ICT4Democracy in East Africa: February 2012 News

Monitoring Public Service Delivery in Northern Uganda

The Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) this February continued with its awareness campaigns on good governance and effective service delivery in Northern Uganda. During the Voluntary Social Accountability Committee (VSAC) meetings held to report on poor service delivery in the districts, discussions were dominated by the issue of poor school governance.

Participants reported that some primary schools remained closed for up to three weeks after the start of the new school term. For others, due to insufficient space, pupils of different classes were combined in a single teaching room, while poor teacher housing facilities meant that teachers shared accommodation with students. Poor sanitation was also reported. These problems have been reported by WOUGNET to the school management and local district education officials.

WOUGNET also conducted citizen journalism capacity building workshops in Amuru and Gulu districts. Participants were introduced to the Ushahidi platform and the use of blogs and the mobile phone (beyond voice) to report and access information on prevailing poor service delivery in the districts.

Meanwhile, patients continue to experience long delays in service delivery in health centres in the northern districts of Lira and Oyam. The installation of Transparency International (TI) Uganda’s field office call centre in Lira is due to commence in early March. A contract has been signed with one of the country’s telecommunications service providers to install voice services after the communications hardware installation. Patients are expected to be able to log voice complaints about health service delivery through TI Uganda’s toll free helpline by mid march.

Researching Mobile Governance in Kenya

At the end of January, iHub Research conducted usability tests on three governance-related mobile apps in use in Kenya. The apps were:  Mzalendo, a blog platform for holding Members of Parliament accountable and rating their work; Msema Kweli, an android-based application for tracking community development funds; and Huduma, a mobile phone short code platform for citizens to voice the difficulties they encounter using government services.

The methodology for the usability tests included focus group discussions and in-depth interviews with different stakeholder groups – researchers, developers, and the public. Various indicators and functionality measures were determined. iHub Research’s initial findings indicate that there are gaps between the technology and direct citizen-leader interaction. In addition, participants raised privacy and security concerns, and data protection issues. The full results are being documented and will be shared at a stakeholder workshop during March.

SMS for Human Rights in Tanzania

The Tanzanian Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG) has commenced the development of its SMS complaints system. An internal awareness seminar was conducted to update the 220 CHRAGG employees across the country on how the system will work. The Commission is seeking support for short code provision from the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority. Furthermore, meetings are scheduled for March with the country’s telecommunications companies to solicit partnerships.

Promoting Citizen Participation in Uganda

The survey analysis of the knowledge, attitudes, and needs of citizen groups and local governments in western Uganda regarding the utility, effectiveness and security of ICT tools used in participating in governance processes, is complete. The survey undertaken by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) in Kabarole and Kasese districts involved focus group discussions and individually administered questionnaires. During April, CIPESA will conduct surveys in the Northern and Eastern regions of the country in order to provide a comparative analysis.

In addition to the Busoga Rural Open Source and Development Initiative (BROSDI) and Kasese eSociety, CIPESA has entered into a memorandum of understanding with another grassroots based centre – the Gulu-based Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC). The media club works to revitalise the media terrain within the region and helps to catalyse reconciliation, resettlement, and recovery in a region that experienced two decades of armed conflict.

Furthermore, in February, CIPESA commenced an assessment of Uganda’s readiness for Open Government Data.

Engaging Grassroots Networks in Human Rights Monitoring

ICT support equipment has been acquired for the 10 grassroots Human Rights Networks (HURINETS) the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) has partnered with. The equipment includes computers, power back-up systems, and cameras with which the HURINETs will report information and work from the ground into the crowd sourcing and civic participation website KHRC is developing. HURINET members have successfully set up Facebook and Twitter accounts which they are currently using to discuss human rights, governance, and service delivery issues.

The HURINETs will in March, be trained in basic ICT skills to access and share information for more effective results in their work.

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