What Civic Technologies are being Used to Aid the Fight against COVID-19 in Africa?

While civic technology (civic tech) in Africa has been driven by the rapid growth in internet penetration and access to related infrastructure such as smartphones, it has also been influenced by citizens’ and communities’ need to engage on issues affecting their daily lives and governance. Prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, innovators had created applications (apps) for citizens to access and monitor public services, campaign and mobilise on issues affecting communities, as well as to participate in policy processes, thereby providing opportunities for government-citizen interaction, convenient access to public services, and peer-to-peer communication.1 Indeed, technology has been key in supporting citizens, governments, businesses and communities to respond to the Covid-19 crisis. Civic tech initiatives in Africa have developed and deployed a wide range of technologies in response to the pandemic. Similarly, governments with the need to provide citizens with essential information and basic necessities were prompted to deploy platforms for citizens to engage with duty bearers on Covid-19 issues. Governments and civic tech initiatives across the continent have built dashboards – or turned existing platforms - and populated them with key information such as data on the number of infections, deaths, and recoveries; predictions and vulnerable hotspots; response measures; health and lifestyle information; and how to access essential services such as food and clothes relief. The importance of technology-based innovations during the pandemic was cemented by innovation challenges, funding opportunities and hackathons encouraging African civic innovators to pilot solutions to aid the fight against Covid-19. The challenges included the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa hackathon, the Global Innovation Fund Covid-19 response, several funding opportunities listed by the Covid-19 Innovation Hub, Innovation Edge Covid-19 Early Childhood Rapid Response Fund, and the African Union’s Impact of Covid-19 on gender equality and women’s empowerment. This paper explores select civic tech initiatives that have been adopted during the Covid-19 crisis in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda. The initiatives studied are part of the African Civic Tech Atlas hosted by the Civic Tech Innovation Network. Reference is made to some multi-country initiatives as well.