In Kenya, there has been an increased investment in ICT infrastructure and in governance and technology projects.
The Government of Kenya launched the Huduma centers to improve public service delivery by leveraging ICTs, and the e-Citizen platform which is a gateway to government services such as renewing driving licenses and business registration.
With the above impetus, in an event dubbed the ‘Governance-Technology Showcase’, Making All Voices Count together with UN Habitat came together to explore some of the GovTech work currently taking place in Kenya with an aim to:
Share learnings from the projects’ implementation,
Provide an opportunity for support and partnership by and with Making All Voices Count and UN Habitat, for some of the projects presented.
The Showcase, aptly held at the iHub (Nairobi’s Innovation hub for technologists) on 1 April 2016, was seen as an opportunity to ‘match supply with demand’ where tech projects with innovations for better governance shared their solutions to an audience of county government representatives, the private and corporate sector, donors and civil society.
The keynote address was given by Daudi Were, Interim Executive Director of Ushahidi and Strategic Advisor to MAVC, who set a personal tone of citizen engagement with the government – many people lack a voice and organisations that can help can’t/won’t hear them. He also shared on the different use cases of Ushahidi for citizen engagement and on successful implementation of tech projects based on understanding the problem first. Noting that tech alone can’t solve this problem; it is just 10% of successful intervention.
Douglas Ragan, Unit Leader for Youth and Livelihoods at UN-Habitat, also shared on his vast experience of working with the youth and government. That training the youth on urban matters brings out sustainability aspects in our cities.
There were three panels of startups/projects/organizations in the Gov-Tech space that shared on the problem they’re solving, the tech they’re using to solve the problem, the research that informed their work and response to their work by citizens and governments.
The first panel constituted:
Una Hakika: an information service which provides subscribers with neutral, accurate information in response to rumours that arise in the Tana Delta,
Ma3Route: a mobile/web/SMS platform that crowd-sources for transport data and provides users with information on traffic, matatu directions and driving reports,
Huduma (Infonet Africa) now known as Sauti Yetu: an ecosystem of support towards creating a responsive government and a responsible citizenry,by providing a set of tools for citizens to amplify their concerns and suggestions on public services, and,
Spatial Collective: a Nairobi-based social enterprise that uses Geographic Information Systems for community development. Through data collection and visualization, they support communities to identify available resources and apply this knowledge in development initiatives.
The second panel constituted:
Maji Ripoti, a platform for reporting water issues, for better accountability in water service provision,
Toto Health, an SMS and voice technology to help reduce maternal mortality, child mortality and detect developmental abnormalities in early stages,
Eneza – a virtual tutor and teacher’s assistant – a way for both students and teachers to access valuable courses and assessments while interacting with live instructors – all through a low-cost mobile phone,
Brck Moja, that deals in provision of entertainment content like movies, series, music and books which are stored inside the BRCK in order to be accessed by the local people through the use of a mobile phone, and
National Taxpayers Association, a national, independent, non-partisan organization focused on supporting good governance in Kenya through strengthening citizen to government accountability, and citizen-to-citizen accountability. The NTA represents all citizens as everyone pays taxes.
The third panel constituted:
MatQ – a digital transport management system offering queuing management, data collection and improving revenue collection at matatu terminals;
Ugatuzi-Uwazi by Waumini Communications tracks finances at county levels, reports on misappropriation of funds & corruption cases;
Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX) – an open platform for sharing humanitarian data for use and analysis thereby mobilizing response to global level emergencies e.g. Ebola, Conflicts;
Akirachix – an organization that provides training, mentorship and outreach programs to increase the number of skilled women in technology and positively impact the community; and
Sauti Ya Mtaa – combining artistic communication and innovative journalism technologies, the aim of the project is to establish a communication system supporting networks of civically engaged youth across Nairobi, allowing them to be the drivers and leaders of the change to the political system and contribute to foster the civic empowerment and public action. Of importance to note is that MatQ is the winning solution from the UN Habitat Innovation Marketplace Project hackathon.
The sessions were moderated by Nanjira Sambuli, Research Lead at iHub, who knows, understands and has interacted with most of the organizations at the showcase. As such she was able to delve further into their projects for more meaningful discussions. She also shared on Umati – an iHub Research project that seeks to better understand the use of dangerous speech in the Kenyan online space.
Questions that arose from the showcase:
How are the panelists ensuring sustainability of their projects/solutions?
How is user-friendliness factored in to the technology solutions devised by the different organisations represented?
These tech solutions are collecting data. What kind of data is being shared with stakeholders? What are the ethics around sharing data and privacy? How is the data being secured?
How do these organisations and projects rate success? And how do they measure the social impact of their solutions?
Highlights from the panel discussions are:
When it comes to matters governance, it is not just enough to provide an avenue for reporting on issues. There has to be action taken, thus completing the feedback loop.
The panelists shared that they conducted their baseline research through other research reports, talking to communities, personal perceptions, exploratory data, etc. This research is critical as it will inform you on the existing gaps thereby enabling you to provide an actual solution.
If you intend to venture into the Gov-Tech space and be sustainable, articulate the challenges and overall objective, get solutions that are long-term, understand your partnerships – specifically empowering beneficiaries to own the initiatives and establishing a relationship with the government by presenting data that is meaningful to them to ensure buy in, address policy, and sustainability.
It is important for people to understand that governance and government are not the same.
Technology can play a crucial role in bridging the gap between different stakeholders – state, NGOs, private sector, etc.
Toto Health is accessible through text and voice (for those who can’t read) and also translated in local languages. When developing an ICT solution, such aspects of access should be considered.
Resources shared during the showcase:
A report looking intothe processes through which organisations in South Africa and Kenya choose technology tools to use in transparency and accountability initiatives -and how this influences the effectiveness of their work;
A book examining how ICT enabled governance is applied to urban policy design and highlights case studies, tools, methodologies, all reflecting current challenges and potential for the use of ICT in governance processes in cities
A recap from a related event, where stakeholders shared insights on leveraging Technology to Improve Civic Engagement
ICT and Governance in East Africa: A 2014 Landscape Report.
This showcase strengthened the theory of change underlying technology for governance (GovTech), that increased civic participation leads to better governance. If citizens can provide feedback to government about service delivery, and even rate the quality of specific programs, then government will have more information to prioritise service delivery and should be more accountable to citizens. Not to mention the fundamental windfall of strengthening the relationship between a government and its citizens. Moreover, that technology- especially increasingly ubiquitous cell phones, and also the Internet- makes it easier for ordinary people to engage directly with government; citizens become better advocates for getting the services that they most need, and governments can deliver those services more effectively.
The conversation continues. Share your thoughts or insights using the #GovTechKE hashtag.
As the United Nations programme working towards a better urban future, UN-Habitat’s mandate is to promote sustainable human settlements. One of its contemporary approaches is through mainstreaming digital technology use in its thematic areas of practice. Specifically through the Youth Unit; building capacity at local levels around the use of ICT as a tool for good governance and youth engagement, ultimately institutionalising innovative solutions to enhance citizen engagement.
Additionally, there are other international programs such as Making All Voices Count (MAVC) that are testing and learning on how tech tools can increase interaction between citizens and government and state responsiveness through its fund to support innovation and technology. Kenya’s thematic focus in the Making All Voices Count program is on:
supporting innovations that promote citizen participation and government responsiveness for improved service provision at the county level and,
Social accountability in the extractives industry.