On the 11th September, 2021, the Coalition of Associations for Leadership, Peace, Empowerment & Development (CALPED), IHIFIX Technologies and School of Personal & Marketplace Leadership (SPML) facilitated the first edition of the Civic-Tech: Governance, Innovation & Development Series in Kaduna state. The participants were young people drawn from the Private Sector, Tech Community, Civil Society and Government (Department of Monitoring & Evaluation of the Kaduna State Planning & Budget Commission).
The objectives of the series are to: strengthen the capacity of stakeholders (private sector/tech community) to leverage on the Open Government Partnership (OGP) to inform and influence public governance processes; facilitate dialogue between the state and non-state actors (private sector/tech community) to expand civic participation in decision-making, thereby accelerating inclusive development; and foster linkages and support actions that enable the engaged stakeholders to inform and influence the governance process in Kaduna state.
The interactive engagement brought out germane observations that generated actionable resolutions.
✓ The private sector, particularly the tech community, has a critical role to play in reducing our high poverty rate, unemployment rate, increasing revenue generation and enabling our ability to pay/service our rising debt in Kaduna state. Hence the need to support their participation in order to inform and influence governance decisions that affect them.
✓Stakeholders acknowledged that reform initiatives such as the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability & Sustainability (SFTAS) Program for Result have improved transparency and increased platforms for citizen’s engagement in Kaduna state.
✓ Innovation and technology remains the cornerstone of these governance reform initiatives, which have opened up opportunities for more robust stakeholders engagement and government responsiveness especially for the civil society. The state government has been transitioning towards full e-governance; hence the need to mobilize and equip the Tech Community to effectively engage the process.
✓ The government was commended for providing online platforms under the Eyes and Ears Project that have increased access to information, citizen’s feedback and responsiveness. However, the desired robust engagement is yet to be achieved due to citizen’s apathy and the need to improve the user-friendliness of the platforms.
✓ Despite the availability of various platforms for citizens’ engagement, there has been low participation of the private sector players, especially tech startups and small to medium scale businesses, in the governance process in order to inform and influence decisions that affect them.
✓ The low participation of micro, small and medium business owners has led to policy design, budget formulation and regulatory framework that are not inclusive enough and hinders many of them from surviving and scaling. Despite the increase in the number of ICT hubs in the state, many tech startups are challenged in terms of the weak enabling environment to support their companies thrive.
✓ The stakeholders raised concerns over suspicion of a monopoly in contracts on Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), thereby narrowing opportunities for Tech Companies resident in the state to offer even better services and scale. The ongoing scaling up of the Eyes and Ears Project across all MDAs and 23 local government areas is a case in point.
✓ It is equally worrisome that, despite many challenges limiting the user-friendliness of the Citizens’ Feedback App, both the government and citizens presently do not have access to the back-end. In spite of being paid by public funds, the developer has restricted access, which goes contrary to the principle of co-creation and transparency in the OGP – a major reason for lack of ownership by citizens.
✓ To ensure quality assurance and wider ownership, the Tech Community in Kaduna state should be engaged during the selection of tech companies for any public sector technology based project.
✓ The Tech Community needs to independently review the suitability of the Citizens Feedback App and suggest how it can be improved. Similarly, to increase citizens’ participation and feedback, there is a need for alternative Applications to be developed by the tech community that can be deployed both in urban and rural communities to track projects.
✓ The response time for citizen’s feedback is usually slow as it has to go through a long bureaucratic process that includes seeking for the Governor’s approval for action to be taken. This has discouraged many users as they perceive the process to be inefficient to address their concerns.
✓ The private sector, especially the Tech Community, highlighted challenges such as government bureaucracy, poor communication by relevant MDAs, weak capacity to engage and collaboration among Tech Companies as factors hindering their effective participation in the governance process.
✓ Leadership development was identified as a key enabler for innovation, good governance and inclusive development. Therefore, the urgent need for young people to build a mindset of problem prevention, solution-focus and cooperation towards innovation and development.
✓ The Planning & Budget Commission reiterated its commitment to being open to citizens’ engagement in line with the OGP, and welcomes any constructive contribution from the Tech Community towards improving the Eyes and Ears Project.
✓ Kaduna State Government by way of ingenuity, has created a Ministry for Business, Innovation and Technology. However the capital budgets, programmes being implemented in the Ministry falls short of the expectations of the Tech Community in the State.
✓ That a Civic-Tech Network of Tech Companies will be initiated to serve as a platform to effectively engage the governance process in Kaduna state.
✓ That the Network in partnership with CALPED and SPML will mobilize and facilitate capacity strengthening training on engaging ongoing governance reforms and advocacy plan development for members of the Tech Community.
✓ That the Network will pay an advocacy visit to all relevant MDAs starting with the Planning & Budget Commission (P&BC), Ministry of Business, Innovation & Technology (MBIT) and Kaduna Investment Promotion Agency (KADIPA) to initiate partnership towards expanding the engagement spaces for the Tech Community in policy designs, budget formulation/implementation among others.
✓That the Network will seek the Partnership of the Planning & Budget Commission to facilitate an engagement with the Tech Community to hold a third-party review of the Citizens’ Feedback App.
✓Call on the state government to facilitate a hackathon rather than give one company the contract to scale-up the Eyes and Ears Project to all the MDAs and 23 local government areas.
School of Personal & Marketplace Leadership (SPML)
Yusuf Ishaku Goje
Head of Leadership, Governance & Advocacy