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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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. Read more

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/

 

Uganda’s Assurances on Social Media Monitoring Ring Hollow.

The Uganda Government’s attempt to reassure citizens that its plans to monitor social media users were not intended to curb internet rights has failed to assuage fears that authorities are clamping down on free expression of the burgeoning Uganda online community.

For one, observers say Uganda has a bad record as far as respecting citizens’ right to free expression is concerned. And this record seems to be getting worse. Secondly, the country has precedents in recent years, when the government ordered clampdowns on the citizens’ right to seek, receive, and impart information through digital technologies.

On May 30, Security Minister Muruli Musaka announced that the government would form a Social Media Monitoring Centre to to weed out those who use it to damage the government and people’s reputations.” He accused some social media users of being “bent to cause a security threat to the nation.”

The minister made the announcement as security forces were ending a 10-day cordon of the country’s two main independent English dailies. While purportedly looking for a dossier written by the coordinator of security services, excerpts of which The Monitor and Red Pepper newspapers had published, security agencies closed the two newspapers and two radio stations run by The Monitor, for 10 days. The media houses were only reopened after signing commitments to be “responsible” in future reporting on issues related to “national security”.

Read more of this story on the CIPESA website.

The week in Uganda Parliament : 1st – 5th April, 2013

Plenary

MOVER SUBJECT BRIEF ABOUT SUBJECT ACTION
April 2, 2013
Hon. Matia kasaija (MP Buyanja County )Minister of State for Finance(Planning) Laying of papers Uganda Vision 2040 Referred to the Committee of Finance, Planning and Economic Development to work in conjunction with the Budget Committee.
Hon. Sabiti Jack (MP, Rukiga County) Chairperson of the Local Governments Accounts Committee. Laying of papers Financial statements for the year ended 30th June 2011 together with the report and opinion thereon by the Auditor-General for the following; Kotido District Local Government, Kotido Town Council, Abim District Local Government, Abim Town Council, Nakapiripirit District Local Government, Nakapiripirit Town Council, Jinja District Local Government, Jinja Municipal Council, Kakira Town Council, Buwenge Town Council, Butembe Town Council, Bulambuli District Local Government, Gulu District Local Government, Gulu Municipal Council, Kumi District Local Government, Kumi Town Council, Fort Portal Municipal Council, Katakwi District Local Government, Katakwi Town Council, Wakiso District Local Government, Wakiso Town Council,Entebbe Municipal Council, Moroto District Local Government, Moroto Municipal Council, Bukedea District Local Government and Bukedea Town Council. Reports referred to the Committee of Local Government Accounts for scrutiny.
Hon. James Baba (Ex-officio) Minister of State for Internal Affairs. Bills seconds reading The Public Order Management Bill, 2011 The bill seeks to provide for regulation of public meetings, the duties and responsibilities of the police, the organisers and participants in relation to public meetings, to prescribe measures for safeguarding public order without compromising the principles of democracy, freedom of association and freedom of speech. Members debated the bill.
April 3, 2013
Hon. Awong Ahmed(MP Koboko County) Laying of papers Financial statements for the year ended 30th June 2011 together with the report and opinion thereon by the Auditor-General for the following; Serere District Local Government, Serere Town Council, Amuria District Local Government, Amuria Town Council, Lugazi Town Council, Buikwe District Local Government, Buikwe Town Council, Amudat District Local Government, Amudat Town Council, Namayingo District Local Government, Namayingo Town Council, Soroti District Local Government, Soroti Municipal Council, Busia District Local Government, Busia Municipal Council, Kampala City Council-Nakawa Division, Kampala City Council-Central Division, Kampala City Council-Headquarters, Kampala City Council-Makindye ,Kampala City Council-Kawempe, Kibaale town Council, Mpondwe Lhubiriha Town Council, Buliisa Town Council, Kibuku District Local Government, Kyenjojo District Local Government, Otuke District Local Government, Buvuma District Local Government, Bundibugyo Town Council, Masindi District Local Government and Maracha District Local Government. Reports referred to the Committee of Local Government Accounts for scrutiny.
Hon. James Baba (Ex-officio) Minister of State for Internal Affairs. Bills seconds reading The Public Order Management Bill, 2011 The bill seeks to provide for regulation of public meetings, the duties and responsibilities of the police, the organisers and participants in relation to public meetings, to prescribe measures for safeguarding public order without compromising the principles of democracy, freedom of association and freedom of speech. Debate concluded. Parliament considers bill at the committee stage. Consideration of bill deferred.
Hon. Stephen Mukitale (MP Buliisa County) Chairperson Committee of National Economy. Presentation, consideration and adoption of the report of the Committee of National Economy to borrow from the European Union. Government intends to borrow Euro 55 million for financing the widening and improvement of the Kampala Northern Bypass and the construction of the Mbarara Bypass. Presentation of report deferred
April 4, 2013
Hon. Gabriel Ajedra(MP)Minister of state for Finance(Investment) Laying of papers Request to borrow UA 67 million from the African Development Fund(AFDB) of the African Development Bank Group for financing the support to Higher Education, Science and Technology Project(HEST) Request committed to Committee of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.
Hon. Kahinda Otafiire(MP)Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. Laying of papers The 15th annual report of the Uganda Human Rights Commission, 2012. Report committed to the Committee of Human Rights
Hon. Florence Namayanja(MP Bukoto County East) Laying of papers Financial statements for the year ended 30th June 2011 together with the report and opinion thereon by the Auditor-General for the following; Kamuli District Local Government, Luuka District Local Government, Iganga District Local Government, Kaliro District Local Government, Bugiri District Local Government, Buyende Town Council, Kayunga District Local Government, Kayunga Town Council, Kamwenge Town Council, Namutumba Town Council, Bugembe Town Council,Buyende Town Council, Dokolo District Local Government, Kiryadongo District Local Government, Kaliro Town Council, Kalongo Town Council, Bududa District Local Government, Koboko District Local Government, Koboko District Local Government, Nakasongola Town Council, Luwero District Local Government, Amuru District Local Government, Kyegegwa District Local Government, Amolatar Town Council, Kaabong Town Council, Napak-Lorengechora Town Council, Ngora Town Council, Apac District Local Government, Lamwo District Local Government, Kasese District Local Government, Nwoya District Local Government, Yumbe District Local Government, Pader District Local Government, Nebbi District Local Government, Zombo Town Council and Adjumani District Local Government. Reports committed to the Committee of Local Government Accounts for scrutiny.
Hon. Paul Mwiru(MP, Jinja Municipality East) Question for oral answer to the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic on the Road Fund Act, 2008. Hon. Gabriel Ajedra, Minister of State for Finance responds; since the coming into effect of the Road Fund Act, fuel levies have not been collected. What has been collected is excise tax and in accordance with the URA Act, the funds are remitted to URA account.
Hon. Dr Bayigga Lulume (MP, Buikwe County South) Question for oral answer to the Minister of Health on tuberculosis disease burden in Uganda. Hon. Christine Ondoa, Minister for Health responds; There is an improvement in laboratory system to detect more cases and there is a first and second line of treatment available in the country. There are five centres that have started the treatment for the multi-drug resistance Tuberculosis in the country and there are plans to scale this up to all the 13 regional referral hospitals and some of the general hospitals.
Hon. Monica Amoding(MP, National Youth MP) Motion seeking leave of Parliament to introduce a private members bill. Rules of Procedure provide that a Private Members Bill shall be introduced first by way of a motion seeking leave of Parliament; every Member of Parliament has a right to move a Private Members Bill; member seeks leave to introduce the National Youth Enterprise Fund Bill, 2013 Motion approved
Hon. Jack Wamanga-Wamai(MP, Mbale Municipality) Presentation of petition The petition is by civil servants of Mbale district who are trying to purchase former pool houses under a mortgage scheme run by Housing Finance bank. The petitions say that the bank is trying to sell the houses behind their back. They are seeking Parliament intervention in the matter. Petition referred to Committee of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.
Hon. Kahinda Otafiire,(MP ) Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs The Marriage and Divorce Bill, 2009 The object of the bill is to reform and consolidate the law relating to marriage, separation and divorce provide for the types of recognized marriages in Uganda, marital rights and duties, recognition of cohabitation in relation to property rights, grounds for breakdown of marriage, and rights of parties on dissolution of marriage. It also deals with widow inheritance and separation. Members to consult further on the bill for three months.
Hon. Stephen Mukitale (MP Buliisa) Chairperson Committee of National Economy. Presentation, consideration and adoption of the report of the Committee of National Economy to borrow from the European union. Government intends to borrow Euro 55 million for financing the widening and improvement of the Kampala Northern Bypass and the construction of the Mbarara Bypass. Loan approved.

ICT4Democracy in East Africa’ Project Launched

This article was published by the Swedish Programme on ICTs for Developing regions (SPIDER) on June 28, 2011, about the ICT4Democracy in East Africa project, which brings together various partners in the region.

Recently, we have seen a number of projects, pilots and tools where ICT is used in various ways to promote democracy. Many of these initiatives have been launched in East Africa: crowd-sourcing platforms such as Ugandawatch2011, uReport and Ushahidi (and variations thereof such as Uchaguzi, Huduma and Map Kibera); innovative SMS applications such as Grid 6464, CU@SCHOOL, 3356 shortcode by City Council in Nairobi and Trac FM; and of course the widespread use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

We have also seen some challenges in ICT enabled democracy projects emerge: lack of government involvement, too much government involvement (i.e. surveillance, filtering and censorship), low community involvement and problems sustaining the community involvement over time, expensive marketing strategies and reaching out campaigns, lack of visibility, how to show impact… The list can be made long.

In November 2010, Spider together with Association for Progressive Communications (APC), organized a Governance Stakeholder Workshop in Kampala, Uganda and invited East African organizations who could bring in important and valuable insight to the area of ICT, democracy and development. Following this workshop, Spider received concept papers and project proposals in the field of ICT and democracy and after reviewing the applications, identified several overlaps and areas in the project proposals that could benefit from a collaborative and stronger ICT for democracy program. The aim of the program is to synergize and compliment the individual projects with the ambition of possibly creating a network hub that deals in democracy through the use of ICTs.

A follow-up two-day workshop in Kampala in May 2011, brought together partners with various strengths who all lauded the idea of a program and expanding their individual existing networks. The Partners have different expertise that together will create greater impact:

Kenya Human Rights Commission has been in existence since 1992 and is the oldest partner among the projects. KHRC have for 19 years advocated for constitutional reforms within the area of human rights. As such they are currently looking at incorporating ICTs in their work, and this is an area that their partner iHUB also in Kenya has expertise in and can be of significant assistance. iHUB’s strength and expertise lie in their technical knowledge and solutions which they are now marrying to governance and democracy advocacy in Kenya and area they are relatively new at. Both Kenyan partners expressed interest and support for the idea of a program approach because in this case they can work together to strengthen each other’s weaknesses.

Women of Uganda Network has for the past 11 years worked with women’s groups and organizations promoting the use of ICTs to share information and address various social issues. WOUGNET’s vision is a society in which women are empowered through the use of ICTs for sustainable development. This strong gender-awareness in their ICT programs provides an opportunity for the ICT for Democracy program to ensure that activities and plans by each partner maintain gender sensitivity in their deployment. As these organizations will look at addressing social accountability in various rural regions in the region, Transparency International the Ugandan Chapter, with expertise in awareness and anti-corruption campaigning will be assisting the other partners in this area. TIU in turn expressed the need for help in addressing the communities with a gender-lens.

Towards the end of the workshop, the partners all advocated for regional facilitation of the program, and unanimously selected Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA). CIPESA by virtue of their experience in collaborative efforts was identified as the ideal partner to facilitate the cooperation and activities planned by the partners. CIPESA similarly look to KHRC, TIU, WOUGNET and iHUB to assist them in working with technology and with grass-root communities, and with CIPESA’s experience in Policy driven research changes, this program should have an all-round impact not just to the local communities where the activities will be anchored for the next 2 years but to overall policy.

 

Source: SPIDER newsletter, June 28, 2011