Press Release

GovChat joins hands with the United Nations in South Africa in connecting 8 million citizens and the Government

17 September 2021

We need meaningful partnerships between stakeholders that are solution centred and address the issues facing South African citizens in real in real time. With 500 million messages processed to date from a largely youth cohort of citizens (61% of the users are aged between 18 and 34 years), GovChat has established an impressive and relevant digital footprint across the topography of the land, giving a voice to millions of ordinary citizens, many of them poor and previously disenfranchised.

The United Nations in South Africa yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding with GovChat, the official citizen engagement digital platform for ordinary South Africans with their government. So far, GovChat has amassed over eight million users since it was launched in 2017, three million of them over the last year alone.

In her remarks at the virtual signing ceremony, the Resident Coordinator of the UN in South Africa, Nardos Bekele-Thomas, said the digital platform “has already yielded incredible results, providing the government with invaluable data in their quest to deliver services to the people.”

Initially launched in partnership with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, GovChat has extended its technical capabilities to the Department of Health as part of the COVIDConnect consortium and has played a critical role in the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA)’s successful disbursements of COVID-19 social relief grants, having processed over 11 million applications.

The platform also receives real-time feedback and report its findings through the ChatBot mobile device and various other digital interfaces, such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, USSD and SMS, and links citizens with crucial government services throughout the global pandemic.

“This resonates well with the UN spirit of leaving no-one behind and provides a novel opportunity for deep analysis at municipal level for policy shaping and advocacy,” said Ms. Bekele-Thomas. “We are excited to have this partnership with GovChat, as their reach can provide great insights into the challenges that communities are facing which will help us as the UN supports government on the realization of the District Development Model”

With 500 million messages processed to date from a largely youth cohort of citizens (61% of the users are aged between 18 and 34 years), GovChat has established an impressive and relevant digital footprint across the topography of the land, giving a voice to millions of ordinary citizens, many of them poor and previously disenfranchised.

The data that will be provided to the UN will remain anonymous and will be used for the purposes of understanding the lived experiences of ordinary citizens in order to improve the conditions of those who have been left behind. As an example, GovChat picked up a spike in reports of gender-based violence and cyber-bullying during the month of August, sadly a month when women are commemorated in South Africa.

“This recognition by the UN is particularly exciting for us because our tech has penetrated sectors of society where many have doubted the utility or feasibility of digital interfacing with citizens,” Eldrid Jordaan, the Chief Executive Officer of GovChat, told participants at the signing ceremony. “South Africans have shown us that there are no excuses for not reaching out to them. As long as we are offering them a chance at a better life, they will respond regardless of their background or purported ability to access digital technology.”

“As GovChat, we have learnt so much from Such Africans, particularly the youth. The partnership with the UN is an instrument of change, informed by the people themselves. We are ready to do our bit and protect personal information in the process,” he said.

For interviews and media enquiries, please contact Zeenat Abdool, UN South Africa - Associate Public Information Officer, at abdool@un.org or 0827788080

GovChat joins hands with the United Nations in South Africa in connecting 8 million citizens and the Government

UNIC Director

Masimba Tafirenyika

UNIC
Country Director
Masimba Tafirenyika, a national of Zimbabwe, is the Director of the United Nations Information Centre in Pretoria, an office that provides communications services to UN in South Africa. He assumed his current position in 2017. Prior to this, he was the head of the Africa Section in the UN Department of Global Communications and Editor-in-Chief of its Africa Renewal, the UN’s Secretariat’s premier magazine on African developmental issues. Previously, he served as the Officer-in-Charge of the Pretoria Information Centre from 2008 to 2009, and as Deputy Director from 2006 to 2008. From 1998 to 2006, Mr. Tafirenyika worked at UN Headquarters as an information analyst before joining peacekeeping operations and peacebuilding missions in West Africa responsible for strategic communications and subsequently overseeing peacekeeping missions from UN Headquarters in Liberia and Sierra Leone. He has a Master of Arts degree in International Affairs from Columbia University in New York, the United States, and a Bachelor of Arts honours degree in Economics from the University of Zimbabwe.

UN entities involved in this initiative

UNDP
United Nations Development Programme