Illustration by Tui Ledua


No time to read it all? Just know that at the end, we’re calling for participants to the first Pacific online hackathon

When a major volcanic eruption blocked out all communication with Tonga in January 2022, we spent 48 horrible hours waiting for news from our partner team on the ground. We now know that in the midst of their immediate response and recovery efforts, they were working on re-launching the first CSO digital coordination platform, accelerating the work to complete translation and update it as a response and recovery coordination platform.

The platform, Tasilisili (roughly translating to SOS in Tongan) is now back online and providing a glimpse of what is going on the ground for communities in Tonga, tracking funding and budget proposals. Check it out here.

Tasilisili was developed by Civil Society Forum Tonga (CFST) and the Pacific Island Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (PIANGO). As an umbrella organisation, CFST is often invited by the government or Parliament to provide inputs, submissions and opinions “from civil society organisations in Tonga”. Requests cover topics as varied as community climate resilience mechanisms, consultations on the latest draft of the Water Bill or calls for submissions on the budget.

Hearing about a new topic of importance is often the start of a great struggle - visits, face to face meetings, emails, phone calls, social media (especially Facebook messenger chat groups) to coordinate, communicate and ensure that everyone has a say - from large organisations to women faith groups and marginalised communities.

With little time, there is no need to fully capture transparently who says what, to make sure everyone understands the question and get to a consensus on the answer especially from smaller and less organised groups. This makes it difficult to then communicate with the government and track how their suggestions were taken on board (or not).

 Could a digital solution provide help?

The answer is not straight forward - after cycles of trial and error, we decided that we needed a platform that is as collaborative as a shared document, as simple as an email, as friendly as Facebook and as effective as a talanoa session. This is often easier said than done.

Tasilisili was launched during the budget consultations last year with a strong emphasis on using the platform to coordinate and produce a quality budget submission for Tongan CSOs, thanks to the support of the European Union. At a click of a button, CFST can get the word out and receive and consolidate input without the back-and-forth emails and the multitude of communication and consultation processes that previously existed. Submissions are compiled for all to see, and everyone can contribute. It’s not perfect but it’s a first step.

This situation in Tonga is really a snapshot of the challenges experienced by civil society organisations throughout the Pacific. So, the Pacific Islands Chapter of the Internet Society (PICISOC) is bringing this challenge to the region.

We are pleased to announce the first Pacific led online hackathon will take place on 12-13 April 2022 with the main objective of finding a prototype that can alleviate the current challenges faced by Pacific civil society. As a regional civil society organisation also, PICISOC will for the first time test the waters and bring together its members and extended networks to create, innovate and explore the digital dimension for the benefit of its fellow regional civil society organisations.

Apart from the honour of being a part of the inaugural event, participants will also get to access global mentors and prize money. This could be the starting point for the development of a much-needed digital platform.

If you’re curious and think you have what it takes, don’t delay, and reach out to Cherie Lagakali on cherie.lagakali@gmail.com if you have any questions or visit the hackathon online platform here.

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