Civic Tech: The “FAILURE” I didn’t see coming!

Many organizations have genuine intentions in either investing or developing civic tech ideas but may be miles behind in understanding the core reason for one

Written by Busayo Morakinyo

Lady looking shocked at a computer screen
Civic Tech “Failures” You Did Not See Coming?

Article first published 15 October 2022 on damibusayo.com

I am sorry, but we would need to restart the development if we are going to achieve any tangible results within the timeline you have given”

This was the resolution of the web contractor working on the product upgrade of a social accountability platform that another team of developers created about 2years ago. After 3months of vague work with many loopholes, this web developer suddenly realised ‘oh snap, we’ve not been making sense the entire time.”

I was stunned. We had painstakingly searched for a tech company to upgrade the platform until we came in contact with these professionals, believing in their skill to optimize our CivicTech tool. I could not wrap my head around the difficulty of finding the right fit for the job.

A quick flashback–I had moved from managing and implementing civil society programs to leading a new team called Community Engagements with zero blueprints on how to structure, maximize and scale in line with the strategic plan of the organization, yet this area was an urgent need for the movement.

As a builder and convener, I have always been passionate about governance structures, putting functional systems in place and building teams. For this role, I was given a goal – build a social accountability movement across Nigeria and scale up to all African countries.

Remember, zero blueprints, zero budget.

In late 2016, We were looking to rebuild trust between citizens and the government so my team and I invented a civic tech tool, a social accountability platform where citizens could discuss the government’s accountability issues, and opacity in public procurements and suggest ways of engaging with public institutions. At the initial stage, there was a growing receptiveness to this idea and citizens from all over the country joined this platform, similar to Facebook, albeit conversations were strictly on curating public budgets, and government data, while demanding timely government intervention for deprived communities.

This platform is called iFollowTheMoney. Users tracked abandoned government projects and reported on the platform. We had researchers, journalists, public service holders, academics and citizens who were there for different reasons, some to amplify incomplete government works in their community, others to get information about public data.

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Also read Barriers to Citizen Engagement and The State of Civic Tech Initiatives on the African Continent

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