Watch this masterclass on Using Public Data to tackle key social issues

In the fourth and final session, the host focused on whether data is truly being used effectively to solve problems, or merely creating inefficiencies? The session dives into how data can align with and support positive spatial planning solutions and initiatives now and going into the future, the potential of data to tackle key social issues like Gender-Based Violence and how data reveals some the ramifications and implications of Apartheid Spatial Planning, manifested in increased crime rates in certain neighbourhoods.

This session was hosted by Pierre Schoonraad, who is the Head of Research and Development at the Centre for Public Service Innovation (CPSI). He opened the interactive session with the catalytic statement that ‘Data is not just about trying to identify and understand what the problems are but is about guiding us to make better decisions.

Key Takeaways:

Organisations like Open Up is making data more and more accessible

How does Public Service look? At National Level, most people are in law enforcement On the provincial front, most people are in the education and health departments. 50% of departmental budgets are dedicated to administration and the rest dedicated to the mandate.

We need to look into automate admin processes and lock into auditable processes (PDUs, Blockchain) Can the geolocation of crime assist targeted/ intelligence-driven policing? Challenge is that the geo-locations are not the real locations of crime scenes; there is rather an approximation of where the crime happened. What does that mean for intelligence-driven policing? It means law enforcement cannot actually pinpoint the location of the crime.

The data is therefore problematic and therefore defies the purpose of what we want to do with geolocation data When we deal with data we assume that the data will give us the correct information Data capturing and computer programmes render data less useful Data points towards street intersections, public facilities Civic Tech finding the devil Linking communities directly with SAPS (Memeza, Namola) Supporting SAPS to improve data and share with CPFs When we have civic tech innovations we need to ask all the questions When we work from the Civic Tech perspective we need to work from an iterative way. Civic Tech finding the devil: Partnerships Facilitating real-time policing When we deal with data we need to do that within an ethical and human rights framework.

It cannot be outside our Bill of Rights How do you deal with wicked problems? We know what the underlying causes are. In order to deal with this right at the beginning, we have checklists and we try to understand what the risks are. We know what the pathways are We jump into solutions without understanding the underlying issues. We need to look at people as the centre of the solutions that we bring. In providing solutions, start with understanding human behaviour Find insights that can help leverage the system Design for complexity ‘Data is not just about trying to identify and understand what the problems are but is about guiding us to make better decisions.’

Masterclass slides

Using Public Data

Masterclass on Digital Activism

This masterclass sought to share ways in which citizens can use civic technology for new ways to collaborate, campaign, mobilise and exchange information. Moeti showed the class how she has been using tech in her work and gave the participants practical guides on how they can use social mobilisation and activism to empower themselves and their communities.

Youtube: Please note this session was not recorded at the host’s request.

This session was led by Koketso Moeti, founding executive director of Amandla.mobi. Moeti showed the class how she has been using tech in her work and gave the participants practical guides on how they can use social mobilisation and activism to empower themselves and their communities. 

Digital activism can be defined as the use of digital tools such as mobile phones, the internet and social media to bring about change, political and social change. Moeti explained how digital activism is not a new phenomenon, adding that throughout history, communities have consistently used the tools and resources available to them to mobilise for social change, using the fax machine as an example of a communication tool that was used to mobilise. Although digital tools are useful, Moeti cautioned the participants against attempting to use digital tools to replace people. Tools are made to be used, who uses them and what they use them for determines their impact, she said. 

Speaking about social change, Moeti encouraged the participants to work within ecosystems. ‘You cannot affect change alone; you have to have the humility to work with others to mobilise’, she said.  Talking about effecting change, Moeti said ‘change is not linear, you must be in it for the long haul.’ Furthermore, she added that due to the volatility of mobile technology, people must think carefully about the decisions they make today and how they affect the future. She gave insights on the value of foresight; imploring the participants to be more forward-thinking in their attempts to make an impact, ‘forecasting connects the past, the present and the future’, she said. She continued to say, ‘activism is not only about using tech; you have to think deeply about the past, present and future to change the world.

The Masterclass was a session filled with provocative exercises, that required the participants to think about how they can build a shared vision for multiple futures. Moeti shared various strategic foresight toolkits like the Institute for the Future Foresight Essentials and Save the Children – the Future is Ours, that can help citizens think differently about digital activism and the use of technological tools to accelerate change.

Masterclass on public engagement and participation

This masterclass tackled citizen engagement, by showcasing the work of Citizen Lab - facilitating good, evidence-based, decision and policymaking by providing an e-democracy platform that enables co-decision making between communities and governments. The platform also aids in building and regaining trust between the civic and policymakers, acting in accordance with their overarching intention to facilitate and aid online deliberation to empower citizens to engage and participate.

This session was led by Alex Chandran, head of Partnerships at Citizen Lab, a citizen engagement platform, used by local governments and organisations to reconnect with their communities and engage them in the decision-making process.

Alex cited the issues with existing and former models of public engagement and participation, such as low efficiency with regard to both resources and processes, as well as a lack of transparency and public trust. To address these issues, Citizen Lab facilitates good, evidence-based, decision and policymaking by providing an e-democracy platform that enables co-decision making between communities and governments.

Public participation and deliberation present big challenges for public institutions and organisers even on the best of days. A myriad number of challenges are faced by public officials in trying to increase the levels of public engagement while also ensuring that these processes are effective for all those involved. 

Public engagement is an integral part of any functional democracy. Citizens Lab’s interest is in providing digital tools for cities and governments to enhance participation on local topics and include in decision-making processes.  Alexandra leads the Partnerships to work at Citizen Lab, growing the mission and impact with a variety of partners across different countries and organisations. She is currently working with and supporting in-country Partners in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Denmark, Germany, Kenya, Poland, Romania and South Africa. With these Partners, Alexandra is building a network of citizen participation experts who can develop the impactful use of Citizen Lab in their country market.

This masterclass provided a window into some key experiences from around the world of effective public engagement on both offline and online platforms. Alexandra Chandran also focused on the role of tech in ensuring effective public participation during the COVID pandemic. 

Public engagement pre-COVID-19 predominantly happened in physical locations where citizens could engage robustly with decision-makers and other stakeholders. Public officials were faced with pessimism from citizens who find them to be ineffective and lacking transparency. These perceptions eroded trust between public officials and citizens. Pessimism is a major challenge for democratic institutions especially because the levels of trust between institutions and citizens have an impact on the willingness of citizens to participate in decision-making processes. Citizens lab’s e-democracy platform is an attempt at resolving some of the challenges faced by public officials in engaging and deliberating with citizens. This platform seeks to resolve challenges around transparency and efficiency of institutions and to restore public trust in processes of deliberation and participation.

Some key lessons from this platform indicate that it is important to first understand the kind of engagement wants to have. Democratic institutions need to understand that participation and deliberation are not the same issue. Both these forms of engagement have implications for the kind of outcomes desired. Participation needs to be understood as simply the empowerment of citizens to take action. Taking action could be anything from taking part in a survey or a poll and even joining a  protest. Deliberation focuses on discussions and debates between citizens and stakeholders, and as such is a different type of engagement from participation by the sheer number of participants that could effectively take part. These forms of engagement should all form part of the decision-making process of democratic institutions. 

Deliberation requires that participants have some knowledge of what is being discussed to be able to engage with decision-makers effectively.  This process does not require the whole population but requires an inclusive number of representatives from each group of the population to engage decision-makers and other stakeholders. 

Participative processes are to be employed when an inclusive deliberative process has been completed. Participative processes could occur through surveys, polls, citizen proposals, option analysis and other similar methods. 

The 2020 OECD study revealed that methods of deliberation and participation have had positive effects on the relationship between citizens and institutions. These processes have contributed to better policy making processes and increased levels of trust and transparency between citizens and institutions. The report also revealed that employing deliberation and participation has broadened the democratic approach for citizens and lead to better decision making for institutions. According to the report, interest in deliberative methods of participation has increased, and there has been a shift away from only participation as a form of engagement with the citizenry.  

Often deliberative and participative measures happen offline but they can also happen online platforms. These processes could exclusively take place on online platforms or could occur concurrently through live streaming services for instance. Livestreaming is a good way to get citizens to participate without having to physically attend official events. Citizens could participate in the events though asking questions and giving their inputs from different locations. 

The government enforced lockdowns across the world meant that these engagements needed to happen exclusively online and by so doing presented new challenges for public officials. OECD presented four key elements to consider when deliberation exclusively goes online. According to OECD, officials need to consider whether these engagements should happen in real-time or asynchronously. This is especially important if institutions are to be inclusive during the decision-making process. The organisers need to ask themselves “will everyone be able to attend a live event”? It is also important to consider whether citizens can participate in public deliberations anonymously or with their full identity should they wish to. This will also help to determine whether these meetings need to happen in real-time or asynchronously.

There have been success stories across the world about how online tools have been used for effective deliberation and decision making. National and local governments have used online platforms during this pandemic to maintain a dialogue with citizens and coordinate local volunteering efforts (Rueil-Malmaison), international conferences have happened entirely online (UK Climate Assembly), and national governments have partnered with civic organisations to digitise application processes for social relief grants (GovChat). 

Online deliberation is expected to continue throughout the world during the Covid19 pandemic. Here are some key factors for officials to consider inclusive online deliberation: 

  • Language

Officials should use appropriate language that can be understood by everyone. Ensure that there is no highlighting of stereotypes that may offend or exclude others. Officials should not make assumptions about their audiences 

  • Communication

Ensure effective communication with key stakeholders and people of influence in the communities that are being engaged. 

  • Privacy and data

Personal data should be always protected. There should be clarity about what the data being solicited is going to be used for. Data should be collected only when relevant to the work being done and not just for the sake of it. 

  • Compatibility and accessibility 

Digital platforms being used for public engagement should be compatible with all devices

  • Offline and Online 

Consider whether all participants have access to a digital device that they can participate from; if not, consider providing an offline platform for participants to be able to share their views as well.

  • Measure levels of engagement 

Officials need to pay attention to who is participating and responding and whether they have been able to reach a diverse audience.

More information on Citizen Lab’s work can be found on their website

CTIN’s Masterclass on how to digitalise governance

This is a masterclass for Government officials seeking to understand the impact of digitalisation on their work and for civic techies and innovators who work with government/issues

This masterclass was led by Wits School of Governance senior lecturer Halfdan Lynge-Mangueira and lecturer Rekgotsofetse Chikane lecturer.

They kick-started the workshop by sharing some insights on the topic of Digitalising Governance. Through a series of charts, they were able to highlight how the country of Estonia was able to implement key policy reforms by making use of technology and data science over the past 10-12 years. Halfdan shared three major trends happening in the space of data processing. 

  1. The first trend is that ‘Data volumes are increasing’ where he displayed a graph showcasing how the data available to us is on an exponential upward rise between the year of 2010 and 2025.
  2. The second trend pointed out was that ‘the nature of data is changing’ where we no longer are just obtaining organised structured data, but rather unstructured data that comprises of photos, text files and webpage posts.
  3. The third trend happening is that ’our processing power is constantly improving’. As we take note of these three global trends happening in the space of data processing, the question arises as to what are the implications on how we engage with public policy?
Civic tech community excelling in helping to handle the pandemic

As the coronavirus ravages one country after another an unprecedented rise in the number of digital solutions and innovations has emerged globally.

Researchers, entrepreneurs, start-ups, companies and policymakers are devising solutions for everything from medical supply shortages to ways to lower the infection risks for front-line workers and provide alternatives for overburdened hospitals.

Policymakers, businesses and citizens are working together and have focused their energies on the existential threat facing humanity. In Mumbai rival politicians came together to provide food and shelter to thousands of migrant workers. When there was a growing shortage of ventilators, engineering students from Nigeria and India developed low-cost ventilators using locally available materials, while a professor in Italy developed open-source intensive-care units built from recycled shipping containers.

In SA, business and citizens have also come forward and are working with the government. Telkom, SA’s largest telecommunications company, began working with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) to develop a Covid-19 track-and-trace solution. Telkom used multiple data sources, including the geographic information system (GIS), to track infected people’s movements to determine who they may have exposed to the virus.

“The citizens responsible for first detecting and responding to the virus were a community of activists, coders and hackers, so-called civic tech activists”

In addition, the SA National Space Agency is using image data generated by satellites to study how neighbourhoods can be dedensified, and how water can be provided to informal settlements, including using the data to gauge the distance of communities from essential services such as retail and medical facilities.

For the first time in many countries, governments are directly engaging with citizens to assist them in their efforts to ease the effects of the pandemic. And for the first time on such a grand scale citizens are engaging with governments and businesses to contribute to a collective response to the pandemic.

The solutions and innovations that have emerged during the pandemic demonstrate how citizens, business and governments are using existing resources, tools, methodologies and repurposing data, information and skills to respond to the pandemic.

Many may be aware that Taiwan’s response to the pandemic has been among the world’s most laudable: it has had fewer than 600 infections, and deaths in the single digits. The citizens responsible for first detecting and responding to the virus were a community of activists, coders and hackers, so-called civic tech hactivists. They not only used tech and data-driven insights to detect and trace the spread of the virus very early on, but ensured the availability of critical supplies.

Globally, the civic tech community felt an obligation to play a key role in fighting the pandemic: they designed mobile-enabled platforms or citizen-engagement portals that offered two-way communication between citizens and governments; apps that measured social distancing and provided critical health information; data visualisation platforms such as mapping availability of beds and medical practitioners in various hospitals and health centres; and used data and design to streamline voting lines.

President Cyril Ramaphosa was quick to recognise the importance of using technology to fight the effects of Covid. He invited a tech community in SA that developed a “vulnerability map” to work with the government. The map is helping the state in its response to the crisis using publicly available data to identify vulnerable communities.

Amid every crisis lies great opportunity, it is said. At a civic tech innovators meeting at the Wits School of Governance, Adi Eyal and Adrian Kearns from OpenUp, an SA-based open data initiative, said: “This couldn’t have been a more opportune time for the civic tech community as engagement with the government has become easier.” They observed that during the pandemic there had been an uptake in governments’ use of digital technology to engage with citizens. Open Up is working with the government to track its Covid spending.

Service delivery

The crisis-driven solutions and innovations that emerged, including for service delivery, are making companies and governments realise the value of digital on an almost unheard-of scale. Numerous solutions and digital innovations that have emerged during the pandemic have not only accelerated the proof of concept for service delivery but hastened the adoption of digital technologies by governments. Governments worldwide are working to scale their public services and make information and data more readily accessible to the public.

The pandemic has demonstrated that digital technology has become a de facto component in how businesses, governments and citizens engage with each other. Digitisation is the way forward for every business that wants to survive and every government that wants to improve citizen engagement and provide better service delivery.

Science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke was right when he said the only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible. Only a few months ago it may have seemed an impossible task to get the government, with only a few exceptions, to directly engage with citizens and use information and data access to improve service delivery. The pandemic has fast-forwarded that.

Those who do not adapt and move in the emerging space, be it business or the government, may not survive the crisis.

This article was originally published by Business Live 

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Radhika Mia

Integrity Idol names and celebrates public servants

Public servants often get a bad reputation in South Africa but one organisation is working hard to change unfair perceptions

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Integrity Idol names and celebrates public servants

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Melissa Tsungai Zisengwe

 

Covid-19: How Civic techies are stepping up to aid the fight in Africa

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a number of African civic tech initiatives support efforts to help citizens, governments, businesses and communities respond to the global health crisis that’s affecting every part of our lives. Civic tech has enabled government, citizens and companies to track and slow the spread of COVID-19 across different African countries.

According to the Civic Tech Innovation Network, there are at least 140 civic tech initiatives in Africa.

Civic tech during COVID-19 in Africa

Across the continent, civic tech initiatives have been actively using their innovations to respond to the pandemic — showing the potential and shortcomings of technology during a pandemic. Indeed, COVID-19 is an unprecedented opportunity to reimagine how technology can shape society. Although there are many civic tech initiatives stepping up to the fight against COVID-19, this blog post focuses on just eight initiatives. Here is how eight African civic tech initiatives are responding and helping during the COVID-19 crisis:

Amandla.mobi-South Africa

The independent, community advocacy organisation Amandla.mobi seeks to build a more just and people-powered South Africa and has been campaigning on COVID-19 related issues. With a membership of over 600,000 people, Amandla’s recent COVID-19 related campaigns include: Make schools safe before they re-openStop the late payment of social grants, families are struggling enough. Demand Minister of Social Development and Sassa CEO actCoronavirus, here’s what mobile networks should doAll these campaigns focus on daily issues that South Africans are facing.

The campaigns are run based on Amandla.mobi’s founding principle — turning every mobile phone into a democracy building tool so that no matter where South Africans live; the language they speak or issues they care about, they can take action with others.

Budgit-Nigeria

The Nigerian innovative enterprise focuses on simplifying the national budget and public data, making it accessible to the general public to aid participatory governance. Budgit in partnership with Civic Hive have been tracking COVID-19 funds and allocations through the COVIDFUND Tracka portal. It tracks COVID-19 donations given to the federal and state governments of Nigeria ranging from private and public, local and international organizations. According to Budgit the CovidFund Tracka portal enables them to monitor resources and give reports of palliatives being given to citizens. The platform lists the COVID-19 donations and it allows citizens to search through the datasheet by state, donor, name, donation details, donation type and more, currently COVIDFUND Tracka has tracked down 294 donations by private and public, local and international organizations. It follows up this effort through social media by sharing the news of donations.

Through the COVIDFUND Tracka platform, they also have a built-in COVID-19 dashboard which provides COVID-19 information such as the number of tests, confirmed cases, active cases, recovered cases and deaths.

According to Budgit’s media & communications lead, Damilola Ogundipe civic tech has to play the important role of advocating for accountability, citizen engagement, and information, monitoring government response to all citizens including persons with disabilities during COVID-19.

Code for Africa-Africa (CfA)

Code for Africa, one of the largest, if not the largest civic tech organisation in Africa has been using technology and data to build digital democracies and empower citizens with actionable information.

In response to the pandemic Code for Africa started working on multiple initiatives, including:

  • To digitise and publish local Africa-specific data and scientific research to help planners better understand which specific communities, infrastructure and/or services are most vulnerable to COVID-19, and what countermeasures might be most effective;
  • To debunk the most harmful misinformation and quackery, that has become a tsunami or ‘infodemic’ on social media and that is blunting public efforts to tackle COVID-19. The partners will do this by fact-checking misleading memes and claims, as part of a wider CfA partnership with Facebook and WhatsApp, while simultaneously amplifying the voices of credible African scientific researchers, and empowering African newsrooms and social media influencers to fight misinformation with facts and compelling storytelling;
  • This initiative aims to connect African researchers and experts to change-makers in government, the media and at development, to help improve the appropriateness and relevance of plans or interventions, as well as to bolster evidence-based public discourse.

Govchat-South Africa

Govchat, the official citizen engagement platform in South Africa. It enables the government and citizens to connect directly, at no cost. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the initiative has deployed COVID-19 related functionalities to support the government’s efforts. The new features allow citizens to use GovChat on WhatsApp for COVID-19 screening, facility searches, and status reports.

Govchat has also been providing information, guidelines, resource tools for businesses, communities, citizens and enhancing public communication and engagement and action. The information and resources focus on how WhatsApp can help people connect with those who matter most.

Govchat COVID-19 Pre screening feature, UNATHI GovChat, was born out of a partnership with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA). UNATHIi is a COVID-19 pre-screening and early warning digital interface.

UNATHI is an accessible ChatBot available over both WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger and assists both:

  • South Africans, in providing COVID-19 testing details and pre-screening information, and
  • The South African Government, in collating and reporting real-time citizen COVID19- related activity and symptoms.

Govchat says through UNATHIi’s easy natural language-guided questions, citizens are able to anonymously:

  • Indicate their location,
  • Report COVID-19 symptoms presenting in themselves, family or household members,
  • Find their closest public or private testing facility,
  • Report their test activity and results, and
  • Receive health tips and information.

UNATHI IS accessed through WhatsApp, people just add the number 082 046 8553 to their devices.

GovChat’s CEO Eldrid Jordaan says the platform has 3 million active users monthly.

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Covid-19: How Civic techies are stepping up to aid the fight in Africa

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Data can help cities respond to COVID-19

Some South African cities share how they are using data to respond to COVID-19

The South African Cities Network through its South African Council for City Data (SACCD) supported by National Treasury Cities Support Programme (CSP) recently hosted a webinar where a few city participants from the City of Johannesburg, City of eThekwini, City of Ekurhuleni and City of Cape Town shared their internal data responses to the pandemic with reference to their outcomes achieved, processes undertaken, and challenges experienced.
Here are some key takeaways from the webinar

City of Cape Town

Delyno Du Toit from the City of Cape Town (CoCT) says the CoCT has been using data to respond to COVID-19 through the collection of data related to the pandemic around business continuity, finance, the impact on HR as well as data around COVID-19 worldwide. CoCT has also been using data to try and understand the state of health in the city. “We have put this data on a dashboard for a broader audience in the city, CoCT is also part of a data team within the COVID-19 response Unit. To fully implement the use of data against COVID-19, CoCT has put together a data workgroup with the Western Cape province,” explains Du Toit.

The city of Cape Town has augmented current resources by reaching out to universities and other entities to access data. Du Toit says before COVID-19, the city had already started gathering data, but now it has focused around COVID-19 crisis. “The City of Cape Town is trying to use data to assist with operational processes, we have also requested for other data custodians to assist with the process.”

City of Johannesburg

Monique Griffith from the City of Johannesburg (CoJ) says the city has been collating data on partnerships for example, for donating and manufacturing PPE required by workers. They are also collecting other data on the number of tests being conducted and the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths to understand COVID-19 hotspots.

Griffith says CoJ does not intend to not penalize people when they are trying to access food, so the city is enabling food banks to deliver food house to house to reduce exposure to the virus. She further shares that CoJ is developing a future-oriented disaster management plan and creation of a long-term commitment that operates with a vastly faster turn around times to ensure faster service delivery during and after COVID-19.

The city also has a “war room” collecting data for short term response as well as long-term transformation. They need to establish a “war kit” within risk dept and revising the disaster plan based on Covid-19 data. The city’s data is coming from ward councillors, police, health services and water services because access to water is a key factor in mitigating the spread.
The city is also in the process of collating data into one system. City of Johannesburg permits needed for businesses are providing the city with business data on where the business spread is and the profile of businesses, this data can be used to understand what business relief is needed.

City of eThekwini

Tshegang Chipeya from the City of eThekwini says eThekwini has prepared a presentation on the impact on the economy that relied on COVID-19 data to understand the most vulnerable areas of the economy and society to develop a response plan. She says eThekwini is also developing COVID-19 economic recovery plan which was presented by the mayor and used data to support certain interventions. eThekwini is also using local and global dashboards to communicate information about assistance packages which are available to businesses and citizens as well as Covid-19 figures specifically in Durban context.

The city eThekwini has collected data through external sources mostly as well as internal data through the EDGE platform. eThekwini has also conducted a business survey to profile different businesses. eThekwini’s next step is to collate city data such as water, electricity, etc.

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Data can help cities respond to COVID-19

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How #DataMustFall

We need to focus on why the poor are paying more for data

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How #DataMustFall

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Melissa Tsungai Zisengwe

 

Lessons from an African civic tech budget platform

Collaboration is key for the success of civic tech in Africa.

Interview with Esohe Osinoiki, Monitoring and Evaluation Manager BudgIT & Tracka Nigeria

What do your organisations, BudgIT and Tracka do in Nigeria?

BudgIT is a civic organization that applies technology to intersect citizen engagement with institutional improvement, to facilitate societal change. We do this by way of simplifying and making the budget accessible to everyone irrespective of their literacy level. Capital projects (captured in budget documents) give a sense of belonging to the citizens given the fact that those projects if executed, bring about development in the country. However, the constant recurrence of project abandonment and/or fake execution gave birth to a tool known as Tracka.

Launched in 2014 by BudgIT, Tracka is a social platform of/for active citizens who are interested in monitoring public projects in their communities thus enhancing budget performance across the country. This platform, layered on open data and integrated with existing social media tools, galvanises people of common interests together to share photos, videos, documents and also post comments on existing projects.

How does your organisation/platforms work?

Using grassroots monitors and also partners for projects located across the federation, this approach explores the use of technology to track budgets and also report to the responsible authorities from the executive and legislature. We use social media to amplify discussions on projects. Thanks to the internet, mobile web, apps, and SMS, citizens now have a focal point of tracking public projects and report on-the-ground performance to institutions. This allows them to reach out to the exact institution that is responsible for the project. Citizens are able to provide feedback on the platform while our tracking officers (in all states where Tracka currently operates), verify those comments and reach out to public institutions for necessary action.

The project tracking officers are tasked with the role of tracking all the projects listed within their state of operation; they also organize town hall meetings with the community members in order to enlighten them about projects contained within their constituencies. These Tracka officers visit different constituencies in order to attend the town hall meetings, listen to the agitation of the community members and assist them in communicating with their constituency representative(s) at all levels in order to get these projects completed.

What advice would you give to other African civic tech startups/projects? Or, put another way, what do you wish you had known when you started?

Collaboration is key. The work is bigger than all of us and we can only achieve our goals when we all work together. Civil Society Organisations in Africa need to do more as a team.

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Lessons from an African civic tech budget platform

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Melissa Tsungai Zisengwe