Civil society organisations (CSOs) across West Africa are showing innovation by using technology to advance their work. In fact, technology allows CSOs to communicate their agenda, mobilise larger audiences, connect with other CSOs and reach out to donors. Technology provides tools for CSOs to tell success stories and transform their interface into a learning platform for other projects.
However, a recent security vulnerability assessments conducted by Co-creation Hub (CcHUB) on 28 CSOs across Nigeria and Ghana revealed that the current crop of technologists in CSOs across the two countries are not adequately equipped to tackle the technical needs of the advocacy space. This dearth of competent technologists in the advocacy space not only diminishes the desired impact of the work of CSOs but also puts them at risk of cybersecurity mishaps such as data breaches and identity theft.
Digital security expert, Anthony Sule, Project Coordinator of CcHUB, reckons that, "Attacks are happening but we have very few people who address that. We do not have enough digital security professionals who work with CSOs. There are many reasons for that. One of them is that certifications in cybersecurity are very expensive and when people go through the expense of getting certified, they really just want to work with banks or enterprises that would pay top dollars".
It is within this context, that the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) in partnership with CcHUB, organised a Community of Practice training from 17 February to 4 March 2020 in Accra, Ghana. The training was attended by 18 participants from Ghana and Kenya.
According to Franck Sombo, Head of Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Unit at WACSI, "this training is critical because CSOs and civil society are lagging behind when it comes to technology advancement. With all the growing risks we are witnessing around digital tools it is important to build our tools to build our readiness and to be more responsive, creative and innovative to enhance digital impact so that we are not left behind".
This training’s objective was to build a pool of non profit technologists equipped with relevant capacities to support the work of CSOs. The training sought to enhance participant’s technological skills and enable them to be more resilient in the face of growing cyber attacks and digital disruptions while supporting the social impact mission of CSOs.
The training combined both theoretical and practical sessions. It addressed topics such as communicating impact, digital security, computer networking, data analytics, Internet rights and politics, graphics design, as well as user interface and user experience design.
Participants affirmed that they were equipped to solve problems and create innovative tech solutions to tackle issues faced by communities and civil societies.
"I’m the IT support of my organisation and I believe there are so many good things that can come out from using technology in our line of work. So just for example, IT helps for the dissemination of information, in presenting your facts, in appealing to donors, in content management, and so on. I saw the training as an opportunity to help me, give me capacity building in my line of work and in the future help me doing the work I do in my organisation. The key strength of the training was that I was able to collaborate and network with other people from West African countries," said a participant.
The training is only the first step of a comprehensive programme that offers CSOs peer-to-peer learning that would translate to practical projects. The programme then gives opportunities for CSOs to take part in international tech conferences where they will be able to sell and market their project idea.
This training is in line with WACSI’s goal to promote technology for development in West Africa. Through this, WACSI seeks to embolden the technological capacities of CSOs and their staff and enable them to be equipped to meet up with global technological advancements. Through this, WACSI, a member of the global Techsoup network provides CSOs in West Africa with subsidised and donated technology products and services with discounted rates up to 95% of the market value.