ICT4Democracy in East Africa: March 2012 News

ICT for Human Rights and Democracy in Kenya

ICT for Service Delivery in Northern Uganda

iParticipate Uganda

mGovernance in Kenya

SMS for Human Rights in Tanzania

ICT for Human Rights and Democracy in Kenya
The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) trained 22 grassroots-based Human Rights Network (HURINET) members in the use of ICT, especially social media, for monitoring and reporting human rights violations. Installation of three ICT platforms – bulk SMS facility, a civic action website and an intranet to engage the HURINETS – are currently underway and could be ready during April.

ICT for Service Delivery in Northern Uganda

In March, the monthly Voluntary Social Accountability Committee (VSAC) meetings to report on poor service delivery and bad governance continued in five districts in Northern Uganda. Committee members were trained on uploading incident reports to the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) Ushahidi platform. Some of the reports received related to poor water supply in Gulu district; Bribery and ‘ghost’ beneficiaries of a government piggery farming program; problems affecting schools performance in Apac District; and poor quality of road construction.

Following last month’s poor school governance reports (among them Boke Primary School in Apac district), VSAC members successfully lobbied the headmaster and Parents Teachers Association (PTA) chairman to hold a PTA meeting. Committee members also mobilised parents to put up temporary housing structures for two teachers and rental arrangements were made for a third teacher.

However, the work of the VSAC is facing a number of challenges. Whereas email accounts were opened for three committee members in Gulu district, others lack access to basic ICTs such as mobile phones. Support from local leaders is insufficient. In Toro Parish in Amuru district, a sub-county chief walked out of a meeting held to inquire about a government agricultural programme. The rainy season, which makes transportation difficult, and electricity blackouts, is also hindering the work of VSACs.

Meanwhile, in the health sector, health worker absenteeism persists. A visit by the Transparency International (TI) Uganda team to one health centre found that a staff arrival logbook installed by TI Uganda had gone missing as a means of destroying evidence. In Oyam district, government transfer of health workers without immediate replacements was found to hinder health service delivery.

The installation of a toll free call centre to enable citizens report absenteeism is due to be completed in April.



iParticipate Uganda

In March, the Collaboration on International Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) developed a citizen journalism and media training manual for planned trainings at its grassroots-based ICT for democracy and civic participation pilot centres (BROSDI, NUMEC and eKasese). The capacity building trainings are scheduled to take place during May 2012.

CIPESA also completed research to assess Uganda’s readiness for open government data. The research was welcomed by all organisations interacted with. Draft reports of the state of open data readiness and the citizens’ perceptions on open government in Uganda are available. This activity feeds well into CIPESA’s wider project to catalyse the use of ICT in promoting citizen participation in democracy and governance. With the availability of open data, citizens will be able to monitor different government programmes, hence demanding for more accountability.

mGovernance in Kenya

iHub Research conducted a second mGovernance workshop to disseminate findings from the exploratory research and the Nairobi apps usability testing to spur discussion on a sustainable approach to their research. The workshop took on the same format as the one held last October. Participants from academia, civil society, developers and civil service recommended that iHub Research’s study into the conditions for mobile as a tool for increased citizen participation in government and as a more effective public service method should be extended to regions beyond Nairobi, to marginalised communities and other stakeholders such as churches and NGOs.

Meanwhile, iHub Research attended the International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD 2012) in Atlanta, USA. Insights from the four-day conference are shared here: day 1, day 2, day 3 and day 4.

SMS for Human Rights in Tanzania

In partnership with Bessbrook International LTD of Tanzania, the Commission for Human Right and Good Governance (CRHAGG) has completed the development of its mobile phone based Complaints Handling Management Information System. The system has been installed and testing in a working environment is underway.

As a result of minor changes to the security requirements and specifications, additional security training for CHRAGG employees was conducted in March to build on February’s capacity and awareness training seminar. CHRAGG is continuing efforts to partner with the Tanzanian Communication Regulatory Authority for an SMS short code provision and telecommunications service providers for toll free services.

CHRAGG has also embarked on an awareness raising campaign. The Commission has met with Tanzania’s Constitutional, Legal and Public Administration Parliamentary Committee to discuss ways to target the youth. Discussions are also underway with the country’s Legal Sectoral Reform Programme for funding to improve The Commission’s now ageing ICT infrastructure. Furthermore, an invitation has been sent out to the President of Tanzania to be the guest of honour at the launch of SMS for human rights system later this year. The launch is due to coincide with global human rights day celebrations on December 10, 2012.

When Citizen Journalists in Kasese Investigated Why Taps Had Gone Dry

Using the digital camera and citizen journalism training given by CIPESA, staff of the e-Society Resource Centre in Kasese in December 2011, investigated water supply shortages in Mpondwe-Lhubiriha town council, and prompted authorities to take action. Situated at the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda, this is one of the new town councils in Kasese District. In the early 1990s, Karambi and Bwera sub-counties, which now formed the new town council, lacked clean water supply. In 1995, with a grant from WaterAid Danida, they were connected to piped water tapped from River Lhubiriha on the Rwenzori Mountains. Residents and the local community were asked to pay up to UGX 400 (17 US cents) per month for the water system maintenance. However, in 2005, the community started experiencing irregularities in water flow. The infrastructure remained in place, but water simply wasn’t flowing.








Because of water shortages, area residents resorted to drawing water from River Lhubiriha and a small stream called River Kyabilho, also flowing along the Uganda-Congo border, for both commercial and domestic use. It is believed that in the 1990s, these two natural water sources were clean and served an estimated 100 households. When the taps run dry, they served more than 2,000 Ugandan and Congolese households. There were no policies governing water usage in either country.

From conversations with locals fetching water, it emerged that majority drunk the water without boiling it.

In 2009, the government of Uganda introduced Amaizi Marungi, a separate programme intended to provide safe drinking water. However, there were delays in laying the pipes, in addition to challenges such as demands for bribes by those in charge of making connections to the piped water system. Strangely, the dry water points built by Waterid Danida are now referred to as “decorations” in the community.

Lack of access to clean water made surrounding areas vulnerable to waterborne diseases. The investigation by Kasese centre staff, only conducted in Mpondwe and its surroundings, left the team wondering what neighbouring areas of Rusese, Mundongo, and Karambi – located farther away from the river – could be experiencing.










A report produced by the Kasese citizen journalists sparked an interesting conversation on the Kasese electronic discussion group, with debaters suggesting ways to address the problem. One discussant stirred debate about cholera in the region, stating that “leaders both politicians and civil servants concerned have to take the necessary procedures to save the situation. Otherwise people will continue perishing with cholera at the border.” Another suggested: “There can’t be an end to the problem of cholera in Kasese district unless there is increased civilisation of the communities living along the water sources (River lhubiriha) in both countries i.e. Congo and Uganda. I have been to this river and I realised that on top of washing dirty clothes or bathing in the river, even the containers they use to fetch water can contaminate it. So, a lot of primary health education is quickly needed in this area.” 

Through use of ICT, Kasese citizens are starting to raise awareness about poor service delivery and demand better from public officials. Following online discussions of the findings of the e-Society citizen journalism work, these staff brought the matter to the attention of district officials in charge of water – with photos from the field as proof, and the discussions as further evidence of citizens’ worry about the state of affairs in Mpondwe-Lhubiriha. The water officials responded, and by early January 2012 had restored water supply in some of the affected areas, although e-Society staff were planning a verification mission to area.

The Kasese centre is one of the two pilot centres working in partnership with CIPESA under the “Catalysing Civic Participation and Democracy Monitoring through Use of ICT” project funded by the Swedish Programme for ICTs Developing Regions (SPIDER). The centre has so far received two desktop computers, a digital camera, monetary contribution toward its internet connectivity, and training of its staff in using social media to promote accountability and participation.

The Kasese centre runs an online library to which district officials regularly contribute documents from their offices. It also runs a resource centre that offers basic computer training and internet access. Encouraging greater use of its e services (which also include a dgroup and Facebook page) by both citizens and district leaders) would very much improve its work. And, for CIPESA, we see a great need to train citizen reporters in the districts, and wish we could arm these not only with the knowledge but with the gadgets as well.

These reporters would then replicate the Kasese water story across the education, health and service delivery sectors, and in local government accountability, helping to create a whole new buzz and action arenas that would improve governance in numerous ways.

This report contains information from an article written by Samuel Mumbere Mkamba, a staff at the Kasese E-society Resource Centre. Credit for all pictures in this story is his.