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Nigeria, Kenya, make top 3 in digital democracy challenge

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Entries from Nigeria and Kenya took second and third place in the Digital Democracy Challenge, a 72-hour online hackathon by Seedstars focused on developing innovative and viable digital solutions to strengthen the digital democratic space.

The winner was Divao, from Hong Kong, which was awarded $10,000 for a private blockchain platform designed to grow a local community in a decentralised way. SafeNow NG from Nigeria and Crowd Journal from Kenya were awarded, respectively, $8,000 USD for second place, and $6,000 for third place.

The Digital Democracy Challenge was organized to find innovative, low-cost, and viable digital solutions to uphold a digital civic and democratic public space under challenging and complex conditions. 

The program sought solutions that would allow citizens, activists, civil society actors, disenfranchised political actors and other stakeholders to stay in contact with each other and their supporters abroad, keep the democratic space alive, maintain a space for dialogue and ideas, and provide first-hand accounts of government activities.


The 72-hour collaborative digital process included sessions and mentors who helped the startups refine and improve their ideas. The program finished off with a demo day, where the participants pitched to a jury: Ian Charles Stewart, Chairman at WheelsPlusWings Foundation; Angela Homsi, Founder at Angaza – Ignite Power; Eldrid Jordaan, Founder and Chief Executive at GovChat; Mir Nadia Nivin, Development Professional; and Harry Federspiel, Head of Global Programs at Seedstars.

Screenshot of Phillip Igboba from SafeNow NG pitching during the Digital Democracy Challenge hackathon

The top three winners, who will be awarded $10K USD for first place, $8K USD for second place, and $6K USD for third, were:

  • 1st place: Divao (Hong Kong) – Divao creates a private blockchain to let locals in a neighborhood find, offer, and exchange services, goods and other community values such as spaces. It provides a platform to grow a local community in a decentralized way.
  • 2nd place: SafeNow NG (Nigeria) – SafeNow NG mobile application is a one-click solution for quick reporting of unsafe incidence to helpmates and security authorities. The platform aims to amplify the call for safety for families, friends, and democratic nations at large. 
  • 3rd place: Crowd Journal (Kenya) – Crowd Journal is a digital platform that amplifies underrepresented Voices in mainstream media by facilitating participatory (crowd) Journalism. Eyewitnesses from all over the globe can now publish their experiences thereby giving voice to stories that would otherwise be shunned by mainstream media.

Second placer, SafeNow NG’s Phillip Igboba shared, “I want to see a world where global citizens have fair and equal democratic access.”

“The Digital Democracy Challenge participants, representing 15 countries, were brilliantly engaged and pursued tech-based ideas with impressive creativity and speed,” said Archie Moberly, Seedstars Partnerships Manager, Asia Pacific. “The mentors went above and beyond to provide personalised, positive and powerful input for their teams. The final winners, Divao, SafeNow NG, and CrowdJournal are well deserving of their prizes and I’m eager to see how they no doubt continue to progress in the future. The rapid development of extraordinary ideas all addressing major issues and crises faced in decreasingly democratic nations was a pleasure to witness. Congratulations to all!”

The hackathon comes as a response to the growing decline of democracy seen worldwide. An open civic space allows citizens and civil society organizations to come together, share their interests and concerns and act individually and collectively to influence and shape democratic societies. However, the level of democracy enjoyed by the average global citizen in 2020 is down to the levels around 1990.

Digital democracy is the use of digital tools to shape a democratic society. It can make disenfranchised voices heard, encourage greater participation, and generate more trust in public institutions and decision making. However, in many countries autocratization is on the rise.

Technology has facilitated inclusive participation far beyond any other means of communication. It has also served to promote democracy and expand citizen participation while also reaching people who have been left out of democratic processes. Hence, it is vitally important that we come together to develop innovative solutions and contribute to furthering Goal 16 of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

This will help people keep the principles and practice of democratic and civic participation alive at the community and civil society levels, especially in places that have recently fallen or have been under restrictive regimes. 

For more information about the Digital Democracy Challenge, visit our website at  https://seedstars.com/community/entrepreneurs/programs/digital-democracy/

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