Many argue that Africa is doing too little to allow its citizens to take part in processes of policy formulation and local development. As such activities are geared towards improving the overall well-being of ordinary people, why not involve them? TransGov Ghana, based in the country’s capital of Accra, is working hard to promote accountability among governments by encouraging citizens to engage in local development issues through mobile technology. Ambassador Michael Alimo spoke to communications manager Adwoa Serwaa Danso about the organization’s vision, highlights, achievements and how it sees Africa as a destination for entrepreneurs.
Q. What does TransGov do?
A. TransGov uses technology to enhance how citizens engage with local and regional government whilst holding duty-bearers more accountable. We use the web as well as mobile, SMS and Interactive Response Technologies to keep people updated on the progress of development projects in their communities. This enables citizens to check and track progress, whilst sending their comments and recommendations to local district assemblies.
Our innovation also allows citizens to report non-emergency community problems such as potholes, burst and leaking pipes, and waste management issues via a mobile application. This innovation gives users the opportunity to take pictures of the problem they seek to report, complete an online form and provide a geotag of their location. This information is sent on to duty-bearers, after which the app notifies users when the reported issue is fixed.
To enhance our work, we've developed partnerships with the National Information Technology Agency (NITA), Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), Ghana Water Company (GWC), Ghana Open Data Initiative and other international organizations such as Ushahidi, Hivos, Making All Voices Count, and Open Knowledge International.
Q. How does TransGov contribute to Africa's development and its people?
A. Community development is key in the progress of any country, and it starts at grassroots level. That is why TransGov targets development at the community level. Our innovations are geared towards enhancing the way citizens engage with local and regional government and vice versa. We believe this will improve the quality of life of ordinary people. Essentially, we are helping Africa develop one community, one developmental problem solved, at a time.
Q. Why did you and the other co-founders choose to go the entrepreneurial route?
A. We're passionate about leaving a lasting impact on our country and the continent as a whole. As people who have worked in Ghana’s corporate world, we decided this was the best route to achieve our aims. As it happens, we all met at MEST, where we studied Software Entrepreneurship. With our talent, drive, and conviction, entrepreneurship is the best vehicle to empower us to achieve our dreams.
Q. What has been the highlight since TransGov opened its doors (in the African context)?
A. When TransGov started monitoring developmental projects, it was interesting to see how citizens were concerned about budget allocations for developmental projects. Partnering with NITA on the Ghana Open Data Initiative has also been a highlight.
Q. What are some of the challenges you face as a company?
A. Some of our field activities need approval by district authorities. This process sometimes delays our activities. Also getting information on developmental projects is difficult since some officials are not obligated to give out this information. Without a Right to Information Law, it becomes very difficult to get information, especially when working within a budget.
Q. What is Africa's greatest promise and why?
A. Africa is home to almost 1 billion people, and of them, over 60% are younger than 25. This makes Africa the most youthful continent in the world. That provides African governments a tremendous opportunity to harness the power of a youthful talent pool when developing their countries.
The problem is that many administrations have proven to be incapable of providing employment for its youths. The role of government has, therefore, become quite clear: it has to give way to conducive environments for the private sector to take off so that it can create opportunities for the millions of Africans.
The good news is that the continent has become a hub for innovators, start-ups, and entrepreneurs who are making incredible contributions. That's where the continent's promise lies.
Q. What is your main bit of advice to African entrepreneurs who want to make it?
A. Entrepreneurs should focus and never give up. It is never easy starting and running a business, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
Q. Where can we follow you on social media?
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