The Civic Tech Innovation Network (CTIN), in partnership with the South Africa Centre for Evidence (SACE) recently launched the Civic Tech in Africa Evidence Map. The Launch Event adopted a hybrid format and was hosted at Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct in Braamfontein on Wednesday 8 March 2023. While much is spoken about civic tech within Africa, there is limited research examining the types, distribution, and focus of existing literature within the African civic tech sector. Based on this observation, the aim of the Civic Tech Evidence Map was to create a common, up-to-date evidence/knowledge base about civic tech in the African context, to improve support, decision-making, and advocacy in relation to civic tech (including more broadly civil society innovation, tech for good and digital governance).
The Evidence Map project adopted a co-production model, where SACE provided technical training on methods used to generate the final Evidence Map. It is this collaborative effort that allowed for both technical and civic tech sector-specific knowledge to support creating a new knowledge base of African civic tech research. At CTIN, we define civic tech as the “appropriate and effective use of digital innovation in connecting government and citizens, in public participation, in transparency and accountability in delivering public services”. Evidence Maps are part of evidence synthesis methods and are widely used by several international and multinational organisations to determine the extent and distribution of existing research on a particular topic (see International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie), 2023).
The Evidence Map Launch was excellently moderated by Ms Koketso Moeti, from amandla.mobi. As an important first step, Prof. Geci Karuri-Sebina, CTIN Organiser, explained the background and rationale for embarking on the Evidence Mapping project, highlighting CTIN’s interest with evidence mapping as a methodology, as well as the need to build upon previous research resources such as the African Civic Tech Atlas (Database) and Civic Tech in Africa Initiatives and Case Studies Project developed by CTIN. Thereafter, Dr. Laurenz Langer, Managing Director of SACE gave a high-level overview of SACE’s approach to research and the benefits of a partnership model in creating Evidence Maps. Following these introductory remarks, participants were introduced to and immersed in the world of evidence mapping by Ms. Andile Madonsela, Managing Researcher: Evidence and Gender at SACE. Yasmin Shapurjee, Researcher at CTIN, then provided a summary of key findings and project reflections. The fun part of the event followed with the live demo of the Evidence Map, where participants were encouraged to explore the Evidence Map and test its functionality and level of user-friendly features. Participants were also asked to interrogate the content (database of literature) contained within the map and to give feedback, ask questions, and make suggestions on how to improve the Evidence Map.
Overall, the Evidence Map Launch was a successful event that brought many interested stakeholders together. The event drew a diverse set of participants from the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the Department of Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DPME), to civic tech organisations (in the private and NGO sector), as well as researchers, methodology experts. Our online participant profile included representation from organisation locally (for example, Open Cities Lab; OpenUp; University of Johannesburg, Future Cities Africa), across Africa (Chad Innovation Hub, ccHUB), and even abroad (European Partnership for Development). The Evidence Map project team was complimented on a job well done. Hosting an event that involved collaborative engagement and guided learning created an effective way for participants to follow their curiosity and view learning about civic tech research on the African continent as something that is fun, interesting, and engaging. The Civic Tech in Africa Evidence Map provides a living repository: essentially a database of knowledge on the latest research on civic tech across Africa. Going forward, we hope the Evidence Map can stimulate further research in (the already growing) African civic tech research space. Greater research equals greater knowledge and allows researchers and civic tech organisations, and related stakeholders and partners, to start building research in contexts where research gaps exist. Over time, this renewed research may facilitate policy dialogue and ultimately have a positive impact in the form of policy development in the civic tech field, and in the broader spheres of digital rights, digital innovations, and democracy building.
We encourage any civic tech organisation or researcher to submit research (published from 2022 onwards) to email@example.com for consideration to be added to the Evidence Map. CTIN will endeavour to regularly update and maintain the evidence base so that the database of research remains relevant, and reflects current research positions and lived realities.