Local government is a key issue in today’s General Election. The sector continues to face cost pressures, and so it is essential for councils to innovate in order to be sustainable.
To that end, it is tempting to only look for innovation and good practice from the usual suspects. This means that councils sometimes miss opportunities to learn from less obvious sources. To show this we’ve looked at four examples of how technology is being used to support service delivery in Africa.
- Ushahidi is an incident mapping tool created to manage the fallout from the tumultuous Kenyan Presidential elections in 2007. It enabled real-time tracking and reporting of violence. However, local government is now harnessing this tool through the Resilience Network Initiative, to encourage civic participation. The tool is now being used for purposes beyond those for which it was first designed. For example it has been used to track pharmacy stock in other African countries. It has been repurposed and found use in Italy and Australia, illustrating how a technology can be adapted to meet the needs of a different context.
- Kenya has also used technology to help improve health outcomes. E-learning initiatives to increase the number of nurses trained to tackle diseases such as Malaria and HIV has produced strong outcomes. Removing the need for a classroom in which training can take place has increased the number of nurses given special training to tackle these diseases considerably.
- In the DR Congo, mobile technology was used to enable marginalised groups such as the rural poor, women, and ethnic minorities to participate in the budget setting of the eight sub-provincial governments. Success was evident in the increased trust between officials and the public, with tax collection increasing 16-fold in the participating communities. It also enabled the first ever transfer of funds from a provincial to a local level in South Kivu, further empowering local communities.
- The Ugandan Government and World Bank have used technology to increase agricultural productivity and reduce crop wastage via the U-Report, which enables farmers and local officials to map out Banana Bacterial Wilt epidemics and encourage collaborative efforts on treatment options.
These success stories provide three important lessons. Firstly, that technology is flexible enough so that a simple code can be applied for a range of purposes. Secondly, it is vital that local government doesn’t just look for innovation in ‘obvious’ places. Lastly, and most importantly, these examples show the benefits of government providing an attractive environment within which innovation and entrepreneurial spirit can thrive.