In the run up to the State of the Nation Address, the new South African president launched GovChat, a nationwide initiative to boost citizen engagement. Via the online platform, powered by the Belgian startup CitizenLab, citizens are invited to have a direct say on the future of their country.

State of the Nation Address 2018

On Friday, February 16th, the State of the Nation Address 2018 (SONA 2018) will be held. In this key speech, the newly elected president, Cyril Ramaphosa, will share his primary programme of action, together with the Government.At this occasion, the government asked the citizens to share their ideas on the platform beforehand regarding what the president should talk about during his speech. During the address, citizens will also be able to comment or ask questions to the President live.

Crowdsourcing South Africa’s policy online

But the possibility for South Africans to share their ideas with their key policy-makers and contribute to their government politic does not stop there. On a longer run, all South Africans will have the opportunity to share their vision on key topics such as Budget, Home Affairs, Housing, Public Hospitals, etc. via the CitizenLab platform. The goal of the platform is simple: supporting governments in giving their citizens a say on the topics that matter to them. You can for example submit your own proposals, contribute to other citizen ideas, and express your preferences by voting for or against them. On the South African platform, each Ministry has its dedicated section on the platform where citizens can post ideas. They will therefore be able to collect and process all of this citizen input regarding their area of expertise.

International expansion for CitizenLab

2018 has been very fruitful so far for the young Civic Tech startup from Brussels. Last month, its founders Wietse Van Ransbeeck (24) and Aline Muylaert (24) have been recognised as one of the Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe in the category Law & Policy. Next to this exciting collaboration with the national South African government, it has recently rolled out its e-democracy platform in new regions of the world, including the UK, Scandinavia, and in Canada with the City of Vancouver.

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