Citizens Connect is a civic tool that provides access to information and public services, to support effective service delivery by gathering feedback and highlighting issues which are of concern to Citizens to the relevant Government agency for timely resolution. The platform also serves as a portal for civic awareness, public service information, citizen reporting, inquiries, and advice. This initiative fosters accountability and transparency in public services.
Drawing from our experience with corruption in the Nigerian Immigration Service and our engagement with other public service providers and regulators, the idea for Citizens Connect came about. It is evident that there is a huge communication gap between citizens and public service providers. Most citizens do not know where to channel their feedback and grievances and which Government agency is responsible for addressing poor service delivery, extortion, and other corrupt practices. There is also little effort by Government agencies and departments to inform citizens about the services they provide. Therefore, there is a need for a civic platform to address civic awareness and public service issues using web technologies and social media as a tool.
Citizens Connect is a crowdsourced platform where citizens collaborate with Government departments, through civic awareness, information sharing, gathering feedback and reporting public service issues to the relevant Government agency to improve accountability and transparency in public service delivery.
This intervention uses a hybrid approach, combining website and social media for information sharing and facilitating citizens’ discussion forums, and offline meetings with Government representatives. For instance, if this platform was available, many citizens having trouble applying for their travel passport could report corrupt officials through our website or direct message on social media while the team tracks and follow-up complaints with the immigration controller or escalates to the Minister for timely resolution.
This project will make Government inclusive and transparent consequently leading to effective planning and addressing the problems identified by citizens. The project will foster a relationship with Government agencies and departments through physical meetings to close the feedback loop and engage public service users.
This project will reach all Nigerian Citizens especially the youth population who actively use the internet. The Nigerian Communication Commission recently published that there are about 92 million active internet users who subscribe to data services on the major Nigeria telecommunication networks. This shows that over 50% of the total population of citizens are internet users, therefore this project will promote the usage of the internet for civic engagement. The project will also reach the non-active internet users through offline town hall meetings, newspaper, and radio programmes to collate feedback from citizens.
What are the potential work products?
The project will create web and mobile applications that facilitate communication on public service issues between citizens and Government and also create social media platform to popularize its usage and collate extended feedback.
Collaborating with civil society organisations to organise physical forums and training to enhance citizens’ competence to process and understand civic information, engage Government, and contribute to the policymaking process.
Log public service issues, report corrupt officials and convey feedback to the relevant Government department using an online system to track progress and close resolved issues.
Work with media organisations to cascade information sharing from online engagement to print media, radio, and TV, to keep a wider audience informed on engagement between citizens and public organisations.
Promote grassroots participation; Citizens Connect will work with Community Based Organisations (CBO), Civil Society Organisations (CSO), Students and Youth groups to promote its usage across communities in Nigeria.
The innovation will scale bigger through the development of platforms that foster open policymaking and co-creation. We hope to develop openbills.ng a plaform for crowdsourcing policy input and sponsoring Citizen-led bill while townhall.ng will serve as a Goverment technology platform for engaging constituents and the general public
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Citizens connect promotes co-creation by engaging the public in civic debates to inform policies that are in touch with the needs of the people. Our innovations supports public sector problems and also advocate for citizens input in the budget process by organizing town halls and public engagement forums to identify needs that should be captured in the budget and implement evidence-based policies in Nigeria.
At present, lawmakers in Nigeria do not engage with their constituents and as such, they are out of touch with the needs of those they represent. They spend more time in the Federal Capital and lack the understanding of the real issues that affect their communities, this has led to weak legislation and poor implementation of policies. This is also a problem with the Executives as there are bogus items in the National budget, most projects are not evidence-based and as such do not cater to the needs of citizens, leaving many impoverished without access to basic social amenities.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Citizens Connect came about from extensive citizens consultation through the Good Governance Grassroots Project. This showed that there is a need to improve Citizens engagement using a hybrid approach of online and offline engagement . This effort has led to our joining of the Open Government partnership (OGP) in Nigeria to increase our engagement with the wider civil society community and Government Stakeholders.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
This project will reach all Nigerian Citizens, especially the youth population who actively use the internet. The project will also reach the non-active internet users through offline town hall meetings, newspaper, and radio programmes to collate feedback from citizens. Our collaborators include other civil society organisations, Government departments and lawmakers.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
We are still at the development stage of the platform, however though our Facebook group and complaint tracking via email we have support from over 100 citizens with various public service issues. We hope to promote the usage of our Citizens Connect platform in the first quarter of 2019.
Challenges and Failures
A major challenge we face is improving the culture of engaging online civic spaces in Nigeria. There is also the problem of apathy as most Nigerians do not believe that the Government is interested in listening to them. In order to address this issue we share success stories of issues that have been resolved through our platform and also organise public forums to create awareness of what we do. Additionally, there is the issue of organising training to build the capacity of community leaders on how to engage with Government.
Conditions for Success
It is important to engage Government, citizens and other influencers to get their input on how they see the applicability of the platform in their context. This will help for ease of adaptability and acceptance.
It also important to make the design of the platform simple and easy to use so that those will limited technology knowledge can readily use. Another thing to note is the poor access to internet in most Nigerian communities this should be taking into consideration when developing the technology.
It is also important to share the successful usage of the platform to address problems, encouraging wide usage of the platform.
There are similar innovations in Nigeria, however none is yet to replicate the open bills and crowdsourcing for law making innovation.
We are still in the initial stage of testing our platform but a major lesson learnt is that exploring different media to promote usage of the tool and sharing the successful use of our platform to solve problems.
9 April 2019