aunties and teach them more because youth tend to take up technology quite fast and they have a sharp understanding. The biggest challenge has been low literacy levels, for example, there will be a woman who wants to understand and know better but she’s unable to read. So we’re just trying to figure out how to help these women to help learn and be more inclusive.

In September we will be hosting a forum Civic Tech Innovation Forum and the theme will be DIY Africa. What does DIY Africa mean to you?

Now that women have access to platforms such as the USSD they are able to educate themselves, learn and make better business decisions. When you stop being ignorant, because I think sometimes we are ignorant of the things that are available to us and we miss out on opportunities.

It’s up to us to be proactive and try to learn as much as possible and see areas where we can take advantage of and be better traders and farmers from the information that is there. We don’t have to wait for outside help. We really have everything in Africa that we need to be better. So I think it’s up to individuals to just take initiative, which may not be so easy. Just be proactive and find these channels because they’re available to us at whatever level you are at and find ways you can advance yourself or plant yourself in communities that have the same goals and visions as you.

Register and Join us at #DIYAfrica this September, Come and engage with other African innovators

#DIYAFRICA: Using light to connect Africa

In conversation with Ibrahima Mbacke, co-founder and manager at LiIFI LED, an organisation that offers access to lighting, high-speed internet and educational content using a LED light bulb and Light Fidelity(Lifi) technology. LIFI LED was founded in 2014 by Ange Frederick Balma in Côte D’Ivoire.

Can you tell us about LIFI LED and how it came to be?

Ange Frederick Balma, founder and CEO, was on one of his father’s farms in the Ivory Coast for production control. He realised that he was cut off from the world without electricity and internet thus having no access to his friends and colleagues. While he was at that time an engineer in a telecommunications company with a good position, he decided to become an entrepreneur, spending his time in research and development with his own funds until he became the first African to develop LiFi solutions (with patents) to be more useful to Africa and the world via engineering and LiFi technology. He created LIFI LED in 2014. 

LIFI LED specialises in LiFi integration and commercialisation solutions (the first African company in LiFi) smart lighting, renewable energy and dynamic contents. LIFI-LED has been working in the field of renewable energies and data transmission by light with our technological innovation LiFi (Light Fidelity) since 2014. “We are positioning ourselves as the leaders of the next technological and digital revolution in Africa and around the world,” says Mbacke  

Indeed, the problem of the energy deficit in Africa and its corollary of access to electricity for all, as well as the problem of high-speed internet connectivity, considerably hamper both economic and social development. We aim to make Africa a smart continent through the combination of solar energy and innovative communication technology. A continent where light brings hope, that of sustainable and inclusive development. We provide electricity, high-speed internet with content for students and farmers via satellite, LiFi technology and solar energy, and we also provide smart cities solutions. We have indoor and outdoor solutions (LiFi solar kits, LiFi bulbs, LiFi autonomous solar street lights, LiFi hotspots, LiFi connectivity applications for smartphones, tablets and computers). LiFi LED was created to bridge the digital divide and energetic deficit in Africa.

How does LIFI LED work and how is it used by ordinary people?

LIFI LED provides electricity and high-speed internet in rural areas. Around 80 villages in Ivory Coast now have electricity and high-speed internet thanks to LIFI LED solutions. We are also active in five other African countries. We covered high-speed connectivity at the Francophonie Summit in 2016 in Antananarivo, Madagascar via LiFi. 

People in those areas now have access to electricity and high-speed internet. Young boys and girls can learn their lessons during the night and receive content for their education. Farmers have access to trading for their activities and can interact with markets and customers to sell their products. Health staff in remote areas have access to training, electricity and internet for their work and can interact with qualified colleagues for telemedicine. Our latest innovation is our LiFi smart solar street lights providing lighting, high-speed connectivity with integrated sensors for rainfall forecasts and data, carbon emissions rate, fine particles and sunshine rate. 5G will be integrated very soon in our streetlights.

Can you tell us about the work your organisation has done? For example, how many homes or people has your organisation supplied lighting or internet access to?

LIFI LED has made important achievements, deeply changing the daily life of thousands of people in the Ivory Coast and other African countries.  LIFI LED provides light and high-speed internet to 52,000 people. With our activities, we create jobs contributing to youth employment. 

What is the potential of LIFI LED in terms of helping to close the digital gap?

LIFI LED really has the potential to close the digital divide in Africa and also beyond. Our adapted products (indoors and outdoors) on the ground have proven our ability to provide high-quality services. We are in a growth, expansion stage. We are present in six African countries with expansion in other African countries. An important project is to start very soon in a central African country for LiFi smart street lighting, electrification, and high-speed connectivity of thousands of households.

LIFI LED will be exhibiting at our upcoming DIYAfrica this September, Register now to engage with them and other African innovators

Registration for CTIF21 #DIYAfrica Now Open

Register to attend the only civic tech conference in Africa today. We invite you to come and be a part of this exciting community event. We invite the civic tech community, government and non-governmental organisations including techies, activists, current and potential civic tech users, students and the digital media community to join us at the #CTIF21

The annual Civic Tech Innovation Forum (CTIF) 2021 in partnership with Jamlab, which will be hosted from September 13-17, will bring together Africa’s civic tech community, both governmental and non-governmental, for the purpose of sharing, learning, inspiring, and overall capacity building. It presents an opportunity to gain an overview of what is happening in the civic tech sector in Africa and the world. The conference will include a virtual expo, a joint opening plenary and closing plenaries, workshops and more.

The theme for CTIF 2021 will be #DIYAfrica or ‘Do It Yourself”. In the age of digitalisation, DIY is challenging the dominant paradigm of the technology user as consumer to the user as creative co-designer and Africans who are building their own future. DIY is offered as a frame for exploring the potential for a more democratised society – one where technology enables empowerment, participation, critique, and even resistance.

We will be hosting several sessions and each session will interrogate key topics and challenges in the African civic tech space. 

What to expect at #CTIF21 #DIYAFRICA

We also have an exciting array of local and international speakers and a jam-packed programme. Here’s what you can expect from this dynamic 5-day festival:

  • All-day exhibitions of African civic tech and the brightest digital media stars
  • Civic tech and digital media innovation workshops
  • Networking opportunities and social activities

This year’s event is hosted on Whova, which will allow attendees to go through an easy registration process, browse the CTIF21 event brochure and create a personalised schedule as well as network with like-minded attendees all in one space. Register for your seat at CTIF21 and download the award-winning WHOVA app or sign up on your desktop.

We look forward to having you at #CTIF2021 #DIYAFRICA. 

LEARN MORE AND REGISTER HERE

#DIYAFRICA: Showcase your civic tech project at #CTIF2021 & Jamfest2021

Call for Civic Techies and media innovators in Africa to showcase your innovations at a continental platform!

This year’s theme: Why “DIY Africa”?

Civic Tech Innovators:

For the showcase, we are inviting civic tech innovators who have something exciting to share with the community, this may include the following innovations: 

  1. Impact Stories – practical experiences, results and lessons learned
  2. Newbies – Starting out stories by innovators
  3. Cutting edge – new methods / tools / techniques, experimental projects, etc.
  4. DIY Africa – Examples of where people are creatively solving their own problems through data / digital innovation around Africa
  5. Ecosystem supports and enablers – Toolkits, training, services, etc. that are enabling civic tech

Media Innovators:

For the showcase, we are inviting media innovators who have new content styles and approaches, and great media and journalism innovations.  Jamfest aims to track trends in information flows and digital public space therefore the following are potential focus areas to guide applicants:

  1. Media sustainability & new business models
  2. Innovation & Innovators
  3. Tools for journalists and journalism 
  4. Audience engagement
  5. Podcasting
  6. AI/Machine learning

IMPORTANT DATES

Deadline for exhibition proposals: 17 August 2021
Notification of acceptance: 19 August 2021
Booths should be ready by 5 September

SUBMISSION:  Please complete the form below or complete it here 

Enquiries may be emailed to melissa.zisengwe@wits.ac.za  

Terms & Conditions – Basic requirements for Exhibitors:

By applying to host an Exhibition booth, you would be committing that you will be:

  • Able to populate their booth with enough appropriate materials
  • Willing to display for 1 week, and possibly to maintain beyond
  • Availability to host/tend to the booth for the week – i.e. respond to enquiries
  • Able to provide publicity and promotion information and support to the Communications team (e.g. images, interviews, etc.)
  • Be available to present a session / participate once or twice in the scheduled daily Exhibition “Hangout hour” during Forum week
  • Respond to / take meetings with interested exhibition visitors
  • Help promote the Exhibition through your networks, including inviting visitors to your Booth

#DIYAFRICA: Zimbabwe — Opening the democratic space for young Zimbabweans

In conversation with Munyaradzi Dodo, digital and programme lead at Magamba Network, which created an initiative, Open Parly which aims to create and support engagement between young Zimbabweans and the government and decision-makers.

What does #DIYAfrica mean to you?

What inspired the creation of Open Parly?

We created Open Parly ZW after we realised there was low participation in political processes by young people in 2016. We were heading towards the 2018 harmonised elections, and we were eager to find an intervention that allowed young people to participate and engage their elected officials. We held a focus group discussion in November 2016 and from the insights of that discussion participants indicated that they found current channels used by parliament boring. Most young people indicated they would never read the Hansard [record of speeches, questions and answers and procedural events in the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly and is known as Parliamentary Debates] because it felt too wordy and preferred reading the information in short bite-size chunks and on digital platforms.

Zimbabwe’s parliament also does not have parliament TV like most countries. At the same time, Zimbabwe’s biggest mobile operator was providing free access to Twitter so we decided to use Twitter as the first step to making parliament more accessible.

How does your organisation work and how do citizens engage with it or use it?

How does your organisation support young Zimbabweans? Can you provide examples or case studies of your work?

The organisation provides young citizen journalists with an opportunity to be the eyes and ears of their community. They contribute video reports, articles and analysis from the perspective of young people. Some have even started web shows/podcasts such as Tuesday Talk with Taku, a weekly show that unpacks the weekly major political events.

What impact has the organisation had in Zimbabwe?

In the absence of parliament TV in Zimbabwe, Open Parly ZW has become the largest repository of parliament data in Zimbabwe, with an online audience that is 10 times bigger than the parliament of Zimbabwe with over 10-million monthly online impressions. The project has also been replicated in Somalia (Kalfadh.com), Zambia (Open Parly ZED) and in 2021 it will expand to Nigeria. We have also expanded the project to local governments and municipalities. Currently, the project runs the Open Council project in major cities by running hyper-local news platforms — Open Council Harare, Marondera, Masvingo, Kariba and Mutare. The project has initiated various digital campaigns such as #ReconveneParly in 2020 which put pressure on elected officials to convene virtual sessions of the parliament and #WhereIsOurVaccine to demand an efficient vaccination plan. 

The challenges or limitations that the organisation has faced?

The project has faced challenges with some journalists being arrested and experiencing violence while covering stories for their communities. The ever-rising costs of data affect our target audience and limit the reach of the project to those who can afford data.

We look forward to hosting you at CTIF21, what would you like the audience to take away from you or the work you do at Open Parly?

With a simple WordPress website, social media and cellphone, you can contribute to holding government officials to account by being the eyes and ears of your community.

The Civic Tech Innovation Forum will be held on September 13–17 and for more details, click here.

#DIYAFRICA — Mozambique: Bridging the digital divide

In conversation with Dayn Amade, founder of the Community Tablet in Mozambique

Tell us more about your initiative and what inspired you to start the Community Tablet?

What are some of the challenges that you have faced?

When I started to go to communities and for community members, this was something new and people were afraid. Like, what is this? What is this coming to do to us? But we changed our approach with the community, for example before Covid, we would have nice local music and people started to see us as a friend and not their enemy. The second thing we did before we went into the community was that we worked together with a university in Mozambique, particularly the faculty of anthropology and sociology. Because in order for us to approach them in a correct way, one of the most important issues to understand is the culture and the habits of a specific community.

One of the challenges that we had, in the beginning, was that the community did not know how to use the tablets properly. Another challenge we faced was sometimes the children in the communities would try to damage the tablets and we would have to replace these tablets. It was not easy, but we managed to overcome them.

What impact do you think your organisation has had in Mozambique?

With COVID are you still able to go into the communities?

We still go to the communities, but now we have to go with the Ministry of Health team because it’s compulsory for us to follow the protocols and isolate the perimeter. The Ministry of Health checks people’s temperature and ensures that everybody has masks. Covid has affected our operations, for example before the pandemic we used to have 500 people come to the trailer but now we only have 200 people. We also produced and disseminated an informational video about Covid which explained to communities what is Covid and how to wash their hands.

What does #DIYAfrica mean to you?

There is this saying that you have to solve your problems, nobody’s going to come and solve your problems for you. So if you are not going to take the lead, you can’t just sit and wait for the answers to be given to you, you have to face the challenges and reflect. I think the major thing that I have learned in regards to ‘do it yourself’ is about self-reflection. You have to reflect, you have to know what kind of story you want to tell the world or your community and nobody’s going to do it for you.

The Civic Tech Innovation Forum will be held on September 13–17 and for more details, click here.