Published this week – ‘Civic Tech in the Global South’


[ Skip the waffle, just want the PDF… Ok fine go ahead download it!! 🙂 ]


In 2014/15, I was working on a research project for the World Bank looking into ways to evaluate ‘ICT-mediated citizen engagement’ – a descriptive but not-so-catchy description, which we later amended to ‘digital citizen engagement’ and has since been replaced with the far catchier ‘civic tech’.

The project involved producing a guide for practitioners to help evaluate these type of civic tech interventions which was published in 2016 (available here), which was informed by the hands-on evaluation of three real pieces of civic tech – U-Report in Uganda, MajiVoice in Kenya and the participatory budget in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.

These evaluations helped to create the framework and guidance in the practitioners’ guide but are also extremely interesting and valuable pieces of work in their own right, and have this week been published – along with a comparative study drawing on both these and other evaluations in a new book by the World Bank:

Civic Tech in the Global South: Assessing Technology for the Public Good

The book is edited by Tiago Peixoto (World Bank) and Micah Sifry (Civic Hall), with an extremely interesting foreword by Beth Noveck (Gov Lab at NYU) and contains the following chapters:

  • Civic Tech—New Solutions and Persisting Challenges (Tiago Peixoto and Micah L. Sifry)
  • When Does ICT-Enabled Citizen Voice Lead to Government Responsiveness? (Tiago Peixoto and Jonathan Fox)
  • The Case of UNICEF’s U-Report Uganda (Evangelia Berdou and Claudia Abreu Lopes, with Fredrik M. Sjoberg and Jonathan Mellon)
  • MajiVoice Kenya—Better Complaint Management at Public Utilities (Martin Belcher and Claudia Abreu Lopes, with Fredrick M. Sjoberg and Jonathan Mellon)
  • Impact of Online Voting on Participatory Budgeting in Brazil (Matt Haikin with Fredrik M. Sjoberg and Jonathan Mellon)

So nice to see my first ‘real’ publication – looking forward to getting a copy of the book in the post, but meanwhile the electronic version will do! 😊

All three evaluations are interesting, and all cover civic tech from very different angles, yet through the consistency of the five lenses we designed for the practitioner’s guide, which I have to say gets more useful the more I revisit it (and not just for civic tech work either, for a whole range of ICT4D):

LENS

QUESTION

Objective What are the goals of the initiative, and how well is the project designed to achieve those goals?
Control Which actors exert the most influence over the initiative’s design and implementation, and what are the implications of this?
Participation Which individuals participate in the initiative, and to what extent is their participation in line with their needs and expectations?
Technology How appropriate was the choice of the tech­nology, and how well was the technology implemented?
Effects What effects did the project have, and to what extent can this impact be attributed to technology?

I was going to include a summary of the key findings of each evaluation here but… you know what… the download is free, why not just read the originals instead!

And finally, and hopefully not sounding too much like Gwyneth Paltrow bawling her eyes out at an Oscar’s ceremony…  A few thankyous without whom the guide and the evaluations might never have happened…

Aptivate, ICA:UK, IDS, George Flatters, Nate Whitestone, Jonathan Dudding, Evangelia Berdou, Savita Bailur, Rebecca Murphy, Martin Belcher, Claudia Lopes, Fernanda Scur, Fredrik Sjoberg, Jonathan Mellon… and of course Tiago, Sanna, Kate, Daniel and the rest of the team at the Bank… and those involved in the publication of the book… and… a whole load of other people listed in the acknowledgements in the book… and… ok I think that’s probably enough! 😊

Hope you find it as interesting to read as it was to work on!

Oh, and it goes without saying that if you need some advice and guidance on evaluating your own ICT-mediated digital citizen engagement civic technology intervention projects (ahem)…  Drop me a message.

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