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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Upskilling partners on the Human Rights Based Approach

By ToroDev Staff Writer |

A four day capacity building workshop organised by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) and the Spider Centre was held in Kampala, Uganda between on 12 -16 October 2015.

ToroDev Executive Director, Jonhstone Baguma and the Communication and Documentation officer Kugonza David attended the workshop in which the Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) in organisational programming and documentation was the focus of discussion.

Project documentation, empowerment and gender equality were some of the topics discussed at the workshop. Kugonza said, “The knowledge gained from the training will help ToroDev staff to improve in reporting, documentation, data base management, it will help in fundraising, proposal writing and it will also be shared with, other staff of ToroDev, the advocacy forums and other local NGOs ToroDev partners with”

ToroDev works with 15 rural advocacy forums and the Rwenzori Journalists Forum to promote citizen activism, transparency and accountability monitoring in Western Uganda. Local FM radio stations are used as hubs for information and knowledge sharing sourced through the internet (social media) and mobile phones (SMS) during which there is active engagement with local leaders and advocacy forum members on critical community issues.

 

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 →

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 

Fostering Civic Participation and Public Accountability through use of ICTs: East Africa

The Democratization process of the East African Countries still remains elusive as Civil and Political actors of Governments and top leadership remains major impediments in addressing the underlying problems to social evils such as corruption, poor governance, a declining press freedom and lack of respect for fundamental rights and freedom of its Citizens. The East African Countries of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania is still bogged down by high levels of corruption, lack of transparency and accountability in the delivery of public service, poor civic participation by Citizens and lack of feedback mechanisms from leaders to citizens in addressing major concerns that directly affects the well-being of communities. This has created a situation whereby we live in a society in which people are less informed about government functions and systems typically breeding an environment in which corruption and poor service delivery can thrive.

However, Civil Society Organisations in East Africa have moved a step further in ensuring that information and communication technologies (ICTs) can be strategically used to improve access to public services, to increase the efficiency, transparency and accountability of government and political processes, as well as to empower citizens by enabling them to participate in government decision-making processes. At local levels, pro-poor ICT-based governance and public service delivery strategies and applications have been applied so as to contribute to poverty reduction and development within the larger context of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

In 2011, The East African ICT4Democracy Network was set up with funding from the Swedish Program for ICT Support in Developing Regions (Spider) and composed of 7 partners in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Through the application of Information and communication technologies (ICTs), partners in the network continue to empower diverse communities in the region to hold their leaders accountable by monitoring service delivery and fighting corruption. The Network members using ICTs as a tool in the democratization process includes in Uganda, the Toro Development Network which operates in the Rwenzori regions of western Uganda.

Toro Development Network [ToroDev] implements a project that brings and converges the different ICT tools for increased public accountability and Civic participation in the region. The organization works and empowers journalist, Government leaders and stakeholders to ensure that they are more proactive in addressing the development concerns of the poor communities as well as catalyzing actions for a democratic engagement and accountability. The project according to its results, have trained many journalists, and registered successes in delivery of services through its approach of making an informed citizenry able to ask questions and leaders accountable to their electorates.

Transparency International in Uganda, uses ICTs in the Health Sector delivery in Northern Uganda, a community that has been regarded marginalized and also suffered the brunt of the LRA insurgency for more than a decade. This organization deploy a number of ICT tools including mobile phones, toll free lines and other strategies to ensure that the falling health in the communities of Northern Uganda and the country in general which is largely criticized is not on the brink of collapse but yet supporting the rural communities. They have trained health workers and empowered communities to be more alert to report cases of theft of drugs in health centers and absenteeism of health workers. They have also empowered leaders to be more accountable to its electorates always giving feedback and ensuring that there is public trust and confidence amongst the citizenzry.

Meanwhile, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in Eastern and Southern Africa (CIPESA) through her iParticpate project conducts Research to understand the issues behind lack or for citizen participation using a number of ICT tools. Through a project on catalyzing civic participation and democracy monitoring, CIPESA has carried out needs assessments including surveys of knowledge attitudes and practices among individuals, citizens, groups and local governments regarding utility, effectiveness and security of using ICTs in citizen participation and monitoring of democracy

WOUGNET, an organization with specialty in ICTs and Gender policy through its project ‘’Empowering local people and communities to monitor district service delivery’’ critically addresses the inclusion of women in democratic processes through the application of ICTs. Technical and Democratic processes are in themselves inaccessible for women due to the culture and the gender structure in place. WOUGNET applied both methods and challenged them simultaneously. Ihub Research in Kenya through its project ‘’M-Governance: exploring conditions for successful water governance through use of mobile phones’’ [m-Governance] in Kenya, illustrating further gains towards employing the use of mobile technology in Governance processes. The Commission on Human Rights and Good Governance [CHRAGG] in Tanzania have been conducting SMS for human Rights has brought its services closer to the people where Tanzanians can report and obtain feedback through a basic mobile phone.

Written by:

Moses Owiny_Facilitator for the East African ICT4Democracy Network [ICT4DemEA]

iHub Research releases Water Governance draft report

Use of mobile technology in promoting transparency issues in water governance

 

 

This report details our M-Governance study, which aimed to understand the use of mobile technology in promoting transparency issues in water governance. The report targets mobile developers, water sector specialists, key stakeholders involved in policy-making, regulation and water service development and provision in Kenya drawn from the government sector, civil society organizations, academia and the media.

The methodology used involved literature review, development of study framework tools, mapping, field data collection and analysis. The study covered urban and rural areas of the three counties (Kiambu, Migori, and Makueni) in Kenya. In-depth interviews were conducted with a total of 896 people and key informant discussions with five stakeholders in the water sector in the three counties in Kenya.

 Key Findings

The following are key findings from the study:

a) Main Source of water; a quarter of respondents reported that their main source of water was piped water in their plots. This was followed by 22% who relied on lake/river/ponds or streams as their source of water. 15% depended on protected dug well or spring. The minorities of the surveyed respondents relied on sources such as tankers or trucks from vendors (8%), Piped water in their houses (7%), public taps (7%), unprotected dug wells (6%), and harvested rainwater (2%). Having continuous supply of water from citizens’ main sources is very important as they rely on these sources for survival. Limited access to their main sources in both the rural and urban areas can lead to poor quality in the form of intermittent water supply.

b) Gender equality; majority of those who browse Internet were found to be the males, the question is why more males? It seems majority of female respondents do not know how to browse; 77% of the female who confirmed of not browsing the Internet attributed lack of Internet skills and knowledge as the contributing factor. Not only lack of skills nor knowledge are the limiting factors in embracing Internet but lack of freedom too. Either of the spouse is threatened when one goes online, “My husband prohibits me from using the Internet -he fears I may get a lover from the use of Internet especially Facebook” says one respondent.

c) Literacy levels; from the findings, it is clear that literacy levels still remain a huge hindrance to citizen participation in water governance sector. Of the average 74% respondents who said they have no access to any kind of water information, 76% have no access to formal education compared to the 24% who have access but have no formal education. Similarly, respondents who have primary education had higher information inaccessibility rates compared to those who had post primary education.

d) Access to Information on water; Access to water information is still a huge gap faced by citizens. Only 26% of the interviewed citizens have access to water information leaving almost three-quarters with no access to any kind to water information. Out of the population with no access to any kind of water information, the majority are from the rural areas (73%)

e) Kind of Information currently accessed by the citizens; in rural areas, of those with water information, the majority (35%) currently access water availability updates from informal groups such as water vendor. Most urban residents (32%) have access to information on government water projects.

f) Information citizens would like to accesstopping the list of what citizens want to be informed on is how to treat and make water safe for consumption (31%), where to get clean water (29%) and water rationing schedules (14%).

g) Hindrances in accessing water related information; The majority of respondents (50% and 44% in urban and rural respectively) reported that no one sends them the updates on water information. This stood out as a big challenge due to the fact that citizens are not aware of where to find the water information/updates or whose responsibility it is to inform citizens about water information.

h) Communication channels; phone calls are the most common means through which respondents communicate with their loved ones, business partners and workmates. Hardly a week comes to pass without a phone call being made; in fact 86% of respondents make calls on a daily basis. SMS seconds the list with 77% of respondents sending SMS as a way of communicating (Makueni 85%, Kiambu 76%, and Migori 71%). Unfamiliar to most people is the Internet with 23% of the survey participants browsing the Internet.

i) Best technological platform; over half of the respondents interviewed (51%) believe that SMS would be the best platform for communication between the citizens and the various stakeholders in the water sector. This is indeed true regardless of the age or gender. The catch in use of SMS is pegged on its effectiveness and convenience, 44% of the respondents believe that SMS is convenient and effective to use as compared to other platforms.

j) Reasons as to why citizens suffer in silence; 61% of the respondents had faced challenges while trying to access water and were not able to complain to any one about the problems affecting them. The study affirmatively learned that lack of understanding on whom or where to complain was the major reason as to why most respondents do not complain. 1% of respondents complained that the people to complain to are too far away.

k) Citizen participation; there is no equitable representation in Kenya’s water decision-making process. The women and youth are not well represented, 19% of females participate in water decision-making compared to 24% of male respondents and 18% of the youth. This could be attributed to the fact that the citizens still have a limited understanding of the full range of their roles and responsibilities as rights holders in the water sector. In the long run, this will limit citizens’ effective and meaningful participation in improvement and development of water sector.


Conclusion:

Based on these key facts, it is clear that citizen participation and inclusion remains a big challenge in many parts of the country. It is essential that champions of information be identified in each and every part of the country to help educate the citizens on their roles in governance and provide citizens with other necessary information. Technology can play a potential role in ensuring effective communication in accessing information on water.

A guaranteed feedback mechanism and reduced costs of accessing or disseminating information would be a motivating factor to the citizens when it comes to the use of mobile technology in water governance.

There is ample evidence that access and transparency helps ensure accountability and delivery in water provision as well as boosts effectiveness since water is now enshrined  as a human right in our new constitution . There is need to demonstrate this and apply to water service providers. The effectiveness is particularly important in the sense of cost efficiency and ensuring service delivery. We need to learn from these experiences as mentioned in this research – and the underlying values – so that the benefits of civic participation, education, accountability and amplification are well understood and become a norm to ensuring water governance for development and sustainability.

To download the full draft report, visit here

We welcome feedback (both positive and negative) and thoughts into our continuous efforts to improve the research to our final revised report. Feel free to send us your feedback to hilda@ihub.co.ke

*Cross-posted from www.ihub.co.ke

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: