The intersection of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and civic engagement continues to gain popularity as more citizens adopt the use of tools to engage with each other, and with civic organisations and the state. While empirical evidence suggests that the rate at which this is happening remains debatable, the ICT4Democracy in East Africa network is using various forms of ICT tools to promote civic participation in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda and working to overcome challenges such as gender and geographical disparity in use of ICT.
Promoting Access to Information and Digital Safety Awareness among Tanzanian Journalists For Upcoming Elections
By Gasirigwa G.S | As the 25 October general election draws closer in Tanzania, journalists have been urged to be impartial in their reporting. Many have also taken steps to ensure that their digital communication is not compromised particularly when seeking information during the electioneering period.
In August, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Tanzania Chapter, in partnership with the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) organized two training workshops on access to information with special focus on digital safety for Media practitioners in Tanzania. A total of 40 journalists (13 women and 27 men) from Geita, Mara, Mwanza and Dar es Salaam received practical digital safety skills against a backdrop of discussion on the Access to Information and Media Services bills as well as the recently passed Cybercrime Act 2015 and Statistics Act, also of 2015.
By Ashnah Kalemera
The push for open data that contributes to government transparency and accountability in service delivery and promotes citizens’ right to information and innovation in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector continues to gain prominence globally. Indeed, open data has been recognised as a key pillar of sustainable development. However, implementation of open data by African governments, civil society and the private sector is mostly in its infant stages, with some countries recording more success than others.
The demand and supply of open data in Africa is faced with numerous challenges including lack of complete data, authoritarian regimes, multiple fragmented actors, limited technical skills and capacity, inadequate infrastructure and low literacy rates.
On September 4-5, 2015, the government of Tanzania and the World Bank hosted the first Open Data Conference in Africa, that brought together the emerging open data community in Africa to showcase innovations and discuss opportunities and challenges to open data implementation.
Edited by Nanjira Sambuli & Varyanne Sika |
Late last year, I accompanied the Executive Director of Mzalendo when she went to deliver awards to some of the winners of Shujaaz Awards. The awards were part of an undertaking that recognized efforts by Members of Parliament whose activities in the House had the biggest positive impact on the Common Mwananchi. The winners were chosen via public voting that was conducted through Twitter. Read more
ICT4Democracy in East Africa Participates in 2014 International Conference on e-Democracy & Open Governance (CeDEM14) in Krems, Austria
The ICT4Democracy in East Africa Network was in May 2014 represented by Johnstone Baguma of Toro Development Network and Wilfred Warioba from the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG) at the 2014 International Conference on e-Democracy & Open Governance (CeDEM14) in Krems, Austria. They presented research papers on the network’s projects on leveraging ICTs to promote good governance and human rights in Uganda and Tanzania.
During the conference, Baguma chaired a session on “Citizens’ Participation in Governance Processes through ICT in Eastern Africa”. This track was a new inclusion in the conference proceedings, having been lobbied for inclusion by network members during CeDem2013.
Baguma reported on the experiences of ToroDev and the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) working at grassroots level in Uganda. His paper described the relevance of an ICT convergence approach in promoting democratic engagement. The paper also described how simple, affordable, and cost effective ICT tools are used to mobilize, activate the intuitiveness, assertiveness and facilitate local citizens’ participation in good governance processes in Western and Northern Uganda. Through basic ICT skills development exercises, citizens in the two sub-regions can now mobilize off and on – line and deliberate on key issues pertaining improvement of essential service delivery in their localities – which was not the case before the projects implementation.
Baguma’s paper also found that ICT tools have raised the sense of responsiveness amongst leaders to adhere to the needs of the electorate/local citizens. As a result, the assertiveness, engagement and public policy awareness among local citizens and how it affects service delivery was found to have increased in western and Northern Uganda.
The paper advocates for a similar ICT convergence approach for initiatives in East Africa by pointing to the steady increase in the ICT infrastructure deployment in the region and how it has contributed to ICT uptake levels despite other socio-economic and political limiting factors. The use of broadcast, online social media and mobile technologies to engage both government and the public in Kenya during the constitutional reform processes, selection of public officials and contributing to a relatively peaceful and fair electoral process in 2013, were some of the cases analyzed in Baguma’s paper presentation.
CHRAGG’s Warioba presented a research paper which covered a conceptual and technical description of how mobile technology has been used to promote human rights advocacy and protection in Tanzania. Since June 2011, the Commission has utilized a mobile phone text messaging system to facilitate and ease the reporting of human rights abuses and case handling in Tanzania. Since its official launch in December 2012, the reporting of human rights violations in the country has more than doubled. CHRAGG’s paper showcased the potential of ICT in promoting social and human dignity, but also encouraging accountability as far as human rights protection are concerned in Tanzania and the entire Eastern Africa.
As part of its awareness campaigns for the system, CHRAGG encourages citizens to seek redress for human rights violations particularly in the areas of poor service delivery, police brutality, corruption and employment rights citizens.
CeDem is a global forum that annually brings together ICT practioners, researchers, academicians, public officials, development partners and the private sector to discuss new trends in using ICT tools to realize improved citizen participation in governance processes and use of open data/information for democratization. The 2014 conference served as an important opportunity for the ICT4Democracy in East Africa Network to showcase its work on an international platform. The conference also served as an experience sharing forum on the challenges faced elsewhere in the world in the use of ICT for Development tools and platforms to share data/information and knowledge for transparency/open governance and enabling democratic practices to thrive through citizen participation in the governance processes.
For related analysis and publication of the above presentations, see; http://digitalgovernment.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/democratic-engagement-through-ict-in-eastern-africa/ and http://digitalgovernment.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/wilfred-warioba-and-abdallah-ally-mobile-enhanced-human-rights-reporting/
Audio of Baguma and Warioba’s presentations are available at http://digitalgovernment.wordpress.com/ and http://we.tl/32l2sRSb59
For pictures, please go to; https://www.flickr.com/photos/e-governance/
Growing the capacity of citizens and civic groups including human rights networks to use Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to foster free speech, human rights, access to information and open governance is one of the objectives of the ICT4Democracy in East Africa Network. Since April 2014, the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG) in Tanzania has conducted a campaign to raise awareness about the SMS for Human Rights system throughout Tanzania.
The system, which was launched on Human Rights Day in December 2012, has made it easier for citizens to report human rights violations to the Commission. In 2013, a total of 173,493 complaints were received through the system. Since then, the number of complaints filed with the Commission has averaged more than 100 per week compared to 10 per week prior to the system’s installation.
Given that CHRAGG has only four regional offices to cover a large country, the system has reduced the amount of time, inconvenience and cost to citizens for submitting complaints and following up on case progress, particularly for those in rural areas. The electronic case handling system has also eased the work of investigators by reducing their travel burden and enabling more efficient evidence gathering. Besides text message, the platform allows for video and image capabilities for complainants and informers.
The SMS for Human Rights System is a mobile phone based Complaints Handling Management Information System aimed at expanding CHRAGG’s case handling and tracking. An individual is able to file a complaint by texting the word ‘REPORT’ or ‘TAARIFA’ to the toll free number: +255 (0) 754 460 259. The individual receives a text message confirming receipt of the complaint. Thereafter, a follow up phone call is made by investigators at the Commission to obtain further information, authenticate the report and assign the individual a reference number. The same number can be used to track the progress of a complaint by texting the word ‘STATUS’ followed by the reference number.
However, although many complaints are received through the system, many citizens, particularly on the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar, were not aware of its existence. With an estimated population of 45 million people, Tanzania has about 28 million mobile phone subscriptions representing a teledensity of 61 phones per 100 inhabitants.
The system’s awareness campaign launch in Zanzibar in April was officiated by CHRAGG’s Commissioner Zahor Kharmis. CHRAGG’s Director of Human Rights Francis Nzuki and Wilfred Warioba, the Head of Management Information System Unit demonstrated how the system works and fielded questions from the attendees who included journalists, representatives from civil society organisations and ordinary citizens.
The event was televised live on Television Zanzibar (TVZ) and broadcast on Coconut FM radio station. It was also featured on Zanzibar Broadcasting TV and Radio, Independent TV, Radio Coconut, Radio Chuchu, Radio Hits, Radio Zenj, Radio Alnoor and two local print newspapers.
Since the launch, two public awareness meetings have been held in the North Unguja and Urban West regions of Zanzibar island. Furthermore, five similar events have been held in Mtwara, KilwaKivinje, Pwani and Dar es Salaam regions on the mainland.
In addition to the meetings, over four million print leaflets have been distributed encouraging citizens to seek redress for human rights violations particularly in the areas of poor service delivery, police brutality, corruption and employment rights.
The awareness raising campaign is expected to cover at least 18 more regions in the coming months. It is expected to incorporate nationwide TV and radio talk shows as well as social media as part of its outreach campaign.
Established in 2001 in fulfillment of Tanzania’s national constitution, CHRAGG plays the dual role of an ombudsman and a human rights commission for the protection and promotion of human rights as well as good governance.
CHRAGG is a member of the ICT4Democracy in East Africa Network whose work is supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the Swedish Programme for ICT in Developing Regions (Spider). The network is coordinated by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA).