Here is the personal account of Tidiani Togola (Mali), one of the participants in the Citizen Connections project.
"The Mon Élu (My Elected Official) project aims to make citizens more actively involved in municipal management and to uphold the responsibilities of elected officials through the use of information and communication technologies. The idea is simple: to re-establish a dialogue between those in power and the people, via new technologies.
My involvement in CFI's Citizen Connections initiative has really benefited my project: each online training stage has allowed me to put my plans into perspective and to assess, analyse and improve them. Right from the very first sessions, I carried out a feasibility study with the support of our mentors. Their knowledge of new technologies and their external outlook allowed me to identify the shortcomings of Mon Élu and focus on specific problems that I had not previously taken into account. For instance, how could I make the app accessible to those members of the country's population who were illiterate? How could the process be introduced to rural regions not connected to the Internet? These were issues that were crucial to the success of the project, and I hadn't really thought about them.
We worked together to come up with solutions, which were also inspired by the many fact-finding meetings that I had with local entrepreneurs during the bush camps held in Normandy, Ouagadougou and Dakar.
We've therefore included a voice function for those citizens who can't read or write, so that they are able to communicate on the platform; this system is based very much on Whatsapp and Viber,, which are both extremely popular in the country and are frequently used by illiterate people. Lastly, to ensure that regions not connected to the Internet are not excluded, we have made use of community support networks. This system has already proven to be effective in the health sector, with a go-to person in each village being tasked with collating everyone's needs and demands and then forwarding them via the mobile app. In this context, our project is being supported by youth associations and district management committees.
These developments obviously cost money.
Thanks to the training that I received from CFI on elevator pitch and storytelling techniques, I've been able to quickly convince financial backers to support me in this project, including the National Endowment for Democracy and the International Republican Institute. The Mon Élu mobile app is currently being developed and tested in beta version. The pilot phase was officially launched on 11 September 2017 in Bamako, in Mali's National Assembly."