GovChat gets global recognition with UNICEF partnership

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GovChat CEO Eldrid Jordaan.
GovChat CEO Eldrid Jordaan.

National citizen engagement platform GovChat has received international recognition from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), signing a deal with the children's rights advocacy organisation to advance child protection, youth engagement and social policy initiatives in SA.

Through GovChat’s online civic engagement platforms, the partnership seeks to develop communication systems for real-time monitoring of children’s well-being and enhance children’s access to social services through online communication and engagement with parents and children.

For SA’s youth, online information guides will be rolled out to empower young people with skills to bring about positive change in their lives and communities, with the aim of addressing the concerns of young people with regards to unemployment, education, health and climate emergencies.

By garnering citizen sentiment and undertaking data collection and analysis, the GovChat platform will support the intensification of UNICEF SA’s evidence-based advocacy and awareness programmes, according to the advocacy organisation.

GovChat has over four million active users in SA, and has to date processed over 170 million messages, making it one of Africa’s largest citizen government engagement platforms.

As the official citizen engagement platform for the South African government, GovChat acts as a centralised hub, bringing all government and civic services together through conversational artificial intelligence accessible via WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, SMS and USSD channels.

UNICEF says it is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to advocate for the protection of the rights of children and youth, to help meet their basic needs and expand their opportunities to reach their full potential.

In addition, the partnership will provide important information on children’s rights throughout their lifecycle while identifying various duty bearers to deliver services to children.

“UNICEF is pleased to partner with GovChat to advance children’s rights – especially at this critical time as the country faces the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Muriel Mafico, UNICEF deputy representative.

“When children face critical circumstances, strategic partnerships are key to ensuring no child is left behind.”

UNICEF mobilises political will and material resources to help countries, particularly developing countries, ensure a "first call for children" and to build their capacity to form appropriate policies and deliver services for children and their families.

The organisation says it works to build a better world for children and youth in more than 190 countries and territories.

The GovChat partnership has identified the next steps, with both parties expressing keenness to explore and leverage a social compact with government and the corporate sector for an accelerated investment in prevention and early intervention services for the marginalised children of SA.

“For GovChat, working with UNICEF is expected to be a very important journey as we maximise our digital engagement platform to advance children and their rights,” notes GovChat CEO Eldrid Jordaan.

Informing 50 million citizens

In addition to engaging citizens, GovChat enables South Africans to rate and report public services and facilities, and upload reports and photographs of challenges to ensure councillors can quickly and accurately address problems in the community they serve.

It provides a complaint management system for local government, with an automated escalation process for unattended queries. These citizen and community queries are aggregated into a real-time dashboard which intuitively visualises the data and provides the government with an early warning system.

In light of the COVID-19 crisis, GovChat stepped in to assist in a number of areas, including helping the South African Social Security Agency manage frequently asked questions about the R350 relief grant, providing COVID-19-related information and requesting citizens to vote on schools’ readiness to re-open.

GovChat says it will soon officially launch its tailored technology platform that will enable over 50 million citizens to communicate with all arms of the South African government.

IT solutions firm Synthesis has commenced the development of the platform on Amazon Web Services (AWS). Using scalable services from AWS ensures the platform will meet the expected demand and growth in adoption, enabling the country’s over 50 million citizens to extract maximum benefits and satisfaction through its use, says GovChat.

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