New Veza tool to fight police corruption
New Veza tool to fight police corruption
Corruption Watch (CW) selected Bluegrass Digital, an innovative software engineering company, to develop the new Veza platform. The new Veza tool funding was made possible by CW’s selection at the end of 2018 as one of four winners of the Google Impact Challenge, which aimed to encourage local innovators to solve a social problem using technology.
The support from this grant and other donor enabled the CW team to develop an idea to address the specific problem of police misconduct and abuse of power. This new interactive open data tool was inspired by engagements with communities experiencing police violence and was developed in response to the many complaints received on police corruption.
Veza, meaning ‘expose’ or ‘reveal’, is a first of its kind in South Africa and will improve transparency in policing in the country. It will place the power back in the hands of the public to hold the South African Police Service (SAPS) accountable. The tool provides information at national, provincial and district level.
Corruption Watch head of stakeholder relations and campaigns Kavisha Pillay, says the launch of the Veza tool signifies a new era for Corruption Watch as they explore how transparency, big data and accessible technology can be used to combat corruption and advance broader social justice issues.
Since Corruption Watch’s inception in 2012, innovation has always been central to its approach in addressing systemic and pervasive corruption in South Africa. Public adoption will determine the power of this tool, the more it is used and information shared, the more involved they will become in how their communities are policed and protected around the country.
Veza is designed to encourage public participation in the matter of transparency in policing, while also providing access to key information about police operations. Its use will help to strengthen the role of the public and civil society in calling for change in the SAPS, and in reducing the power imbalance that exists between the SAPS and members of the public. Its success will be based on public participation and the submission of data.
The data used to populate the Veza tool was obtained directly from the SAPS through the submission of a number of applications under the Promotion of Access to Information Act.
The collection and verification of data is an ongoing process, and the team is continually working to address the current gaps in information from specific provinces, districts and individual police stations by applying pressure to the necessary bodies to disclose the relevant information, which is in the public interest.
Bluegrass Digital CEO Nick Durrant is upbeat about the potential of this innovative tool. “This is an exciting project to be part of as it has so much potential. Nothing like this exists on the African continent and from our research, not many countries around the world have platforms for their citizens to access information like this.
“We have built the tool as a web-based application which runs as a separate microsite linked from Corruption Watch, called The Veza Tool. The platform runs on Azure and is powered by data APIs which are plotting data via a custom Google Maps Integration which you land on from the home page. Data sources are continually being updated. We are using a headlines WordPress CMS approach to provide for some content management”, Durrant explained.
Veza offers so many features, including integration with Google Maps, which allows us to use geo-location with various data sources to plot police corruption trends and hotspots, as well as information about all 1 150 police stations across the country such as contact information, resources, budget and personnel.
The Veza tool also enables users to:
• rate and review police stations based on personal experiences;
• compare the resources of up to four stations;
• commend honest and ethical police officers; and
• report incidents of corruption and police misconduct that are immediately geo-located through the tool.
Pillay expressed her gratitude to Bluegrass Digital for the impeccable and professional service that was provided throughout the development of this project. “We collaborated ideas, brainstormed and debated extensively during this process and I am really proud of the product that we have.”
(Reference: EngineerIT March 2021: https://cdn.estatesinafrica.co.za/Engineerit/2021/3/index.html)