The State of Civic Tech Research in Africa: An Evidence Map

The Civic Tech Evidence Map is a joint collaborative project by Civic Tech Innovation Network and the South Africa Centre for Evidence. The aim of the Evidence Mapping project 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). 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, and in delivering public services

Civic Tech Evidence Map

Background

The role of technology in shaping and driving development has been a leading focus for global research in our contemporary, connected world. From an African perspective, while technology may lag behind Western countries, its application and adoption are steadily growing and gaining traction. Civic technology, commonly referred to as “civic tech” is a relatively new field, globally, having emerged in the 2000s. Within the Global South, civic tech initiatives and organisations are developing at a steady pace, with successful case studies from Africa that use digital tools and applications to support citizen engagement, empowerment, democracy, and governance (Piexto and Sifry, 2017).

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). 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 (International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie), 2023).

Project Overview

The Civic Tech Evidence Mapping Project was undertaken as a collaborative partnership between the Civic Tech Innovation Network (CTIN) – a programme of Tayarisha African Centre of Excellence in Digital Governance hosted at the Wits School of Governance, and the South Africa Centre for Evidence (SACE). The project was undertaken over an 8-month period from June 2022 until January 2023,and adopted a co-production model SACE providing guidance and training on the evidence mapping methodology. Particularly, the role of workshopping with interested stakeholders from WSG and the HSRC helped us in conceptualising, planning and defining what the team wanted to get out of doing an evidence-mapping exercise for African civic tech research. Work on populating the Evidence Map itself in terms of data sourcing, management, coding and evidence curation, was undertaken by CTIN’s full-time Research Assistant with guidance and oversight from SACE. The Evidence Map was produced using the systematic Eppi-Reviewer 4 software that facilitated the collection, screening, and categorization of literature (evidence) sources.

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