On 23 July 2019, WACSI took part in the 4th Edition of the Association for Research on Civil Society in Africa (AROCSA) Conference that took place from 22-24 July, in Strathmore University, Nairobi, Kenya. During the Conference, WACSI delivered a presentation on a paper titled ‘Facilitating CSOs’ access to technology to promote their effective contribution in influencing governance processes’. This presentation was delivered in a parallel session that brought together about 30 delegates. The presentation sought to highlight the benefits of technology donation to the civil society community through the Techsoup programme, which started in West Africa in June 2017. WACSI’s presentation sought to outline the benefits of the technology donated products, the challenges that beneficiaries have faced, lessons learnt so far and recommendations.
So far, the programme has enabled the registration of hundreds of organisations from across the West African region that have reported varied benefits in terms of programmatic delivery, project reporting, teamwork, fieldwork and overall efficiency and performance at organisational levels. Organisations have also seen significant reductions in IT costs that have enabled them to support core programming functions. However, some challenges such as language barrier and limited or no dedicated budgets for IT outside project funding, have constituted some impediments to organisations’ ability to adapt and leverage technology.
Participants at the conference were fascinated at the added value of the technology donation to CSOs’ operations. They queried on availability of hardware donation to CSOs to complement access to the software solutions. In addition, other considerations such as the use of interest in these technology products based on gender dimensions of users were brought to the fore. These were key interests and concerns of the audience, which could be further considered and examined in working to grow the Techsoup technology donation programme in the region.
This year’s AROCSA conference was organised under the theme ‘Leveraging Technology for Effective Government and Civil Society: A Review of Africa’s digital Renaissance and Innovations in Civil Society’ and attracted 129 development practitioners. The platform offered the opportunity to create awareness on the importance of technology to improve governance. It helped to broadcast benefits of the Techsoup technology programme in West Africa and generate insights on its value and other possible considerations to strengthen the programme and ultimately opened an avenue for increased outreach and visibility among development partners on the continent.