The Global Digital Civic Engagement Index shows a sharp increase, since the pandemic outbreak, of South Africans using online petitions to voice their concerns, influence policy and persuade decision makers to make changes on issues related to COVID-19.

More than 4-million new users have signed up to in South Africa since January 2020.

The Index, built by the Foundation, based on people’s engagement on the Platform, reveals that there has been a significant increase in the way citizens are starting, joining and winning campaigns.

COVID-19 related petitions and issues are surprisingly only a part of this growth. The data, analysed for the top 25 countries with highest engagement on from January 2020 to July 2020, compares its data against the same period last year.

South Africa’s level of increase in engagement reveals that people in the country are using online tools to take a stand on issues such as the safety of women and girls, protecting nurses on the frontline, ensuring people could return to work and protecting students.

User growth: More than 4-million new users signed up in South Africa since January 2020, six times the number of users over the same period in 2019. South Africa saw a growth of 600% more users in 2020. Over 60% of new user signups are in support of COVID-19 petitions.

Signature growth: Highest year on year growth in signatures – From 2019 to 2020, total signatures grew by ten times. Public support for social causes grew in the form of a 1 060% increase in signatures. Nearly 33% signatures of this were linked to COVID-19 related petitions.

Petition growth: From 2019 to 2020, petition grew by 2, 5-times. South Africa saw 227% more petitions in this period, with 30% of the petitions related to COVID-19.

Victories: Successful petitions that created an impact grew by 141%. From 51 victories in 2019 to 123 victories in 2020, with 34 of the 123 victorious petitions COVID-19 related.

These numbers and the spike pattern from South Africa in on user activity and petitions started are the highest recorded by

The top cause areas on which South Africans started petitions were economic reform, political reform, human rights, safety of women and girls, student rights, police brutality, economic equality, internet freedom and animal rights.

While men started more campaigns on than women both in 2019 and 2020, women won more campaigns consistently. As the second graph shows, from 2019 to 2020, petitions started by women, which claimed victory, grew three times compared to petitions started by men.

More women started petitions in 2020. There was also an increase of 5% in women starting petitions between 2019 and 2020, while there was a 5% drop in men starting petitions this year.

Safety of women and girls emerged as one of the most trending topics in South Africa with strong petitions on justice for victims of sexual violence and the welfare of women frontline health workers.

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