Solving Uganda’s Challenges through Data & Service Design

By Neema Iyer

Last week, we asked “What is Service Design?” and answered our question with “Service design is the process of taking a service and better tailoring it to the needs and wants of the end user, whether that’s a client, customer or in the case of civic service design, the citizen. It could be improving an existing service, or creating a new service totally from scratch.”

On December 5th, Pollicy and the Collaboration in International ICT Policy for Eastern and Southern Africa (CIPESA) brought back the civic technology community in Uganda, but this time, with a focus on data and design. As issues of data ownership, digital security, censorship become more pertinent in our society, so does the need to appropriately harness the benefits of big data. Through a series of interesting panel discussions, lightening talks and a hands-on design training, we took participants through a journey on how data can be used to revolutionize how citizens and governments interact for mutual benefit.

We first tackled the hard issues around the ethics of data in improving service delivery in Uganda through a panel discussion analyzing the issue from the perspective of the Ugandan Police Force, human rights defenders and the healthcare industry. Mr.Jimmy Haguma, the Acting Commissioner of Police — IT & IM, Mr.Neil Blazevic from DefendDefenders Tech Unit and Mr.Samson Jarso from Andromeda Innovations led the panel moderated by Pollicy’s own Patricia Navvuga.

Next, we engaged the private sector on how they use big data to improve how they deliver services to Uganda citizens. Engaging lightening talks from Umeme, Viamo and Fenix: Uganda’s electricity company, a mobile technology company bringing information to the last mile and one of the biggest home solar system companies in Uganda.

In the afternoon, after a networking lunch we came together as a group to tackle challenges using the principles of service design, facilitated by Design without Borders. Using a process of iterative prototyping, our faciliators Lawrence and Rachit discussed how they conduct user research, ideate and convert their ideas in prototypes which they extensive test with their end users until completely satisfied with the user journey.

Service design creates better citizen and staff experiences while at the same time reducing inefficiencies and increasing value to society. Think of all the time, money and mental energy saved by improving upon the processes listed below.

As small groups 6–7 participants, we tackled three main challenges:
1. Public Transport in Kampala in quite inefficient
2. Obtaining a new passport is troublesome
3. There is a lack of monitoring of public complaints

From our discussions, we realized that the solutions could be readily implemented by thinking of the issues holistically. In the previous blog post, we looked at the example of acquiring a new passport here in Uganda, and quite fittingly worked on the same issue in one of the small groups.

The group, working through the National ID or a temporary National ID, presented a simple online solution for registering linked information and obtaining feedback throughout the process via e-mail, SMS and by logging into the online portal to check on the status of the submission.

For public transportation, a colour-coded and numbering system for public minibuses and buses was offered as a solution to ease unruly drivers, unknown bus routes and improve connections between routes. For public complaints monitoring, the AskYourGov system was offered as a potential solution by engaging numerous government officials through one centralized portal.

What we took away from the session was that even though we were able to come up with these ideas in 1–2 hours, the solutions seemed readily implementable. But looking at the service design processes, we need to do further research with end user and to first prototype these concepts with small groups of users to perfect the process.

Getting to work hands-on on current pressing issues in Uganda was an eye-opening experience and we hope to bring in more members of the civic technology community together with government to problem solve some of these challenges using data and design principles.

For more information on service design, check out the Service Design Toolkit and content from Interaction Design Foundation

We’re thankful for everyone who showed up and remained engaged the entire time, and for our partner CIPESA on making this event possible!
On to the next!

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