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Lessons from Yowzit’s practitioner research and learning process

Date added: November 17, 2016

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Making All Voices Count’s Research, Evidence and Learning component provides grants and mentoring support for real-time research, applied by tech for transparency and accountability (T4T&A) practitioners, for project learning and improved practice. Practice papers document these grantees’ learning processes.

Yowzit is a South African social enterprise that manages rating and review platforms for citizens to share their views on the quality of services provided by public and private entities. Through an innovation grant from Making All Voices Count, it developed ‘Yowzit for Governance’, a website with information on 41,102 public entities that members of the public could review.

To understand the factors that drive interaction with such platforms, Yowzit conducted research about the users of this e-governance platform, with the aim of better understanding their experiences of offline engagement with public entities, their expectations of public entities, and their expectations of this platform. The research also aimed to encourage public entities to act on citizen feedback, and to increase the overall usage of these platforms.

The key research questions were:

  • How and why do individuals get involved with rating and reviewing public services?
  • What are people trying to find out about local government, and what are they trying to express?
  • Which criteria does each stakeholder use to claim ‘success’ with an interactive platform?

The research revealed that citizens had a clear desire to share information, and a high interest in Yowzit because of its low transaction costs and their desire to express opinions. While they had little faith in municipal institutions, they had high expectations of an e-governance platform to prompt a response from such institutions.

Nonetheless, this paper makes clear that online action will not translate into offline action without the necessary structures in place - structures like a robust accountability framework in which government employees have the ability, capacity and interest to resolve citizen complaints.

Respondents in this research were largely aware of the pervasive challenges for public service delivery in South Africa, but there was optimism about the potential of e-governance to improve this situation.

 

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