Penplusbytes, a leading organisation in deploying new digital tools for citizen engagement, hosted the finalists of the Global Innovation Competition (GIC) by Making All Voices Count (MAVC) on a project learning tour of Ada to understand how technology is transforming governance and enhancing citizen engagement at the local level in Ghana.
The 15 finalists, made up of a two-member team each, from both Africa and Asia were taken through Penplusbytes’ “Grassroots Open Government Using New Digital Tools” project which is being funded by MAVC. A total of ten (10) competitors will win a total of about £600,000 in grants to support their projects in addition to expert mentorship.
The competitors were taken through how the project combines both offline and especially online technology to close the feedback loop among citizens, local government, Civil Society Organisations and service delivery providers for effective governance. The project, which focuses in the area of public service delivery with particular emphasis on Health, Education and Sanitation sectors is being implemented by Penplusbytes in Ada and Tamale using a collaborative and integrated approach to promote and enhance communication and information sharing between citizens and the local government.
According to Jerry Sam, the Director of Programmes at Penplusbytes, “the project has been successful in proving the concept of technology enabling citizen participation in governance as citizens get the opportunity to participate in the budget monitoring and service delivery of the assemblies. This project enhances the mutual understanding between duty bearers and the citizens”.
Having been taken through how the project works, the 15 finalists were split into 2 groups with one group interacting with the project beneficiaries in the local communities, while the other engaged with the local authorities for a deeper understanding of how the project is being implemented and managed.
Sharing his thoughts after the sessions, Gulbazali Khan from Pakistan commended Penplusbytes for bridging trust levels between local people and their government through this intervention. “This project, in my own reflections, comes as very commendable having been able to deploy their tools in an area which has about 65% illiteracy rate. That is something i would want to replicate in my country as well,” he said.
Another participant from Kenya, Eric, described the experience as refreshing. Saying, “It feels wonderful to actually witness at firsthand how communities and citizens interact with Government authorities for them to act on issues affecting them”.
Ms Monica Nthiga, South to South Lab Manager of MAVC, said many countries of the world have a common governance problem and that the Global Innovation Competition seeks to support innovation and technology that has the potential to support better governance systems.
Penplusbytes is a not-for-profit organization driving change through innovations in three key areas: using new digital technologies to enable good governance and accountability, new media and innovations, and driving oversight for effective utilisation of mining, oil and gas revenue and resources.
Making All Voices Count (MAVC) is a global initiative that supports effective governance and accountability by enabling citizen engagement and open, responsive government, through GIC seeks to address problems each year around the citizen-to-government relationship.