Africa’s young civil servants are the key to revitalising governance and delivering more efficient and equitable public services using innovative frontier technologies.

This is the word from Maria Ramos, Absa Group chief executive and commissioner for the Pathways for Prosperity Commission on Technology and Inclusive Development.

The Pathways Commission, in association with Absa, is hosting a tech-policy hackathon in Sandton, Gauteng today to solve real policy and governance problems faced in the region.

The Pathways Commission’s academic director Professor Benno Ndulu – former Governor of the Bank of Tanzania – will open the hackathon, which will be delivered in partnership with design thinking and technical experts from Singapore and Tanzania.

The Pathways Commission is co-chaired by Melinda Gates, together with Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet Group Strive Masiyiwa, and Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Minister of Finance in Indonesia. The Commission is hosted by the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford; it aims to catalyse new conversations that encourage the co-design of solutions that make frontier technologies work to benefit the world’s poorest and most marginalised communities.

“Africa’s greatest resource is its youth,” says Ramos. “There is a new cadre of public servants who are first generation ‘digital natives’ – people who grew up with computers, internet and mobile phones – and they’re brimming with innovative ideas and new ways of approaching daily challenges. We need to ensure their perspectives, voices and ideas are harnessed so that government institutions can better use technology to benefit all communities.”

Artificial intelligence, communications technologies and data management services like blockchain are pushing the frontier for what is possible for countries’ growth and people’s wellbeing, but governments (particularly governments in developing countries) have yet to harness the full potential of these technologies and adopt them holistically and systemically in ways to ensure people living in poverty are included in economic growth.

Professor Ndulu comments: “Young tech-savvy civil servants are well placed to think about how to change inefficient government service delivery systems, revitalise governance and create inclusive institutions.”

Participants are being asked to come prepared to the tech-policy hackathon with real life problems their governments face.

The Young Civil Servants Hackathon aims to provide a platform for young civil servants to engage with one another regionally, to highlight their policy problems and design innovative solutions that leverage technological solutions to revolutionise systems.

The tech-policy hackathon aims to facilitate the exchange of experiences and ideas on government modernisation among young and future civil servants to develop a shared vision of technology-enabled governments. Participants from 11 countries in the region are attending, and include delegates from among others Angola, Mozambique, Rwanda and Lesotho, representing a range of ministries and government agencies.