A simple guide to one of South Africa’s current top-of-mind legal talking points, the Protection of Personal Information Act
Is your civic tech project PoPI-compliant? The Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) Act has been a talking point for businesses for several years now, but with the appointment of the Information Regulator, the time has come for civic tech initiatives get serious about PoPI compliance .
At our recent Civic Tech Innovation Network (CTIN) event, media lawyer Dario Milo presented on PoPI , offering some key guidelines for how to interpret the legislation, what penalties non-compliant organisations may face, and the simplest solutions for compliance. Drawing from that and additional research, here is our straightforward CTIN guide to PoPI for civic tech.
This ambitious project aims to bring Cape Town’s citizenry online and promote digital literacy
How do you extend online access and promote digital literacy in a deeply unequal society?
This is the mammoth task Cape Town’s SmartCape initiative set itself. Senior online producer for the City of Cape Town Thurlo Cicero takes us through their growth into one of Africa’s largest digital inclusion projects, and the lessons they learned along the way.
Q. Tell us about the start of SmartCape and how it has grown?
SmartCape started in 2002 with a pilot project in just six municipal libraries. We knew that we needed to give citizens access to the internet, and this was the seed of the idea. In 2003 we applied for and won funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that allowed us to scale up the operation. Today we now provide limited daily internet access from PCs across all of the City’s 104 libraries. Several of the locations also have WiFi zones too.
This has evolved into a broader digital inclusion project that is part of the City and Mayor’s vision for Cape Town. SmartCape is the platform through which we are up-skilling people and promoting e-literacy. It is also a means to accessing the City’s e-services. Today there are over 450 000 registered users who can get 45-min free internet use per session per day, across 670 computers. The users of the wifi spots can access up to 500 MB a month.
Q. What data do you collect from your users and how do you inform them of this data usage?
The founder talks innovation, success, learning, and chasing scale at the influential community advocacy NPO.
Koketso Moeti is the founder and executive director of amandla.mobi — a non-profit community advocacy organisation that works to empower communities to raise awareness and enact change on the issues that matter most to them.
Their stated goal is to “turn every cellphone into a democracy building tool so that no matter where you live; what language you speak or what issue you care about, you can take action with others”. And their primary weapon of choice is petitions and awareness campaigns.
One of their most prominent and successful campaigns to date was the petition to stop the “virgin bursaries” (the uThukela District Municipality’s ‘Maidens Bursary Award’) which has over 17,000 signatories.
Q. To your mind, what is the most innovative thing about the amandla.mobi platform?
The creative use of technology to amplify the work of those being silenced and ignored, and to bring critical social issues to the foreground is a significant way of democratising digital tools.
Tech is not going to disappear. We need to harness it creatively to build the world we want, rather than leaving it solely to those whose only interests are profits, exploitation and worse. And this is where we are innovating, we didn’t build something new. We merely took the same tech that could’ve been used in all these other ways and used it differently. This is innovation, which is often conflated with invention.
How do you measure yourselves and campaigns? What constitutes success for a campaign?
Basically success for a campaign is having a decision-maker take a decision we want them to and implement it, like when we got eTV to broadcast ‘Miners Shot Down’. That was very clear, simple success.
We also have campaigns like when we forced the Department of Higher Education to release the ‘No Fee Varsity’ report. The initial ask of the campaign was just for the report to be released. We felt this was important and that it affirmed and strengthened the #FeesMustFall struggle that was happening at the time. [Success for a] campaign [like that] means having your first victory, and then moving the energy to a “next ask”, like implementation.
Other internal measures of success include measuring the number of people who join more than one campaign, and go up the ladder of engagement by taking more and deeper actions, such as directly contacting a decision maker; contributing to a submission; donating to a particular tactic; advising us on campaign tactics; hosting a meeting or other kind of event; attending a protest; and so on.
There are some side benefits we don’t quite measure which can also be important, like how some campaigns raise awareness about things that are often ignored, or just even put new information in the public domain.