ICT for Democracy in East Africa: May 2012 News

The Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) in May undertook a small survey on the knowledge, attitudes, and needs of citizens regarding the utility, effectiveness, and security of using ICT for democracy in Uganda’s northern region. The survey involved individually administered questionnaires in Gulu town.

In addition, at the Gulu-based Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC), journalists, CSOs, local government officials and students participated in a CIPESA-organised discussion on how best ICT could be used to foster citizen participation given the economic, literacy, and other challenges faced by the region.  The workshop participants deemed civic participation to be of more importance relative to political participation, as it often resulted into direct and tangible impacts on community livelihoods. Using CIPESA’s recently published report, the event also involved a practical exploration of how ICT tools could promote civic participation.  One of the outcomes of the activities undertaken with NUMEC was a mapping of priorities and possibilities for engaging with particular ICT tools in selected service sectors.

NUMEC is one of the grassroots based centres involved in the iParticipate project. CIPESA has provided to the centre desktop computers, a digital camera and monetary contribution toward its internet connectivity.

Meanwhile, Transparency International Uganda field office in Lira district, unearthed uncoordinated health workers and support staff transfers at five health centres. The transfers were adversely affecting the performance of the already strained health centre staff. In follow up discussions, district health officials explained that the transfers were necessary in order to staff newly created health centres elsewhere. The officials acknowledged that the transfers were done without consultations with the affected health centres.

[table id=4 /]

TI Uganda also unearthed cases of staff who absconded from duty and those who were drawing double salaries. The matter has been taken up with district health authorities.

The community is also being urged to monitor health centres to ensure efficient and effective service delivery. To this end, the installation of TI Uganda’s toll free call centre for reporting poor health service delivery in Northern Uganda is now complete. 0800 200 188 is being widely advertised in the region to inform and encourage the community to report health centre challenges.

Meanwhile, May’s Voluntary Social Accountability Committees (VSAC) meetings spearheaded by the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) to report on governance and service delivery in five districts in Northern Uganda were complemented by radio programs.  The Committee from Tarogali reported cases of Village Health Teams (VHT) being charged to receive bicycles which were actually provided free of charge by the Ministry of Health. Officials in Ibuje Sub County allegedly demanded UGX 70,000 (US$28) for each bicycle intended to ease the work of the health teams. The matter was debated on the local Radio Apac, leading to intervention by the Apac Anti-Corruption Coalition. The responsible officials were arrested, and the bicycles have since then been distributed free of charge to the targeted beneficiaries.

Besides, WOUGNET uploaded more content on their Ushahidi platform. Amongst the reports, drug shortages in Kole health centres, a security official who was extorting money from members of Chegere sub-county in Apac district, and a broken down bore hole in Alenga cell, Ibuje sub-county.

mGovernance and water in Kenya

iHub Research conducted in-depth analysis of data on Huduma, a web and mobile phone based platform for Kenyan citizens to voice the difficulties they encounter in using public services. Based on the results, the research team selected a thematic focus for the remainder of the mGovernance in Kenya project – governance in the Kenyan water sector. Preparations are underway for a workshop to bring together different water stakeholders in a single platform to discuss water issues and how to interact with each other in the chain of governance structure. The aim of the workshop is to evaluate the current feedback loop between stakeholders and the potential of technology, especially mobile, to enhance the Kenyan water sector.

ICT in human rights and democracy

In Tanzania, preparations are underway for a publicity campaign incorporating social media for the SMS for Human Rights System. The Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG) is still in talks with the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority and leading telcos for short code sms provision and toll free services, respectively.

Meanwhile, 10 grassroots Human Rights Networks (HURINETs) in Kenya this month received equipment from the Kenya Human Rights Networks (KHRC). The equipment, including computers, portable internet modems and digital cameras is aimed at enabling the HURINETs use new media in human rights and democracy monitoring and reporting human rights violations. The work of the HURINETs will feed into KHRC’s civic action website.


May 9 – 11, 2012: iHub research participated in the IST Africa Conference. Conference insights are shared by in two blog posts here and here

May 31, 2012: CIPESA participated in the Uganda National Civil Society fair and shared reports and work done in the democracy and governance session. The fair is an annual event organised by the National NGO Forum showcasing the contributions of different civil society actors to Uganda’s socio‐economic development and political growth.

June 26 – 29: In collaboration with the African Human Rights Consortium, KHRC is due to host the East African Region New Media and Human Rights Institute workshop.

ICT4Democracy in East Africa: April 2012 News

ICT for Service Delivery in Northern Uganda

Monthly Voluntary Social Accountability Committee (VSAC) meetings continued in April, with prevailing bad governance and poor service delivery issues reported in the districts of Gulu, Amuru, Apac, Kore and Oyam and uploaded on the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) Ushahidi platform.

Among the reports and follow up action:

WOUGNET reports that the continued support of district and sub-county leaders, as well as CSOs, continues to encourage the work of VSACs.

Meanwhile, Transparency International (TI) Uganda has embarked on an awareness raising exercise for its toll free call centre which will enable citizens to log complaints about health service delivery in the region. Agreements have been reached with a number of health centres to allow for the painting of the toll free number on strategic public access points on the centre premises.

SMS for Human Rights

In Tanzania, the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG) in collaboration with Bessbrook International Ltd. of Tanzania completed the implementation of the SMS for Human Rights Management Information System. The system has been installed and is being tested in a working environment. User feedback and opinions are being collected on automated responses from the system.

However, the system has so far been unable to allow for multimedia messaging and content. CHRAGG and Bessbrook are working to rectify this. Full system deployment is pending an SMS short code provision from the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority and toll free services from leading telecos.

mGovernance in Kenya

During April, iHub Research conducted user-centred design workshops as a basis for strategising on building mobile governance applications from citizen users’ perspective.

Activity planning for fieldwork to explore the conditions for successful mobile phone enabled governance across Kenya is also underway. Through its extensive grassroots based Human Rights Networks (HURINETS), the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) will assist iHub Research in choosing appropriate field sites across the country and facilitate interaction with local communities. iHub Research is also anticipating to engage Mzalendo in its research. The blog platform for holding leaders accountable and rating their work will offer feedback on the research questions to be included in the full data collection exercise.

Meanwhile, the Social Development Network (SODNET) has also agreed to share their raw data on Huduma to enrich iHub Research’s work. iHub research will use these findings to identify their key thematic areas of focus based on feedback from the platform. Huduma is a mobile phone short code platform for Kenyan citizens to voice the difficulties they encounter in using public services.

iParticipate Uganda

The Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) published and disseminated a report entitled ‘How ICT Tools are Promoting Civic Participation in Uganda’. The report 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. Read the full report here.

CIPESA also finalised the Open Governance in Uganda study. The study sought to establish Uganda’s readiness for open data, capture citizen’s perceptions on open governance in Uganda as well as form a basis for advocating for increased government openness in Uganda. During the study, awareness about open government and its benefits was raised, highlighting an urgent need for open governance in Uganda. The reports produced will go toward CIPESA’s wider campaigns in promoting open governance in Uganda and the use of ICTs for democratic governance.

In April, CIPESA represented Uganda at the Internet Society (ISOC)’s Global INET event in Geneva, Switzerland. Furthermore, CIPESA attended the Digital Migration Workshop for Southern and Eastern African Countries. Insights from the workshop are available here.

Other news

In April, the ICT4Democracy in East Africa network participated in the Stockholm Internet Forum that aimed to deepen discussions on how freedom and openness on the internet can promote social and economic development globally. Participants included media, civil society, academia, telecommunications, national and international development agencies. Organised by the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Internet Infrastructure Foundation and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the forum took place on April 18 – 19, 2012.

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.