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GovChat to provide UN with decision-making citizen data

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The United Nations (UN) in South Africa has signed a memorandum of understanding with GovChat, the national citizen engagement digital platform for South Africans.

The agreement allows GovChat to provide the inter-governmental non-profit organisation with anonymous citizen data, to provide insights on the socio-economic issues faced by local citizens.

The national citizen engagement platform says it has established a digital footprint across the topography of SA, giving a voice to millions of citizens, many of them poor and previously disenfranchised. It has amassed over eight million users since it was launched in 2017, garnering three million of these over the last year alone.

As part of its collaboration with the UN, the supplied GovChat data will be used for the purposes of understanding the lived experiences of ordinary citizens, in order to improve the conditions of those who have been marginalised, says GovChat.

As an example, GovChat picked up a spike in reports of gender-based violence and cyber bullying during the month of August, when women are commemorated in South Africa.

In her remarks at yesterday’s virtual signing ceremony, Nardos Bekele-Thomas, resident co-ordinator of the UN in SA, noted the digital platform has already yielded results in providing government with invaluable data in its quest to deliver services.

“This resonates well with the UN spirit of leaving no one behind and provides a novel opportunity for deep analysis at municipal level for policy-shaping and advocacy,” said Bekele-Thomas.

“We are excited to have this partnership with GovChat, as their reach can provide great insights into the challenges that communities are facing, which will help us as the UN support government on the realisation of the District Development Model.”

The District Development Model initiative aims to improve the coherence and impact of government service delivery, with a focus on 44 districts and eight metros around the country.

Initially launched in partnership with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, GovChat has extended its technical capabilities to the Department of Health, as part of the COVIDConnect consortium.

It has also played a critical role in the South African Social Security Agency’s successful disbursements of COVID-19 social relief grants, having processed over 11 million applications to date.

With 500 million messages processed from a largely young cohort of citizens, GovChat also 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.

“This recognition by the UN is particularly exciting for us because our tech has penetrated sectors of society where many have doubted the utility or feasibility of digital interfacing with citizens,” said Eldrid Jordaan, CEO of GovChat, speaking at the signing ceremony.

“South Africans have shown us there are no excuses for not reaching out to them. As GovChat, we have learnt so much from citizens, particularly the youth. The partnership with the UN is an instrument of change, informed by the people themselves. We are ready to do our bit and protect personal information in the process.”

In terms of future plans, GovChat says it is preparing to launch in Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia, DRC, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast and Botswana in the next few years.

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