[Listen] New Podcast Alert: Understanding the work of Civic Tech in Africa

Listen to our podcast here: Understanding the work of Civic Tech in Africa

In this podcast, We speak to Professor Geci Karuri-Sebina, National Coordinator at Civic Tech Innovation Network who will share with us more about the Civic Tech Innovation Network and its work. She was invited to be the National organiser at CTIN in its first year, 2018, to support its efforts to engage with different actor groups in SA, including local and national government officials who were relatively unaware of the emerging field of civic tech.

 

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

 

Project Profile: Asivikelane, the campaign improving basic services in informal settlements

Asivikelane has one goal, to mobilize settlement residents to monitor failures in delivery of critical hygiene services and report the problems.

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Melissa Tsungai Zisengwe

 

Innovation Q&A: #CTIF2020 Keynote speaker, Al Kags

One of our keynote speakers shares his thoughts on the Civic Tech community in Africa

What should attendees look forward to?

What topic are you hoping we discuss at the conference? What is civic tech in Africa not addressing?

You are an advocate for open government and citizen participation, How do you envision civic tech to influence the relationship between governments and citizens?

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Innovation Q&A: #CTIF2020 Keynote speaker, Al Kags

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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

 

The time to act on digital rights is now

What is the state of digital rights in Africa and the rest of the world?

A London-based non-profit called Small Media is on a mission and is dedicated to championing digital rights led a session this issue during the Forum on Internet Freedom Africa (#FIFAfrica) in Ethiopia. The non-profit implemented a project called UPROAR which aims to put digital rights firmly on the global human rights agenda.

We had a chat with Bronwen Robertson, director of Global Programmes at Small Media on the sidelines of #FIFAfrica about digital rights in Africa.

What are digital rights?

The concept of digital rights typically relates to the protection and realisation of human rights in digital spaces. Generally, digital rights can be defined as rights encompassing the right to privacy and the right to freedom of opinion and expression. However, at Small Media, we believe that digital rights extend far beyond that. They tend to use the phrase “human rights online” to describe digital rights. This is because in many spaces, for example, at the United Nations where UPROAR lobbies and advocates for digital rights through the Universal Periodic Review, it is difficult for diplomats and other stakeholders to understand the direct implication of digital rights violations on the broader human rights landscape.

Robertson says they have found it challenging to let people know how important the protection of human rights online and offline is, especially in shrinking spaces and geographies where marginalised and vulnerable groups are already at risk.
“Sometimes ‘online’ is the only space where at-risk groups can assemble and express an opinion, so it’s incredibly important to invest resources and advocacy efforts into increasing these spaces and preventing them from closing.”

What is the state of digital rights in Africa?

Event Blog published on Medium, click link below

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Melissa Tsungai Zisengwe

 

Can radical transparency increase trust between government and citizens?

“Radical transparency has led to a radical transformation of social expectations of the government by citizens”

Audrey Tang is the first Digital Minister in Taiwan. She runs the Public Digital Innovation Space, a digital service at the national level which helps with the development and facilitation of public digital innovations and services. Before joining the government Audrey was a civic tech activist in Taiwan’s gov movement and participated in the Sunflower Movement.

Although an experienced software developer (she worked on the development of the Perl programming language), her role as an innovator in government is less about technology and much more about introducing new — and radical — changes to how government works.

Event Blog published on Medium, click link below

Can radical transparency increase trust between government and citizens?

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Melissa Tsungai Zisengwe

 

Innovation Q&A: Health-e’s Kim Harrisberg

Can a ‘mobile’ conversations give rape survivors a voice? Incorporating civic tech into a media campaign in South Africa could change the way media covers rape and influence how sexual violence health services

Izwi Lami is a civic tech project of health news agency Health-e. Using responsive text (SMS) to start conversations with rape survivors, Izwi Lami — which means “my voice” — is hoping to change the news narrative around reporting on sexual violence by using tech to amplify survivors’ voices. The SMSes also direct survivors to counselling services in their area and invite them to add their names to a petition campaign that calls for the provision of essential care packages at clinics and hospitals. We spoke to multimedia journalist Kim Harrisberg about the campaign, the tech tools they used and lessons they have learnt.

Q. Tell us about the roots and aims of the Izwi Lami campaign

Health-e has existed for 18 years, and has been covering sexual violence and gender-based violence for many many years. This campaign started as a means to address the sexual violence crisis in South Africa. Our staff imagined how we could address this issue through an innovation lens, one that could tackle the normalisation of rape culture, by engaging with survivors — so that they are not only being spoken “about”, but can come into the conversation. This fits into the concept of service journalism or journalism that provides tools. We also believe that it helps combat reader fatigue on the topic.

We had three specific aims for the campaign:

1. To provide a space for survivors to share their testimony. We’ve had examples like one survivor who said they were raped 30 years ago but have never had a space to talk about it before. We wanted survivors to feel less alone.

2. To direct survivors towards Thuthuzela centres and counselling services in their provinces. For this, we contacted all the Thuthuzela centres first to check capacity, and we only refer survivors to the ones that indicated ability to handle the new stream. We realised the responsibility of referring survivors to a place that is able to assist.

3. To direct survivors towards the petition that we set up with amandla.mobi that is calling for packages of care to be distributed to all 25 health facilities. The package of care cover the basics that a rape survivor should be given including the “morning-after pill”, antiretrovirals, counselling and various antibiotics.

This final aim was influenced by our own goals and purpose. Because we are a health news agency, we wanted to look at it through the health lens. We had considered other options, such as directing survivors to the sexual offences court, but we decided to focus on the basics of the health care they need after rape.

A lot of this was inspired by a report from MSF looking at a clinic in Rustenburg where they found that a large portion of abortions from the clinic were terminating pregnancies that occurred as a result of rape. This showed that too many survivors were not getting the health interventions they needed. Many women didn’t even know that they were entitled to these things. So, we also designed posters for the clinics that gave details of the kinds of care survivors are entitled to receive. We have citizen journalists around the country and they have helped us distribute these to clinics and hospitals.

We have used extracts of the testimonies on social media and in news pieces (with permission from the survivors, of course). This was important for us to show other survivors that they are not alone. We also wanted to humanise the rape statistics. These aren’t just numbers, but people. We are not saying this is a perfect model, but it has prompted us to analyse our role as journalists in SA, and how we partner with other organisations and use tech to do so.

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Innovation Q&A: Health-e’s Kim Harrisberg

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Melissa Tsungai Zisengwe

 

Civic Tech Q&A: SmartCape’s Thurlo Cicero

This ambitious project aims to bring Cape Town’s citizenry online and promote digital literacy

How do you extend online access and promote digital literacy in a deeply unequal society?

This is the mammoth task Cape Town’s SmartCape initiative set itself. Senior online producer for the City of Cape Town Thurlo Cicero takes us through their growth into one of Africa’s largest digital inclusion projects, and the lessons they learned along the way.

Q. Tell us about the start of SmartCape and how it has grown?

SmartCape started in 2002 with a pilot project in just six municipal libraries. We knew that we needed to give citizens access to the internet, and this was the seed of the idea. In 2003 we applied for and won funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that allowed us to scale up the operation. Today we now provide limited daily internet access from PCs across all of the City’s 104 libraries. Several of the locations also have WiFi zones too.

This has evolved into a broader digital inclusion project that is part of the City and Mayor’s vision for Cape Town. SmartCape is the platform through which we are up-skilling people and promoting e-literacy. It is also a means to accessing the City’s e-services. Today there are over 450 000 registered users who can get 45-min free internet use per session per day, across 670 computers. The users of the wifi spots can access up to 500 MB a month.

Q. What data do you collect from your users and how do you inform them of this data usage?

We collect a lot of demographic information through the sign up process — all the typical stuff. We also provide the privacy policy during the registration. Users can also access this at any point from the footer menu at the bottom of our website. In addition, we also capture where people log on from, what kinds of applications they use. Our privacy policy was approved by the City’s legal department and we believe it is PoPI-compliant, and promotes informed consent.

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Civic Tech Q&A: SmartCape’s Thurlo Cicero

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Melissa Tsungai Zisengwe

 

Innovator Q&A: amandla.mobi’s Koketso Moeti

The founder talks innovation, success, learning, and chasing scale at the influential community advocacy NPO.

Koketso Moeti is the founder and executive director of amandla.mobi — a non-profit community advocacy organisation that works to empower communities to raise awareness and enact change on the issues that matter most to them.

Their stated goal is to “turn every cellphone into a democracy building tool so that no matter where you live; what language you speak or what issue you care about, you can take action with others”. And their primary weapon of choice is petitions and awareness campaigns.

One of their most prominent and successful campaigns to date was the petition to stop the “virgin bursaries” (the uThukela District Municipality’s ‘Maidens Bursary Award’) which has over 17,000 signatories.

Q. To your mind, what is the most innovative thing about the amandla.mobi platform?

The creative use of technology to amplify the work of those being silenced and ignored, and to bring critical social issues to the foreground is a significant way of democratising digital tools.

Tech is not going to disappear. We need to harness it creatively to build the world we want, rather than leaving it solely to those whose only interests are profits, exploitation and worse. And this is where we are innovating, we didn’t build something new. We merely took the same tech that could’ve been used in all these other ways and used it differently. This is innovation, which is often conflated with invention.

How do you measure yourselves and campaigns? What constitutes success for a campaign?

Basically success for a campaign is having a decision-maker take a decision we want them to and implement it, like when we got eTV to broadcast ‘Miners Shot Down’. That was very clear, simple success.

We also have campaigns like when we forced the Department of Higher Education to release the ‘No Fee Varsity’ report. The initial ask of the campaign was just for the report to be released. We felt this was important and that it affirmed and strengthened the #FeesMustFall struggle that was happening at the time. [Success for a] campaign [like that] means having your first victory, and then moving the energy to a “next ask”, like implementation.

Other internal measures of success include measuring the number of people who join more than one campaign, and go up the ladder of engagement by taking more and deeper actions, such as directly contacting a decision maker; contributing to a submission; donating to a particular tactic; advising us on campaign tactics; hosting a meeting or other kind of event; attending a protest; and so on.

There are some side benefits we don’t quite measure which can also be important, like how some campaigns raise awareness about things that are often ignored, or just even put new information in the public domain.

Event Blog published on Medium, click link below

Innovator Q&A: amandla.mobi’s Koketso Moeti

FOLLOW AUTHOR:

Melissa Tsungai Zisengwe