Celebrating Women's Day in South Africa: Honouring Trailblazers in Civic Tech
Michelle Hinrichsen
August 8, 2023
Women's Day is an opportunity to reflect on the progress we've made in inclusion. We are reminded to recommit ourselves to a world where every woman's voice is heard and valued. Today, we honour the women in civic tech who are using their skills and passion to make a positive impact on South African communities.

The 9th of August marks South African Women's Day. It is a celebration of the contributions and indomitable spirit of South African women. South Africa comes alive with festivities  commemorating the historic women's march in 1956. The march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria  united women from all walks of life against discriminatory pass laws. Women's Day pays tribute to the bravery of the female pioneers of 1956. The day is an acknowledgement of the ongoing efforts of women in various fields to improve the quality of life for all South Africans. 

The role of civic tech in inclusive cities

In recent years, women in South Africa have made significant strides in various fields, including civic tech. Civic tech encompasses a broad range of technological tools and platforms. It is technology that can be used to improve governance, enhance citizen engagement, and promote transparency. Technology can be used to solve social challenges and improve citizen participation. 

Powerful Women in Civic Tech

Civic tech has its role to play in inclusive citives. The question is: how can cities be more inclusive without women in key positions? Women are not the only ones who influence the move to inclusive cities, but they should be key players.  

In this blog post, we’re taking a moment to honour three trailblazing women in South Africa who are driving positive change in our cities.  These are women in civic tech that are making a tangible impact on the lives of South Africans and communities through civic tech. They are change makers who have a finger on the pulse of the latest developments in urban strategy and management.

Jodi Allemeier: partnering in strategy for the future of cities

Cities need trailblazers who understand that Cities around the world are facing many drivers of change. Changes relating to rapid urbanisation, climate change, technological advancements, political polarisation and more. To address these challenges cities need people who have unique and non-traditional approaches. People like Jodi Allemeier are essential in realising inclusive cities that are also able to tackle these challenges. Jodi facilitates bespoke research and strategy initiatives. Jodi's approach is to improve an organisation’s understanding of its communication of issues. Understanding communication involves mapping out key role players in existing processes. Jodi uses stakeholder mapping to help local government stakeholders adopt industry best practice. These are topped by her program and project leadership expertise in the social and economic development space. An example of her work is with the city of Cape Town. While working on the Western Cape Economic Development Partnership on behalf of the City, she was the convenor of the Open Data Forum. The Forum was a multi-sectoral group that helped to craft the approach to the City of Cape Town’s first open data platform.

While she is involved in city strategy, Jodi is a co-founder of Open Streets Cape Town. Open Streets Cape Town is a citizen-driven initiative based in South Africa that is working to improve how people use Cape Town streets. This is through campaigns and publications aimed at changing the perception and experience of Cape Town streets. Jodi is a Leading Economic Growth Kistefos Fellow with the Harvard Centre for International Development in 2016.  She is also a Global Governance Futures 2030 Fellow with the Global Public Policy Institute(2018). She has served on various non-profit boards with a focus on urban management and social development related mandates. These accomplishments definitely contribute to why we see her as a trailblazer, but they are not the only ones. Her ability to centre people in conversation, design, and implementation of research in decision making is a game changer.

Tshegang Chipeya: driving the digital transition in city operations

Systemic change is required for us to realise fair and just African cities. To do this we need civic participants that can work beyond and those that work within the boundaries of city legislation. We need civil servants who challenge the status quo. We see people like Tshegang Chipeya as challengers of the status quo. Tshegang is the Senior Manager for Economic Information and Research, at the Municipality of eThekwini’s Economic Development Unit. She is a champion of  the digital transition of and in cities. We're inspired by how she has spearheaded the digital transition in her unit. Tshegang has advocated for a smart and user-centred eThekwini for close to a decade.

The Durban EDGE is a platform that shares eThekwini’s economic data and insights in more usable formats and is produced by Tshegang and her team.  Durban EDGE is an open, up-to-date and interactive data platform. The data is published on the platform on a periodic basis and collected by credible sources. EDGE also offers data stories based on the published economic data. This platform is a product of a static pdf release that was once a printed document. Print and PDF are not dead, but they are outdated and the digital age offers tools that are helpful in reducing barriers for users accessing data.

These changes may seem natural on reflection. Yet, their success is through the resilience, tenacity and innovation of city champions like Tshegang.

Gabriella Razzano: enabling civic participation through open data technologies

Gabriella Razzano, is the founder and executive director of OpenUp. She is committed to increasing transparency and openness in public administration. She believes in enabling civic participation through open data technologies. Gabriella believes innovation can be used for positive disruption in society. She believes being disruptive gives her a unique ability to approach challenges innovatively. She looks at technology as a tool of empowerment and is driven to embed technology in civic infrastructure. Tech can improve openness and transparency in public service delivery and functions.

Razzano's background is in Law. Her academic experience was first put to practice while working at the Constitutional Court. Positively ruined for practice by her experience at the Constitutional Court, she began her work in the activism space. Her journey to OpenUp was in part inspired by a shared vision of the instrumental use of data and technology in improving the lives of citizens. Since its establishment , OpenUp has grown  its projects beyond the South African borders. The role that OpenUp has played in making information accessible is critical.

Creating an Empowering Environment for women

At the heart of progress lies an environment that empowers women to thrive. Organisations, governments, and communities in civic tech promote gender diversity and inclusivity. To build a more fair future in civic tech and urban spaces we should all

  • Encourage women to pursue careers in tech
  • Support women through mentorship programs 
  • Promote women in tech positions and pay them fairly
  • Provide opportunities for advancement in leadership roles 

Moving Forward: A Collective Journey

As we celebrate South African Women's Day, we must recognize that progress towards gender equality is a collective journey. People of all genders must unite in advocating for equal rights and opportunities in South Africa. Today is a celebration of the past, a recognition of the present, and a commitment to the future.  

The yardstick for measuring the improvements made by women like Tshegang, Gabriella and Jodi is unknown. At least in South Africa. Yet, the impact and change they have made in cities and civic tech is unquestionable. Gabriella, Tshegang, and Jodi are only three of the women we are celebrating this month. There are as many more who are pioneering in their spaces like those who marched for women’s rights in 1956.  And they are driving change through innovation and tech. 

Women's Day is an opportunity to reflect on the progress we've made in inclusion. We are reminded to recommit ourselves to a world where every woman's voice is heard and valued.  Today, we honour the women in civic tech who are using their skills and passion to make a positive impact on South African communities. 

Latest blog articles