Penplusbytes “Kakum” Citizens App Adopted by CSOs in West Africa
“Kakum” a citizens’ feedback app developed by Penplusbytes to bridge the communication gap between citizens and government in the quest for a better public service delivery and good governance is making inroads in the West African sub-region as it is being adopted by civil societies.
The app is an open source citizens monitoring tool designed to help civil society and citizens to monitor the implementation of social intervention policies, government projects and at the same time create an avenue for citizens to receive and send information to ensure better policy implementation and results. The significance of the app’s name ‘Kakum’ is bridging, as borrowed from the Kakum national park; a tourist site with a main high bridge which allows human movement within the forest so to avoid physical encounter with the endangered mammals. Applying it to the purpose of the app, in this sense, the app serves as a bridge that connects citizens to government in ensuring citizens voices are heard in policy formation and its implementation.
As part of the implementation of the project “Tech Driven Social Accountability for results” in Ghana with funding from OSIWA, Penplusbytes deployed the Kakum platform in 3 other West African Countries – Ivory Coast, Benin and Togo through a hackathon which brought together software developers and key civil society actors in the selected countries.
Currently in Benin, Social Watch, an NGO committed to hold governments, the UN system and international organizations accountable for the fulfilment of national, regional and international commitments in eradicating poverty, is developing a kakum based app Xo kanbio (Watch), which will give citizens information about governmental policies on education and create an avenue for citizens to monitor how their local governments are implementing the policies at the grassroots.
Penplusbytes is currently mentoring the Action pour la Protection des Droits de l’Homme (APDH) (Action for the Protection of Human Rights) based in Ivory Coast to develop “Cité Publique” (Public City) a web application that will enable citizens to report incidents of abuse and irregularities when they access health facilities. It will utilize SMS broadcast to send information about health service delivery and patients’ rights to all subscribers on the platform.
Similarly, the Conseil des Jeunes du District d’Abidjan COJEDA (Council of Youth of Abidjan District) also based in Ivory Coast is developing a two-way SMS platform that will enable citizens to track public service delivery in health and education and track other development projects by government.
In Benin, Penplusbytes is assisting WANEP-Benin to customize their Oeil du Citoyen (Citizens eye) platform to enhance citizens participation in the governance process and keep an eye on how government utilizes revenues.
Femme de Salem (Women of Salem) is also using kakum as a guiding tool to develop a web platform that will serve as a resource center on illegal immigration. It houses a database of videos and audios on illegal immigration; have a knowledge center to provide stranded migrants with support and counselling.
Finally, Center Africa Obota which implements human rights project across West Africa is redesigning the kakum platform into mobile based application that can be used offline to allow citizens to know their rights, find an attorney or lawyer to avoid being convicted while they are innocent.
According to Kwami Ahiabenu, the Executive Director of Penplusbytes, the adoption of Kakum by civil society organizations forms part of Penplusbytes’ mission of promoting effective governance by deploying technology that enhances participation in governance. We aim to transform governance in the sub-region by supporting civil society organizations (‘intermediaries’) with new digital tools so that they are better placed to facilitate engagements between citizens and government, monitor and report on how decisions are being made and problems are being solved, and provide training and support to these civil societies.
The kakum platform is free for any civic and tech organization to adopt or adapt to enhance their existing projects on citizens’ feedback processing and governance project. For more information and free downloads visit http://kakum.readthedocs.io/en/latest. Kakum offers the opportunity to engage target groups using online, SMS, WhatsApp, Chatbox and mobile.
Penplusbytes is a not-for-profit organization driving change through innovations in three key areas: using new digital technologies to enable good governance and accountability, new media and innovations, and driving oversight for effective utilization of mining, oil and gas revenue and resources.
The Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) is active in 10 countries in the region (Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone) and focuses on law, justice and human rights, and economic and political governance. The initiative pursues the development of open societies by supporting and building partnerships with local and regional groups that promote inclusive democratic governance, transparency and accountability, and active citizenship.