Civic Technology-Changing the face of Africa

Source: Times of India | Posted: 9 Aug, 2019
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What does one think why the word Africa comes up? Many Indian envision land of famine, civil war, poverty, disease. Although Africa does have its share of challenges however Africa is changing. Changing in the leadership of a small island called Mauritius. Mauritius is part of Africa but the image creates in one’s mind when the name Mauritius appears is very different from the word Africa.

Indian envision crystal clear sea, blue sky and sandy beaches. Just like the envisions Mauritius is leading Africa in the new direction with the Help of Civic Technology.

Mauritius itself is in the midst of a technological transition. Government is trying to keep pace with a growing techno-oriented environment. Civic technology can play a key role in solving major issues faced by the African continent. And Mauritius is taking the initiative.

The Prime Minister’s Office of Mauritius has just celebrated the success of its project ‘Citizen Support Portal(CSP)’. This is the first-ever Government led platform in the whole African continent to directly interact with its citizens. Uganda has already shown interest and asked for help in launching the same platform in their country.

With this portal, the government has not only empowered its citizens but has also revived one of the most important rights of its citizens, that is the ‘right to participate in governing of the nation’. In most of Africa where citizens don’t have any say in the government this portal is like a ray of hope for the whole African continent.

With the success of CSP, Mauritius has entered the era of civic tech where citizens will be in the centre of development and policy-making. It also allows governments to tap new sources of ideas, information and resources when making decisions.

What is Civic Tech?

Civic technology or civic tech can be defined as technologies that are deployed to enhance the relationship between citizens and government, by giving people more of a voice to participate in public decision making and/or to improve the delivery of services (usually by government) to its citizens. These technologies can be developed by either non-profit organizations or for-profit companies, or even by the government itself.

Participation of citizens

The Deputy Permanent Secretary at Prime Minister’s Office B.Rajahbalee says “the results are incredible and testimonies are overwhelming.” I would like to call it pre-CSU era when we were not able to directly communicate with the Citizen. Pre-CSU we didn’t know that dog-nuisances is such a big problem on the island. It’s with the number of complaints we receive on the issue we came to know how people are petting 5-10 and even 20 dogs in one house. Which is creating a problem for the whole area. Now we have informed the concerned ministry and they are coming up with the policy to address the issue. This is just one kind of case. The complaints and suggestion directly from the citizens are helping us craft the future policies. We even get many emotional testimonies when the problems of citizens are solved with just filling up the form on the portal.”

When asked how did this all start she informs “In February 2017, the Innovation Team of Mauritius Telecom(MT) approached the Government to implement an online complaints management system for the whole civil service. Since we already had 35 CAB (Citizen Advice Bureaus) Offices around the island, the CSU (citizen support Unit) and MT worked together on an appropriate back-office structure to support the Citizen Support Portal. The open-source software was thus customized by MT to include the CSU, the 35 CAB Offices and 283 Ministries/Departments/Local Authorities in its network. The launching was done by the Hon Prime Minister himself. Some 1000 civil servants were trained and connected to the system.”

Participatory government is today’s public policy buzzwords. It is a time they become more than that. That is what is happening in Mauritius. Now they are planning to promote the platform in whole African countries for a better future.

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