Citizen Engagement at the forefront of Democracy with DearSA and TransparencIT

“Civic Tech in Africa has the potential to consolidate our democracies, promote quality governance, bridge digital divides, and change citizens’ behaviours. It has the ambitious prospect of supporting growth in all facets of African lives and economies”economies”. – Abbas Inuwa, TransparencIT

Citizen voices, rights, and their decision-making engagements are the cornerstones of democracy. Transparency and accountability are critical in the context of a fractured globalised economy and the rise in democratic vulnerabilities across the African continent. In line with their rights, citizens want to participate in the decision-making process, especially in areas that concern their access to services and quality of life. Simultaneously, the rise of corruption in some African governments continues unabated, while citizens have no recourse nor power to deter corrupt practices. In response to these challenges, some civic tech initiatives have emerged, with a focus on strengthening transparency and accountability between government and citizens, whilst recognising the central role of citizen engagement and access to information in a sustainable and equitable democracy.

Dear South Africa (SA)

DearSA is a legally recognised and constitutionally protected non-profit platform which enables the public to co-shape all government policies, amendments, and proposals. Dear SA promotes citizen engagement and advocacy through running campaigns on its website. Citizens are encouraged to input their views and to add their voices to relevant and contemporary government policies, proposals, and legal amendments. Presently, the platform has a very active global participant network with over 1.1 million participants since launching in 2018. Currently, the company is enhancing its software architecture to increase digital deployment into other African regions.

“Through the years, we have learnt that transparency and accountability are the most important factors in our civil societal organizations… We do not elect to fight with government, but rather operate as a conduit between citizens and government.  Where legislation is not serving our Democratic values, we have engaged with litigation procedures, but these instances are often costly, so we believe that proactive public participation forms a vital role in the successful policy formation process.” – Chloe Roberts, DearSA

Citizen inputs on a civic tech platform such as DearSA hold more power than conventional petitions. For example, each comment inputted into the platform is recognised and counted as an individual submission to the government, whereas with a petition, the total number of signatures is only inputted as one submission to the government. Therefore, Dear SA allows citizens to give constructive input to improve the government-citizen interface. Proactive participation allows for the strengthening of a participative democracy as well as informed public, giving power back to citizens to co-shape policies to form legislation that works in their favour and improves their lives. 

There were times that our infrastructure couldn’t handle certain traffic loads with popular campaigns due to a booming response from the public and we have turned this lesson into an opportunity to expand our web server capacity globally. In addition, we have also structured our relationships and roles to ensure that DearSA operates in a non-bias manner”. – Chloe Roberts, DearSA

Be sure to check out DearSA at CTIFF22 where they will be having a virtual booth to showcase their digital solution with possible collaborative partners. The company will also be sharing insights into the process and success behind its system, offering a unique digital framework that can be easily applied and upscaled. 

TranspareccIT – Trial and Monitoring of Corruption Cases

TransparecIT is a socio-legal organisation fostering courtroom openness, advancing social justice and empowering citizens to own the fight against corruption and undertake oversight activities in Nigeria. TransparencIT offers a solution to the challenge of widespread corruption across Nigerian government structures that has reduced citizens’ quality of life and their access to basic services. Additionally, there is a lack of justice, accountability, transparency and ultimately recourse to end corrupt practices. Oftentimes, acts of corruption go unpunished due to corruption in the justice system itself or slow dispensation of justice, leading to loss of lives, poverty, unrest, and poor infrastructures.

“The initiative was inspired by the lack of appropriate sanctions for corrupt persons and the need to address the gap in the judiciary in the fight against corruption with the ultimate goal of ensuring the deterrence of corrupt behaviours.” – Abbas Inuwa, TransparencIT

“TransparencIT works at the intersection of data, new technologies and citizen engagement to foster courtroom openness, data transparency and social justice to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and legitimacy of public institutions to promote an equitable and accountable society.” 

At CTIFF22, TransparencIT will be exhibiting its Trial and Monitoring of Corruption Cases initiative. This initiative tracks and evaluates corruption cases in Nigerian courts to ensure stakeholders comply with the law to push cases at every hearing towards a speedy conclusion. The initiative created an online database of 3,000+ corruption cases and evaluated 325 high-profile cases by identifying challenges and causes of delay in trials and recommending to the National Judicial Council ways to reduce delays, improve efficiency, and achieve speedy conclusions of trials without compromising fairness. At their booth, #Unplugged attendees will learn the company’s strategy and tech system, the challenges faced and how they overcame them, as well as the benefits brought upon by these challenges to the organisation and the wider justice system. 

To learn more about DearSA and TransparencIT, as well as a wider showcase of inspiring African civic tech initiatives, check them out at the virtual exhibition hangouts

#CTIF22  #Uplugged  #CivicTech  #DigitalInnovation

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