What Civic Tech tools are being leveraged within the African Continent?
Civic tech tools are gaining prominence in the recent past, helping Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) perform their work in increasing access to information and promoting accountability. Many of us in the tech space can remember the time Ushahidi was deployed to support reporting on election violence during the 2007 Kenyan presidential elections. A number of these tools have been developed but not widely used. Is it because of limited knowledge on what tools are out there? Is it the lack of capacity to reuse them? On the other hand, there is need to explore different opportunities that software developers can tap into to develop more civic tech tools that match the needs of CSOs. This is what we set out to find out during the Social and Civic Tech tools showcase supported by CIPESA and implemented in partnership with Outbox.
The Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) in partnership with Outbox, a technology innovation hub based in Kampala, Uganda held their first showcase event of civic tools being used within the African region. The showcase took place on Tuesday 4th July 2017, with the objective of creating awareness among civil society actors, software developers so as to drive the adoption of civic technologies.
Under the ICT4Democracy (#ict4Dem) in East Africa initiative, the events across Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are aimed at increasing knowledge and awareness of civic and social tech and promoting opportunities for collaboration between transparency, accountability and human rights actors, and technologists.
This event attracted up-to forty-five (45) participants from Government, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Software developers, representatives from Government and Journalists.
Ashnah Kalemera, the project lead and program manager at CIPESA, started off the workshop with an introduction to the ICT4Dem initiative. She was followed by Richard Zulu a founding partner and lead at Outbox, also the Lead at Code4Uganda, gave an overview of civic tools being leveraged by Code4Africa and their impact so far. These range from tools to report quack doctors in Kenya, to tracking oil mining activities off the shores of Nigeria. A list of tools is on the Code4Africa website https://codeforafrica.org/ Code4Uganda is part of a federation of civic labs in Africa being incubated at Outbox.
What civic tools have been developed and are being used locally?
Follow-on presenters shared on the following tools:
1) M-Omulimisa; an application that was formerly developed to link farmers and extension workers. The application has now been transformed to monitor service delivery in Eastern and Northern Uganda. Launched in July 2016, the platform enables users to report service delivery gaps to local authorities by sending a message to the short code 8228 with the sender’s location. This was presented by Ivan Pino.
2) Parliament Watch; that monitors and analyses proceedings of the Parliament of Uganda. Parliament Watch uses social media such as Periscope, Facebooklive to hold digital dialogues and engage Members of Parliament on pressing issues. They also use other conventional methods like community dialogues to link members of parliament with their constituencies.
3) User.Ug; an electronic system for monitoring construction works in Kampala City. Mr. Haroon Kakembo talked about an initiative by Kampala City Council which is developing the Uganda System for Electronic open data Records(USER) to support tracking of City Council projects, and the ability to offer feedback on them.
4) Yogera, a citizens’ engagement platform that connects citizens to their government and increase government responsiveness to raised issues in communities. Gilbert Arinda, shared how Yogera is improving service delivery to the citizens through their platform.
5) Citizen reporter: a platform that allows citizens to contribute to stories in the newsroom by submitting stories from their communities using a mobile application. This was presented by Philip Ahereza, a software developer under Code4Uganda.
The government was represented by Mr. Michael Ocero the Assistant Commissioner for Information Technology, Ministry of ICT and National guidance, Government of Uganda. He shared on the Government initiative to promote innovation within the local ecosystem.
Crowning the event was a rich panel session that discussed on the topic “What motivates anyone to do what they do in civic tech”? It was comprised of experienced panelists from civil society space, journalism, information technology space and Government; Raymond Besiga (Developer- Spark plug), Lillian Nalwoga (CIPESA), Gerald Atenyi (Lecturer — Department of Journalism, Makerere), Joshua Akandwanaho, the Applications Solutions Architect at NITA-U. The session was moderated by Brian Lamtoo, a software developer.
We would love to hear your stories on how you have adopted any of these tools, and how they have enabled you improve your work in civic engagement? You can leave a comment below for us to follow up.