The Ghanaian government is funneling data to TransGov, a startup and online platform where citizens can monitor and comment on the progress of civic works projects. To ensure its data is available to low-income people, TransGov provides information on government-funded infrastructure projects via its website, app, voice response technology and text message, or in person. Through its partnership with government, the startup is connecting communities with data on projects most relevant to them, and driving political engagement across the country.
Results & Impact
In two years, TransGov uploaded 25 public projects onto its platform and engaged 400,000 Ghanaians both online and offline. Over 80% of the Ghanaians TransGov surveyed did not know who their local assembly representative was before the project began in 2015.
TransGov Ghana, Ghana Open Data Initiative, Open Knowledge International, Government of Ghana, Ghana district assemblies
TransGov staff approach Ghana’s district assemblies to get permission to visit ongoing projects such as schools and roads. They collect relevant data from these district assemblies, including cost, contractor information and start and proposed end dates, then publish the data. TransGov distributes this information online and via SMS, voice response technology (IVR), and in person. Staff will visit localities and inform communities of local projects, allowing the data to be distributed among the illiterate and those without technology access. At face-to-face meetings, TransGov staff listen to feedback and relay the information to local government members. They are in the process of adding a reporting option to their platform, which will allow citizens to upload complaints to the site. TransGov has also partnered with the Open Data Initiative Ghana to submit the data they collect on local projects to a national portal.
General public, low income people, rural population, road users
Cost & Value
TransGov won $60,000 in prize money in the 2015 Tech4Governance Innovation Competiton.
Running since 2015
It has proved difficult to encourage active participation among Ghanaians on the platform, many of whom aren’t used to involvement in the political system. The team has to work to work against apathy amongst citizens in the localities, especially when they are accustomed to government development projects that are plagued by problems and delays. Local government can also be difficult to work with at times, due to embedded bureaucracy and lack of trust in outside organisations.
Ghana is boosting civic engagement by working with a startup to share data on civic works projects with the public.
TransGov, founded in 2015, collects key information on government infrastructure projects such as schools and roads and collates the details for the public. This data is posted online, delivered through SMS or voice response technology (IVR), or discussed in face-to-face neighbourhood meetings. TransGov acts as a vehicle between government and the people of Ghana, educating citizens on the political process through the platform and public meetings.
“We discovered that people were very passionate and interested in development projects that directly affect them, like schools, roads and so on, as it’s these roads that they use every single day,” said Jerry Akyanyi-King, CEO and one of the original founders of TransGov. “If these roads are bad, it affects their livelihoods. If the schools are not being built, or if they are started and the project doesn’t go to completion, it affects them because their children have to go to faraway places for school.”
Akanyi-King realised that one of the biggest problems is that many Ghanaians are disconnected from government. “Ove 80% of [the people we spoke to] didn’t really know who their assembly member was. People were apathetic, and it was because the assembly hadn’t done a lot of work in terms of letting people know that they even exist to begin with,” he said.
TransGov functions as go-between for the government and the people. The TransGov team visits development projects to collect information on cost, the contractor, the level of completion, start and end dates, among other data points. They post the details onto their website, and solicit feedback from citizens. The company is currently rolling out a reporting function.
Akanyi-King explained that the process is far from simple and that local government can prove intransigent: “By their nature, they are very bureaucratic, so it takes time to build that trust. It took us time to get them to warm up to us,” he said.
Alongside their online and messaging services, TransGov holds community meetings to spread information, ask for feedback and provide training sessions. The meetings also provide a means for citizens to speak to government by collating their views, complaints and ideas about what is going on in their localities. TransGov then sends the feedback to local assemblies for action.
In 2015, TransGov won $60,000 at the Tech4Governance Innovation competition in Ghana, beating off competition from ten other companies. The startup recently partnered with the Ghana Open Data Initiative to publish the data it collects.
In time, Akanyi-King hopes TransGov will become the go-to mediator for both the government and citizens in Ghana.
“We want to become a platform that government itself would use to fix all these issues that are ongoing in all these communities. Instead of having us as a third party, the government would actually buy in to what we are doing to the point where we would become a close partner. That is the ultimate goal for us,” Akanyi-King said.