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/