Despite what the South African media will have you believe, sometimes public servants just want to serve the public. We don’t always see the incredible work our government does, partly because of clouded judgment, partly because there’s never been a place for us to engage with our politicians. Until now.
GovChat asked us to help them build a multi-channel citizen engagement platform, which would allow South African citizens and government officials to talk to each other and resolve problems in a number of different ways – USSD, a responsive website, and for the first time ever, WhatsApp. Not just a place to leave problems and hope for the best; a place to have real conversations with real people, and solve real problems.
As an ex public servant himself, our client – GovChat founder Eldrid Jordaan – constantly challenged us to build a great experience for the public. But communication is a two-way street (hopefully one without any potholes), so the trick was to make it equally useful and pleasant for the ward councillors in a very short timeframe.
A seemingly simple, yet critical part of the project was to make sure we integrated the exact ward boundaries, to be sure service requests reached the people that needed to see it. That meant collaborating with the IEC and their API.
With the Govchat product owner collaborating with our engineering and creative teams in an agile/scrum-based way of working, we were free to integrate open source tech and bring this project to life without any surprises.
Technologies: React, Redux, Material UI, Python, Django, Docker
Integrations: WhatsApp, IEC, AAT for USSD, RapidPro for workflow management
Hosting: Rancher, Kubernetes, Google Cloud
The result is the multi-channel citizen engagement platform we were after, but it’s a lot more than that. South Africa is the first government to engage with its citizens using Whatsapp, and there are a lot more African countries interested in following suit. GovChat will give insights into community issues, the ability to solve problems quickly, and ultimately make people’s lives better.