Study Reveals that a Culture of Secrecy Among Public Officials Hinders Media Work in Tanzania

By MISA Tanzania Correspondent |

A prevailing culture of secrecy among public officials in Tanzania at both central and local government levels is hindering the work of journalists, according to findings by a recent study. This is affecting access to information necessary for media reporting towards increased civic participation, transparency and accountability in governance.
The study which was conducted by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Tanzania Chapter in partnership with the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) assessed the responsiveness of local government authorities (LGAs) and central government offices in Tanzania to citizens’ information requests.
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Promoting e-participation in Western Uganda

By ToroDev Staff |

Radio has proved to be a key tool in promoting public accountability and improved service delivery in the Rwenzori region of western Uganda. Toro Development Network (ToroDev), a non-governmental organisation that trains marginalised communities on service delivery monitoring and participation in governance processes, has reached wide audiences by supplementing their radio activities with additional Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) tools and traditional offline engagements. Continue Reading →

Promoting inclusive use of ICT in monitoring service delivery in Uganda

By Lillian Nalwoga |

For true democracy to flourish there is need for government transparency, greater access to public information, and inclusion of citizens’ voices in decision-making processes. The use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) can aid in increasing awareness and empowering citizens to meaningfully participate in governance processes such as monitoring public services delivery.  Continue Reading →

Using Technology to Advance Human Rights in Kenya

By Catherine Kamatu |

Joseph Kitaka, a resident of Yatta in Machakos County, Kenya, has always had an interest in defending human rights. His community is faced with numerous challenges, including gender-based violence, police brutality and many other human rights violations. Mr. Kitaka had little hope of utilising Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to advance his ambition in bettering his community, until he was elected the chairman of Yatta Paralegal Network, a local Human Rights Network (HURINET). Continue Reading →

Local leaders in Kasese District Trained in e-Governance

This month, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) and the E-Society Resource Centre Kasese trained local leaders in Kasese district in the use of ICTs for improved governance and service delivery. During the March 20-21 2014 workshop, local leaders of the western Uganda district were also trained in using ICTs for information sharing and promoting citizen participation.

Speaking at the workshop, District Information Officer John Thawite urged local leaders to break away from the culture of secrecy and work in accordance with the 2005 Uganda Access to Information Act. “Meaningful participation in democratic processes requires informed participants hence the need for increased access to information,” he said.

However, Mr. Thawite noted some challenges to better access to information: poor facilitation for information officers, lack of ICT tools to process information requests, the Official Secrets Act of 1964 which bars public servants from releasing certain information, and poor coordination of information systems between departments.

During introductory sessions, participants were introduced to the basic elements of computer use, the internet and information security. Later, they were introduced to the concept of e-governance and its role in improving service delivery. The training included an interaction with the district e-government tools such as the district portal (www.kasese.go.ug), district discussion group (https://dgroups.org/iicd/kasese), E-library for district e-resources (https://elibrary.kasese.go.ug) and the district news portal (https://kasesenews.blogspot.com/).

The workshop also sought to enhance the leaders’ capability to engage with citizens through social media, and illustrated how this engagement could contribute to improved services delivery. According to Alexa.com, Facebook, Twitter, blog post and youtube are among the top ten accessed websites in Uganda and their potential in catalysing citizen participation in governance was emphasised.

Leaders were further encouraged to use the Rwenzururu facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/nokasesesplit/) created in 2012 by community members in Kasese during a CIPESA citizen journalism training to discuss prevailing issues in the region..

Participants welcomed the training with one saying that he would henceforth be able to get access more information about various operations of the government through the various e-governance platforms shared. Another participant asked the e-society Resource Centre to work with heads of departments so that they always send their budgets, minutes of meetings, work plans and other communication to the e-platforms.

CIPESA has since 2011 spearheaded the iParticipate Uganda project. Through grassroots based ICT access centres in Eastern, Western and Northern Uganda, CIPESA creates awareness and builds the capacity and skills of citizens, media and local government to leverage ICTs to catalyse civic participation, democracy monitoring and access to information in Uganda. The E-society Resource Center Kasese is CIPESA’s western region partner. The centre provides support, promotes ICT literacy and the use of ICT for transparency in the Kasese local government.

Article complied by Mr. Samuel Mumbere – E-Society Resource Centre Kasese and Ms. Lillian Nalwoga – CIPESA 

New Report Shows How ICT is Aiding Citizen Participation in Uganda

A new report by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) illustrates how Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are aiding citizen participation in Uganda, but also points to the challenges that need to be overcome for these technologies to have a wider impact on governance.
The report reviews various ICT tools being used to promote transparency, accountability, and citizen participation in Uganda. It examines the utility and shortcomings of these tools, the challenges they face, and the factors contributing to their success. Furthermore, it offers suggestions for improving the utility, reach, and, hopefully, the success of initiatives that utilise ICT to improve citizen participation.

Based on the 24 ICT tools assessed, seven main categories of uses of tools were identified: Information provision; Election monitoring; Lobbying and activism; Voter registration; Elections reporting; Citizen policing; and Civic participation in the post-election period.

Innovations especially with mobile telephony and interactive mapping have showcased how ICT can help improve transparency and accountability in the delivery of public services. In the run up to Uganda’s 2011 general elections, ICT tools were used broadly, for campaigning, tallying results, monitoring the actions of political groups and the electoral body, for civic education, and for activism. The tools included mobile phones, automated calls, and crowd sourcing platforms, radio and television, as well as social media. They contributed to transparency of the polls – but probably not to voter turn-out.

However, the most immediate challenge to the adoption of these tools is that few Ugandans are embracing them. In Uganda, market penetration for voice stands at 45% with a population coverage of close to 100%. Mobile accounts for more than 90% of new connections, with 910,000 new subscribers being added each year. While this is providing a solid base in terms of numbers of those who can use the ICT, the figures do not tell the whole story. For example, studies show that nearly half of mobile phone subscribers own at least two SIM cards. Moreover, even among the phone-owning class, for many usage beyond voice (and, well, Facebook and radio) remains limited.

And there are yet more challenges. Limitations such as the cost of accessing and using the ICT, language barriers and low literacy levels mainly for the internet and mobile based platforms – as well as minimal attention by government to boosting usage of ICT in governance all hinder the effective use of these tools. This study finds that it is therefore crucial for organisations using ICT for participation and democracy to carry out extensive assessments before deploying the technology, to work with others rather than duplicate efforts, to create awareness and capacity among users, and to continuously assess the impacts the ICT initiatives are creating.

This research was made possible by funding from the Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions (Spider), which is supporting projects in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, in the areas of education, health, and governance. The results shall directly inform some wider actions in catalysing civic participation and democracy monitoring using ICT, which the ICT4Democracy in East Africa partners are undertaking.

Download the full report here: