AfricaLive: How would you define the identity of Uamuzi Tech? What makes up your DNA?
Elvis Sitati: Uamuzi is a social networking and messaging platform designed to facilitate citizen engagement in governance. The main focus of citizen engagement is the youth, women, and people living with disabilities. There is a lot of talk in this country about citizen participation in informing things like policy formation, budget formulation, and other issues.
Civic participation happens in the old school way where people meet in town halls. This is not effective because it locks the majority of the people out. Most people either will not have the time to participate or will be too far away to get to the meetings.
Our platform brings those meetings to the people instead of people having to go to the meeting. Now citizens can effectively participate in policy formulation, planning, and implementation easily. We have democratised access to information and eliminated the risk of distortion because people get information in real-time from reliable sources.
Marginalised groups such as youth, women, and the disabled now do not only have a voice, but they can also seek elective positions through our platform. It is disheartening when you have 79 percent of your population being youthful, yet very few of them get into positions of leadership.
Women have also been marginalised from leadership because most of them do not have the money to run successful campaigns and also don’t have the political muscle to outshine their male counterparts. Similar issues confront those living with disabilities who want to seek elective positions. Our platform changes the landscape for these three groups.
People have been marketing themselves through social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Those platforms are great for connecting family members, work colleagues, business partners, and leaders; but they do not connect constituents. If you open a social media account today and run it for ten years, you will amass a following made up of mostly people who are not from your constituency. This does not work for you, should you ever decide to run for office.
The issue of follower count is also restrictive if you have a smaller following compared to your competitors. Uamuzi addresses this by putting all leaders on a level playing field. All people seeking leadership roles regardless of age, gender, and follower count get to present their case to a similar audience. This helps us as a country to develop policy-based leadership. We will be able to move away from leadership based on how much money one has, their gender, or their ethnicity.
The platform requires that all leaders upload their manifestos and that way they can be held accountable at the end of their terms. The best thing that ever happened in this country is the creation of devolved units of government. We have tested this system for a decade and have seen its pros and cons. One of the cons is that there are many cases of corruption in the devolved units. Uamuzi helps to lay such things bare because we have created a medium for constituents to have an open line of communication with their leaders.
Leaders can also show people what they are doing and update people on current projects. As I mentioned before, Uamuzi is not designed to prioritise a follower system. So you don’t get to have a bigger voice just because you have a bigger following. Once you signup, you have a similar audience as everyone else and can sell your ideas and air your grievances.
Our platform is also helping in civic education. We are doing this by targeting people at the ward level, constituency level, and county level. Because we don’t use a follower system, it’s easy for a leader’s or organisation’s message to be consumed by everyone.
How is this different from the current system?
The current system is ineffective because an organisation like Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) only has seven hundred thousand followers on Twitter. For a country with a population of 50 million, that medium can only reach a small percentage of the population through social media.
Uamuzi breaks that barrier because everyone on the app will be able to consume what an organisation like that puts out without having to follow them. We also utilise bulk messaging technology to send messages to people. We have a function where messages can be targeted based on gender, age, and region.
Our app will be a sanitised space where every account gets verified to avoid the existence of fake and dummy accounts. Leaders and organisations will pay a fee to get verified. We have set up an annual payment method where leaders will pay to stay on the platform. Governors will pay 500 USD annually, Senators and women reps will pay 400 USD, Members of parliament will pay 300 USD and MCAs will pay 200 USD. Presidential aspirants will pay the highest fee of 1000 USD. Each leader will have a verified title that cannot be duplicated to ensure that any communication from that account is indeed from that office.
We will also be running paid-for campaigns for organisations that want to promote their products and surveys. Uamuzi will help clean up the survey space by facilitating targeted surveys that break down how many people were sampled, the gender, age, income, and region they come from. This will help show people what the country, region, or village thinks about certain ideas or products.
AfricaLive: Economic growth must be balanced with sustainability. How does Uamuzi plan to handle the matters of sustainability and climate action?
Elvis Sitati: At the moment, the environment is a very hot topic globally. Climate change is one of the global sustainability goals that we have. With our platform, we are developing a green campaign. This will work to change what we do currently which is canvassing around the town with fliers and posters.
Over time, these flyers and posters create a carbon footprint that hurts our climate goals. We also have a lot of mobilisation that involves fleets of vehicles. Our platform seeks to bring every leader’s campaign to your hand through your mobile device. Leaders will not need to traverse different places with posters and other non-renewable paraphernalia because they can reach their constituents directly through our platform.
Our platform will have an impact on formulating environmental policy because leaders will now be accessible to the people regardless of leadership level. This means that the people will get to contribute when it comes to developing environmental ordinances and laws at every level of governance in Kenya.
The platform will also be a medium for education on climate issues. We will have messages that will educate on climate change mitigation, climate change impact, and also early warning. Awareness creation should always be ongoing because people must be sensitised at all times on issues that affect them.
We plan to assist the cause by organising meetups at the ward level so that young people can participate in the well-being of their communities through cleanups, tree planting, and other activities. This will help make our communities cleaner and will help increase our forest cover in line with the Kenya Vision 2030 document.
We will also be running topical campaigns that will have an impact on certain periods. At the moment we are working on The Mulika Campaign. This is a campaign we are doing in the build-up to Kenya’s general election. The campaign aims to create peacebuilding. The campaign will seek to identify cases of violence by allowing users to speak of their experiences and the level of threat in their locality.
Once we get this data, we will use Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to analyse the data. Once we get the data we will use GIS to map out the affected region and come up with countermeasure tactics like an early warning.
AfricaLive: The economic, social, and environmental challenges we face on the African continent can not be solved by one company or sector: partnership is key. What does partnership mean to you?
Elvis Sitati: We definitely need partners to help us with the many projects we are pursuing. Our plan is to reach out to like-minded stakeholders so that we can hit our goals faster. With our peace-building project, we are looking for educators that have experience in peacebuilding and civic education. We are not limited to the kind of partners we want to be involved. We are open to working with all educators, and government officials both at the national and county levels as well as small businesses.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, we wanted to use the platform to sensitise the public on prevention and contact tracing. These are the types of projects we want to be involved in. We are looking at promoting our service to tertiary institutions like colleges and polytechnics. This will give us an audience of diverse young people with different talents who will be first-time voters in every election. Getting them on board will be a big win because it will change the culture of civic education and electoral discourse currently in place.
AfricaLive: An increasing number of companies are starting to take advantage of the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. Is increased intra-African trade a key part of development both for your company and the wider Kenyan economy?
Elvis Sitati: At the moment, we are only operating in Kenya but the agreement is good for our future prospects. It would be great to sell this service in neighboring countries after successful piloting in Kenya. The agreement could work very well for us because we are looking to pilot a feature that will facilitate trade digitally. We will have a payment platform on our service to send money and ship products cross-border.
AfricaLive: On partnership and growth, what is the main message you would like to communicate to an international audience at this time?
Elvis Sitati: I would say that we are not only trying to use technology to connect people and turn the world into a global village. Uamuzi is using technology to change people’s lives by changing our governance. Digital spaces can help us identify better leaders and that will help us even connect better with our international audiences. We want to make Uamuzi not only the biggest social media platform in Africa but also the best in the world at spurring political, social, and environmental change.
AfricaLive: What are your main goals for the year ahead? What is your primary long-term objective?
Elvis Sitati: Our plan this year is to improve our platform and get more users on board. Our vision is to spur change in leadership and boost social cohesion not only in Kenya but also in the rest of Africa.