Civic Tech Deep Dives 1
At each of the daily deep dives sessions at #Unplugged22, three civic tech initiatives funded by the African Union Civic Tech Fund (AUCTF) each presented and shared about their new innovations focused on justice, gender and governance issues such as citizens’ participation, service delivery, accountability, transparency, inclusion and access. The innovators were particularly invited to highlight how their innovations could enable and facilitate transformative action in their countries and across the African continent.
The African Union Civic Tech Fund is a pan-African initiative designed to contribute to achieving ambitious goals contained in the policies of the African Union (Agenda 2063 and Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa, 2020-2030)
The first deep dive session began with Dr Tapiwa Rweyemamu, the Head of Women and Gender Policy (African Union) who kicked off the session by explaining that more needs to be done to integrate technology into development. Utilising tech to bridge the gap between policy makers and citizens will lead to improved citizen participation. She stressed that meaningful citizen participation in governance and development issues is critical to achieve Agenda 2063. The session then highlighted three projects that were recipients of the African Union Civic Tech Fund (AUCTF).
Youssouf Puodiougo gave a presentation on Sira, a web and mobile platform for early warning and automatic analysis of cases of human rights violations. Sira has partnered with over 50 organisations to verify cases of human rights violation in Mali and identify victims. The analysis feature highlights what areas in Mali have the most cases of human rights violations. The integrated system allows medics, journalists, police, lawyers, youth and women’s groups and other stakeholders to use the platform. Puodiougo explains that this strengthens synergy as data comes from many organisations making it more credible and allowing each community to put forward their own priorities. For example, journalists are able to use the data to pressure authorities to address the human rights violation and hold them accountable while medics will be aware of what needs and medication a specific community needs.
Charles Muhindo then presented Citizen Voice, a platform that connects citizens to their leaders. In many African countries, once leaders are elected, citizens are automatically cut off from them. This makes it almost impossible to relay challenges to leaders who are in positions of power. There is also no unified platform for leaders to communicate about progress made with constituents. Muhindo explains that many leaders are hesitant to use social media, and this is the gap that Citizen Voices addresses. Citizens who are eligible to vote can register on the platform and post issues that affect them. Citizens have access to leaders, from a local level up to the President. Leaders can be engaged on a number of topics with the expectation that they will be responsive and give feedback.
Citizens can be included in decision making through polls which clarifies the view of a majority of citizens. For those who are not able to access the internet, there is a USSD options as well as SMS updates (with local language options) they can access. Muhindo explains that leaders also benefit from the platform as it allows them to share their progress and achievements, increasing their chances of re-election. This also serves as motivation for them to engage. They are able to directly respond to citizen grievances, initiate polls and send out announcements. There is also a budget and campaign promise tracker to allow citizens to hold leaders accountable. The platform also has an eWallet feature to crowdsource funding for projects.
Benjamin Makono wrapped up the session with his presentation on Vote-bot, a project attempting to increase youth and women participation in elections. Vote-bot is a WhatsApp-based platform targeted to reach Zimbabwe’s youth. Makono states that according to a recent study, many youths do not have any knowledge about their rights, the country’s Constitution and other democratic and governance matters. There is a lack of awareness of electoral systems and processes, low citizen participation, a lack of tools to efficiently and effectively monitor and observe the election process.
Additionally, youth and women represent over 75% of the Zimbabwean population but are very underrepresented in leadership roles. This platform was developed to address these challenges by ensuring people have access to information through tech, complement more traditional citizen engagement initiatives and present the law in a simplified way. Makono also pointed out that election observers (African Union, international organisations, etc.) usually do not involve citizens in the observation process. Vote-bot, however, allows citizens to take pictures and record audio to report any election misconduct. Vote-bot has plans to expand and have all 16 recognised languages available to ensure that the platform is accessible.
Check out other African Civic Tech Innovations Here