Whilst in South Africa, as well as meeting a huge variety of inspiring organisations who are implementing tech for social change projects across the continent, I was able to meet with funders and other partners who are interested in supporting this space.
As some of you already know, we regularly co-fund tech innovation hubs alongside Google. I was fortunate enough to meet up with Johanna Kollar and Ory Okkoloh from their Africa team whilst I was in-country.
We discussed a range of tech hubs which we collectively support or intend to and Ory discussed the importance of relationship building with NGOs and government in the tech for social change space. She believes new initiatives need to be more deeply embedded in government e.g. working with local councils etc. She believes it is critical to address people’s real concerns rather than getting excited by pretty platforms. Another lesson she’s learnt is that it is more effective to work with nimble, small organisations.
Ory feels strongly that more work should be done with journalists to enable them to better understand how to utilise data, break corruption stories etc. as she still believes reach is minimal without mainstream media involvement. She also believes more work needs to be done to connect journalists with techies.
We were delighted to recently announce our support of a new hub in Accra, iSpace, which we are supporting together.
I met with Gary Pienaar of Open Society Institute South Africa and learnt about their Money and Politics programme which focuses on reducing corruption. They’ve been in communication with Chris Taggart around improving the company registry (necessary for Open Corporate Data) to include tax histories, Black Economic Empowerment Compliance, Directors and Conflict of Interests.
They have programmes around procurement (currently 1/3 of the money disappears) and increasing accountability. For example, currently one has to pay for bid documents and sign a secrecy clause to obtain them and they are working to change this. They also recently hosted a Procurement Bootcamp (Hackathon).
They are also exploring how technology can be used to increase public participation which is lacking in South Africa or is often channelled violently. They are working with Parliamentary Monitoring Group to geo-locate constitutional offices and relevant local representatives and they’re also piloting health service delivery reporting projects.
I also met with Kerryn Sheritz of Freedom House. They are both funders and implementers of projects with a focus on democracy and human rights. They do a lot of public interest litigation, legal system strengthening, support opening up of legal and parliamentary information, legal advice and defending the rule of law.
They are also supporting the Lungisa project and it is their first tech-focused project. We’re currently in discussions about other technology driven projects which may support their wider strategy.
The Harris Family Foundation is piloting Reading Eggs, a literacy platform in 7 schools, with the aim of expanding to 25 next year (around 1000 kids). They are targeting 6-16 year olds and are operating in Gauteng, Western Cape (townships) and Mpumalanga (rural). Their early impact assessments have already demonstrated increases in literacy.
We’re always interested to hear from other partners who are interested in supporting the tech for social change space. If you know of any, please send them our way.