Diana Gichengo is the National Coordinator at The Institute for Social Accountability in Kenya (TISA), a Mozilla IRL Fund Awardee. We spoke with her about TISA’s new app that’s helping Kenyans connect with their government and hold officials accountable
Diana Gichengo during a 2023 appearance on Citizen TV Kenya.
Diana Gichengo during a 2023 appearance on Citizen TV Kenya.
  • Kenya is struggling with record-high national debt levels, which critics of the government say are partially due to mismanagement and corruption

  • During the general elections in 2017 and 2022, online disinformation and inflammatory rhetoric contributed to election-related violence and post-election instability

  • TISA’s Jihusishe (“get involved”) mobile app provides easy access to government data and news, and includes a reporting function where citizens can ask officials for help about any civic incident or topic directly and anonymously

The Issue

Kenya’s public debt rose to a record total of 10.1 trillion shillings ($70.75 billion) in 2023, breaching the national debt ceiling. Treasury officials attribute the skyrocketing debt to exchange and interest rate fluctuations on loan repayments and inflation, among other factors, but critics cite years of governmental corruption and financial mismanagement spanning different political administrations. Additionally, Kenyans have been scarred by a history of election-related violence; 1,200 people were reported killed in the aftermath of the 2007 general election, and more than 100 died in 2017 post-election clashes. The 2017 and 2022 general elections were also marred by the spread of online disinformation, some of which exploited and exacerbated entrenched ethnic tensions.

Many Kenyans struggle to access basic, accurate data about their government, national institutions, and public records, leading to greater voter apathy and civic disengagement. As such disinformation can flourish, which is the inspiration for TISA’s Jihusishe mobile application.

The Approach

TISA’s Jihusishe mobile app is still under development, but users can access it through both smartphones and on web browsers through other connected devices. The app is meant to facilitate communication between citizens and government officials, connect citizens with each other, and provide current, accurate information about government projects, laws, policies, and proposals. People can use Jihusishe to report concerning incidents or complaints, and receive a tracking ID to follow up on their progress. Jihusishe may also offer people a virtual and improved type of Baraza (or council) meeting. Traditional Baraza meetings are informal, in-person gatherings where community members discuss issues affecting them, but they often lack a clear set of steps to help people present requests to the relevant officials. Using Jihusishe can allow people to move some of these discussions online, offering a structured way of escalating requests and grievances to the right sources and providing a direct channel between citizens and elected leaders.

The Jihusishe app is designed to provide people with the information they need to hold their elected officials accountable. “It’s meant to guide people on what to do with the information they find to improve governance,” Project Coordinator Diana Gichengo said. TISA has already used Jiusishe’s SMS system to send out one-way messages meant to help quell potential violence during Kenya’s 2017 general elections, targeting people in high-risk areas including Nakuru, Nandi, and Kisumu counties where tensions threatened to boil over.

TISA is one the first 13 awardees of Mozilla’s “In Real Life” (IRL) Fund, which supports community-serving organizations in Africa that are advancing digital and human rights, both on and offline — with a particular focus on Eastern and Southern Africa. This grantmaking mechanism is part of the Africa Innovation Mradi, a program that leverages Mozilla’s role as stewards of the open web to promote innovation grounded in the unique needs of users in African countries. The organization is using the funding to hire new support staff, for new marketing campaigns and materials, and for the app’s cloud-hosting services.

What Does Success Look Like?

“We will know our work is done once citizens have an effective, easy-to-use application where they can engage duty-bearers, learn, and share information without strain.”


“Steve Jobs was a savvy business leader and co-founder of perhaps the most important tech company in the world. He was also among the pioneers of the personal computer revolution as he rewrote the rules of technological devices and how people use them. The ‘Think Different’ slogan inspires us to open our eyes and change world governance for the better.”