How Civic Technology can Drive Accountability in South Africa

Despite the open data movement’s early momentum it has struggled to make an impact while transitioning from ‘civic hacking’ into mainstream society and governance. However, within South Africa there are a number of civic technology projects and initiatives focused on government, civil society organisations (CSOs) and citizens that are moving towards achieving real impact. As the world hurtles into the information age, big data, privacy, transparency and access to knowledge are becoming increasingly central themes. Within this context, employing technology to drive accountability and transparency in society provides an opportunity to democratise knowledge and see real change within South African communities. Three important frames in understanding technology for accountability (T4A) are open data, civic technology and the accountability stack. Open data projects most often result in the delivery of an Open Data portal, and civic technology projects in an app or website. Neither of these alone can drive accountability within society. Framing T4A projects within the accountability stack concept means using appropriate information in context to drive action. The only way real, sustainable and positive social change can happen is if the primary focus of those employing the civic tech community is on citizens and the problems they face.