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/


New Report Shows How ICT is Aiding Citizen Participation in Uganda

A new report by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) illustrates how Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are aiding citizen participation in Uganda, but also points to the challenges that need to be overcome for these technologies to have a wider impact on governance.
The report reviews various ICT tools being used to promote transparency, accountability, and citizen participation in Uganda. It examines the utility and shortcomings of these tools, the challenges they face, and the factors contributing to their success. Furthermore, it offers suggestions for improving the utility, reach, and, hopefully, the success of initiatives that utilise ICT to improve citizen participation.

Based on the 24 ICT tools assessed, seven main categories of uses of tools were identified: Information provision; Election monitoring; Lobbying and activism; Voter registration; Elections reporting; Citizen policing; and Civic participation in the post-election period.

Innovations especially with mobile telephony and interactive mapping have showcased how ICT can help improve transparency and accountability in the delivery of public services. In the run up to Uganda’s 2011 general elections, ICT tools were used broadly, for campaigning, tallying results, monitoring the actions of political groups and the electoral body, for civic education, and for activism. The tools included mobile phones, automated calls, and crowd sourcing platforms, radio and television, as well as social media. They contributed to transparency of the polls – but probably not to voter turn-out.

However, the most immediate challenge to the adoption of these tools is that few Ugandans are embracing them. In Uganda, market penetration for voice stands at 45% with a population coverage of close to 100%. Mobile accounts for more than 90% of new connections, with 910,000 new subscribers being added each year. While this is providing a solid base in terms of numbers of those who can use the ICT, the figures do not tell the whole story. For example, studies show that nearly half of mobile phone subscribers own at least two SIM cards. Moreover, even among the phone-owning class, for many usage beyond voice (and, well, Facebook and radio) remains limited.

And there are yet more challenges. Limitations such as the cost of accessing and using the ICT, language barriers and low literacy levels mainly for the internet and mobile based platforms – as well as minimal attention by government to boosting usage of ICT in governance all hinder the effective use of these tools. This study finds that it is therefore crucial for organisations using ICT for participation and democracy to carry out extensive assessments before deploying the technology, to work with others rather than duplicate efforts, to create awareness and capacity among users, and to continuously assess the impacts the ICT initiatives are creating.

This research was made possible by funding from the Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions (Spider), which is supporting projects in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, in the areas of education, health, and governance. The results shall directly inform some wider actions in catalysing civic participation and democracy monitoring using ICT, which the ICT4Democracy in East Africa partners are undertaking.

Download the full report here: