Harnessing the Data Revolution for National Development: The Case of Uganda

By Loyce Kyogabirwe|
 

 
The United Nations (UN) has recognised data as a key factor for achieving and monitoring sustainable development. Indeed, the push for open data that contributes to government transparency and accountability and promotes citizens’ right to information and innovation through the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector continues to gain prominence globally, including in Africa.
In Uganda, the government is geared towards contributing to the emerging data revolution for sustainable development. Since 2016, the country has been party to the African Charter of Statistics and is also working to implement the UN Fundamental Principles of National Official Statistics as well as the Cape Town Action Plan. Uganda has also developed the National Development Plan and is party to regional development agendas such as Agenda 2063 and the East African Community’s Vision 2050.
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CIPESA Engages Ugandan Members of Parliament on Implementation of Access to Information Law

By Loyce Kyogabirwe |

It is 12 years since Uganda passed an access to information law with the purpose of promoting transparency and accountability in all organs of the state by providing the public with timely, accessible and accurate information. The law also empowers the public to scrutinise and to participate in government decisions. However, the law has remained largely unimplemented as many Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) ignore citizens’ requests for information and rarely release information pro-actively, which contravenes the law.
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What Must Change?” For More Gender Equality Online

Storify |

This International Women’s Month, we reflect on what presently shapes women’s participation in the online arena. On International Women’s Day, 8 March, we hosted Akina Mama Wa Afrika, Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET), Connecting Voices of Citizens (CVC) and the Ask Your Government (Uganda) online portal in an online Twitter chat during which we asked “What must change?” to enable a more inclusive online community which recognises gender equity.
See some highlights from the chat here

A Year In Review 2015: ICT4Democracy In East Africa

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.
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Publics' Rights To Information in Uganda Commemorated

By Esther Nakazzi |
On September 28, 2015, Uganda commemorated International Right to Know Day (RTK) with celebrations marking the 10th Anniversary of the Access to Information Act (ATIA), which promotes the right of access to public information held by the State.
During the celebrations held alongside the 2015 Forum on Internet Freedom in East Africa, experiences, lessons and challenges relating to ATIA, which was passed back in 2005, were discussed. The event also served as the launch of the 2015 report on the State of the Right to Information in Africa.
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Publics’ Rights To Information in Uganda Commemorated

By Esther Nakazzi |

On September 28, 2015, Uganda commemorated International Right to Know Day (RTK) with celebrations marking the 10th Anniversary of the Access to Information Act (ATIA), which promotes the right of access to public information held by the State.

During the celebrations held alongside the 2015 Forum on Internet Freedom in East Africa, experiences, lessons and challenges relating to ATIA, which was passed back in 2005, were discussed. The event also served as the launch of the 2015 report on the State of the Right to Information in Africa.

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ICT and Governance in East Africa: Kampala Dissemination

BY VARYANNE SIKA,  IHUB RESEARCH
iHub Research, with the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the ICT4Democracy East Africa Network, conducted a study on the landscape of ICTs and Governance in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in 2014. This study was a qualitative exploration of the various ways in which ICT tools can/have successfully facilitated or hindered the two-way interaction between government and citizens towards effective public service delivery, tracking corruption, rights/access to information, as well as increasing transparency and accountability. The study was conducted in two towns (one urban and one peri-urban) in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

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The State of the Use of ICTs in Governance in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania

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. Continue Reading →

ICT and Governance in East Africa: Preliminary Fieldwork Findings (Part 1) Kampala and Fort Portal (Uganda)

The ICT and Governance in East Africa study explores the various ways in which ICT tools can/have successfully facilitated or hindered two way interaction between government and citizens towards effective public service delivery, curbing corruption and increasing transparency and accountability. Further we are looking into the innovative ICT initiatives that have facilitated the interaction between citizen and government as well as the (de)motivations for utilizing ICT tools among the various stakeholders (citizens, governments, civil society).

READ MORE ON THE PROJECT HERE.

Uganda was the first country we visited to conduct fieldwork in July 2014. We visited four sites: Kampala, Fort Portal, Lira and Apac. (Find a brief article on how the study sites were selectedhere).

This article highlights some of the *findings from Kampala, the Ugandan capital, and Fort Portal, one of the towns in the Western part of Uganda. (In part 2 of this blog post series, preliminary findings from Apac and Lira in northern Uganda will be discussed).

We used semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions (FGDs) to collect our data. A summary of the methodology we are using for this study can be found here. In Kampala, we interviewed various Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Kampala, a government institution (Uganda Human Rights Commission) and various developers and managers of the ICTs used in governance in Kampala. Among the CSOs we interviewed were U-Report which is a UNICEF initiative, DevTrac which is also a UNICEF initiative, Parliament Watch Uganda and some of our partner organizations in the ICT4Democracy EA network.

The ICT and Governance in East Africa study explores the various ways in which ICT tools can/have successfully facilitated or hindered two way interaction between government and citizens towards effective public service delivery, curbing corruption and increasing transparency and accountability. Further we are looking into the innovative ICT initiatives that have facilitated the interaction between citizen and government as well as the (de)motivations for utilizing ICT tools among the various stakeholders (citizens, governments, civil society).

DevTrac Screeenshot

A Screenshot of one of the projects we interviewed, DevTrac which is a UNICEF initiative.

Major Challenges
The issues raised as being the most pressing on governance by the respondents in the focus group discussions, primarily ordinary citizens, were youth unemployment and corruption. These two issues were therefore the main drivers of any kind of engagement the FGD participants said they would engage with government, whether using ICT tools or otherwise.

HiveColabFGD

Discussion at Hive Colab in Kampala

Governance is for ‘Non-Urbanites’
Despite Kampala being the capital of Uganda and therefore enjoying more ICT infrastructure, the participants at the FGD which we held at HiveColab (one of Kampala’s ICT hubs and a coworking space) were not as aware of existing ICT tools used in governance as the participants at Fort Portal (Western Uganda) were. The group of participants in Kampala have better access to ICTs given the fact that they frequent an ICT hub and live in an urban area which has better ICT infrastructure. On the other hand, Fort Portal, a small peri-urban town has less developed ICT infrastructure in comparison to Kampala, however, despite this fact, participants in Fort Portal were more aware of ICT tools used for governance in the country compared to the participants in Kampala. The group of participants in Kampala have better access to ICTs given the fact that they frequent an ICT hub and live in an urban area which has better ICT infrastructure. On the other hand, Fort Portal, a small peri-urban town has less developed ICT infrastructure in comparison to Kampala, however, despite this fact, participants in Fort Portal were more aware of ICT tools used for governance in the country compared to the participants in Kampala.

‘Toll-Free’ Governance
One of the most dominant ICT tools for governance that we found in Kampala (second to radio in Uganda generally) was toll-free numbers, which are mostly government-led initiatives such as the Uganda Human Rights Commission’s toll-free number, the National Water and Sewage Corporation’s toll-free number, UMEME’s (Uganda’s power and lighting company) and the Police’s. The numbers are widely publicized in newspapers, on billboards, television and radio. The general feedback from the citizens who use or have used the numbers, however, is that the toll-free numbers work, but it is difficult to get someone to listen to one’s complaints or concerns.

De-motivation to using ICTs in Governance
The key de-motivating force that prevents use of the ICT tools made available for interaction with government, is the lack of action on issues raised by the citizens. This was unanimous for both citizen respondents in Kampala and Fort Portal. Generally, the participants in both FGDs strongly felt it was no use trying to communicate with the government because nothing would change. We got a general sense of apathy and lack of faith in the effectiveness of citizen interaction with government from the citizens with whom we spoke.For tools deployed by non-government actors such as UNICEF’s U-Report, respondents were of the opinion that the tool is effective enough as far achieving its technical objectives, however they did not know which changes the tool had brought about in the country.

When ICT for Governance Works
There are situations in which ICT tools worked to facilitate two-way interaction between citizens and government. Generally, these were cases in which citizens were taught how to use the technologies and situations in which simple and low-tech tools had been deployed. Examples of these include U-Report which uses SMS, community radio such as TracFM which has interactive talk shows and digital cameras to take pictures of the debilitating state of public service delivery like in the case of the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) project on Voluntary Social Accountability. WOUGNET’s social accountability project involves a group of 15 selected members in a district who are given digital cameras to report cases of poor public service delivery such as poorly maintained hospitals or schools, but they also share cases of successful public service delivery.

Our study on ICT and Governance in East Africa is made possible by the generous support of SIDA and SPIDER,

*Please note: These are not all or the official findings of our study. The final report which will be made available will contain comprehensive findings from our study from all the three East African countries.

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/