The Civic Tech Innovation Network (CTIN) is a Mozilla IRL Fund Awardee that connects technologists, activists, and public servants across Africa. We spoke with Project Manager Yasmin Shapurjee about a new program that helps leaders from five major regions bring their most promising public interest tech workers together
CTIN’s Regional Ambassadors at CTIF Jamfest 2023: #AfricaFlows (From L-R: Yvonne Eweka, Cc-Hub, Nigeria; Phillip Ayazika, Pollicy, Uganda; Yosr Jouini, Technoloxia, Tunisia; Hamid Khayar OumarDefallah, Chad Innovation Hub, Chad; Yasmin Shapurjee, RAP Project Manager, CTIN; Harvey Binamu, Magamba Network, Zimbabwe and Geci Karuri-Sebina, Organizer, CTIN). Image Credit: Zibusiso Manzini-Moyo/CTIN
  • Attention for civic tech organizations and projects has long been focused in more developed African economies. (CTIN defines civic tech as the “bridge between citizen engagement and more accountable and transparent government”)

  • The tech sector, and civic tech initiatives in particular, has been growing and expanding at speed across Africa in the past few years

  • CTIN has developed a new outreach program of regional ambassadors to help connect innovators continent-wide who are working on projects across the spectrum of civic tech, including those focused on activism, good governance, and development

The Issue

Historically, civic tech projects in regions like South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria have received the most attention, leaving many organizations, programs, and practitioners in other areas at a disadvantage. In turn, these more established regions, programs, and workers miss out on new ideas, contributions, talents, and information from other areas and sources.

The Approach

CTIN is built on the belief that digital tools can connect government and citizens, increase governmental responsiveness, and help activists be more effective. The organization began its Regional Ambassadors Program (RAP) to reach out to and include civic tech workers in overlooked, underserved geographical areas, starting the process of connecting them across the continent.

The five individual programs/regions in the RAP program are the Magamba Network (Zimbabwe - Southern Africa), the Chad Innovation Hub (Chad - Central Africa), Pollicy (Uganda - East Africa), Co-Creation Hub (or CcHub, Nigeria - West Africa), and Technoloxia (Tunisia - North Africa). The organizations in the pilot programs have different missions ranging from advocating for more responsible and ethical uses of data (Pollicy) to helping young entrepreneurs start new businesses (Chad Innovation Hub). CTIN has identified them all as well-positioned partners to build out and strengthen the continent’s network of civic tech workers and programs.

CTIN is one of the first 13 awardees of Mozilla’s “In Real Life” (IRL) Fund. The Fund 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.

CTIN is using the grant funding to directly support and expand RAP, which was initially started as a one-year partnership with the participating organizations. CTIN was able to bring the five individual RAP leaders together “in real life” for the first time in 2023 at its annual Jamfest conference due to the grant.

“The opportunity to have all five members meet in person for the first time and to present their work was invaluable,” Project Manager Yasmin Shapurjee says. “The knowledge, skills, networks, and partnerships they forged during the event were amazing.”

What Does Success Look Like?

Says Shapurjee: "We will know our work is done when civic tech initiatives across Africa have more visibility, and when civic tech innovators and organizations have greater support and capacity in terms of funding and human resources. We would recognize success when civic tech projects in Africa can demonstrate value and utility, especially to potential partners or collaborators within the civic tech ecosystem itself or with government stakeholders."

We will know our work is done when civic tech initiatives across Africa have more visibility, and when civic tech innovators and organizations have greater support and capacity.

Yasmin Shapurjee, Project Manager, CTIN


Shapurjee deeply admires and respects her parents, who demonstrated their values through their careers of service to others. “Both my parents dedicated close to 40 years working as specialist doctors at a public hospital in South Africa,” she says. “Their commitment and dedication to helping the community — often in very difficult and stressful circumstances — had a profound impact on my sense of purpose as a young woman of color growing up in post-Apartheid South Africa. My parents also taught me the value of collaboration, compassion, hard work, and empathy.”

More generally, people like Bosun Tijani, co-founder of one of the RAP organizations, Co-Creation Hub, and lawyer, blogger, and activist Ory Okolloh of the open-source crisis-monitoring platform Ushahidi are among the people working in African tech that Shapurjee said are demonstrating that tech can be used for good by anyone.

“Many young civic tech-ers in Africa today believe in their ability to make change because of these pioneers. They invested the institutional support for those who would follow,” she says.