R20m funding injection for GovChat
Expanding its early warning system and centralised complaints management dashboard is one of the ways GovChat plans to utilise its recent R20 million funding injection.
The additional functionality, says GovChat, builds on government’s decision to focus on detailed issues at a granular level.
This week, the citizen engagement platform for the South African government announced it has secured up to R20 million in funding from Capital Appreciation’s enterprise development fund.
According to GovChat, the investment follows last year’s South Africa Investment Conference where, together with the telecoms and postal services department, it was invited to participate in the innovation and ICT panel.
Furthermore, GovChat will use the funds to scale its digital payments technology, which it says will facilitate 0% transaction fees for social-good and small and medium enterprises across SA.
“We have an ambitious agenda,” says founder and CEO Eldrid Jordaan. “This funding will be used to expand the scope of our connected citizens and government platform offering and thereafter, once fully operational, expand to other jurisdictions outside South Africa.
“Numerous parties have tracked our progress since we participated in the African Union ICT summit in Abidjan at the invitation of the Government Communication and Information Systems. We look forward to being in a position to also assist these foreign governments in addressing the needs of their citizenship.”
Tandi Haslam, GovChat’s head of finance and business development, adds: “Our first focus is increasing our capacity in South Africa, increasing the user and subscriber base and marketing, and rolling out new lines for engagement and inquiry, including new and innovative applications. We continue to receive expressions of interest in our model and operating platform and look forward to welcoming commercial relationships with product and services partners in the foreseeable future.”
As the official citizen engagement platform for government, GovChat was introduced in partnership with the South African Local Government Association, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), and Government Communication and Information System (GCIS).
GovChat says it makes government and a number of its services accessible to citizens, while receiving service delivery data, statistics and related messaging in return. The platform is accessible via WhatsApp, USSD and Facebook Messenger, with plans to launch on Telegram and Viber soon.
Last September, GovChat was launched on WhatsApp in partnership with COGTA.
Commenting on the decision to make the platform available on WhatsApp, former COGTA deputy minister Andries Nel said the social media platform is a key tool towards a responsive and accountable local government, as well as making state officials instantly accessible to citizens.
According to GovChat, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. “72% of all local government reports were water-related; that is, leaks, burst pipes, etc.”
Jordaan elaborates: “The aim and purpose of GovChat is to provide citizens and other enquirers with greater and more convenient access to their public representatives, including easier access to civil services offices on day-to-day issues. GovChat’s engagement platform also allows all levels of government to hear from everyday South Africans directly, and understand and measure service delivery levels on a local, regional or national basis.”
GovChat points out it has received a positive reception, with currently just under 500 000 South Africans using it. “What we’ve seen is that 56% of our users are women, with men making up 44%. We’ve also noted that 65% of our user base is younger than 34 years.”
Although it currently works with COGTA, GCIS and the Independent Electoral Commission, GovChat notes it is looking to expand further with other departments and divisions within government.