3:20 pm—3:40 am · June 12, 2024
Mary Ward Hall / Livestreamed
Technology has demonstrated how impactful it can be in promoting, protecting and remedying human rights in Zimbabwe — but implementing it in an environment of adversity is a challenge. Difficulties include poor internet infrastructure, competing platforms for users' attention — and a hostile dictatorship that will clamp down on anything perceived as anti-government.

Longer description:

In 2020, Courteney founded the civic tech organisation, Justice Code Foundation. Their first launch was Astrea Justice, a mobile app to document abuses and educate users about human rights. 

The app was easily adopted mainly in Harare, an urban area, but less so in rural areas, where adoption was close to zero despite most users having smart phones. 

Further study revealed that there is a strong digital divide in Zimbabwe, with poor internet infrastructure and expensive data tariffs. 

Governmental antagonism brings a second challenge. Zimbabwe’s dictatorship will target any project that is perceived to pose a threat to the existence of the current government. 

VoteBot, an AI-powered voter education tool for WhatsApp, resulted in staff being followed and offices raided — while all the time informing young people and encouraging voter registration. A database of electoral violence and malpractices was forcibly taken down. 

The final battle is for the attention of citizens: civic tech must compete with social media platforms — not always an easy task when the latter is perceived as so much more entertaining.