East African Region New Media and Human Rights Institute workshop

In collaboration with the African Human Rights Consortium, the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) conducted a four-day new media, research and advocacy workshop aimed at scaling-up the use of ICTs in human rights and democracy within East Africa. The workshop attracted 14 participants drawn from civil society and media in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Burundi. During the workshop, KHRC took the opportunity to share information on the activities of the ICT4Democracy in East Africa network attracting a lot of interest from participants. Emphasis was placed on the importance of involvement of civil society actors in various ICT forums and projects.

Civil society organisations in East Africa were urged to embrace ICTs in their advocacy interventions.

Unchartered Waters: ICTs in Human Rights

Founded in 1992, the Kenya Human Rights Commission is one of the oldest and pioneer human rights organizations in Kenya and indeed a premier human rights body.  The organization has often taken on difficult human rights initiatives mainly in the first generation rights of civil and political rights. Some of these initiatives include transitional justice such as detention without trial, torture, unexplained disappearances and assassinations. All of the KHRC’s human rights and democracy work has been carried out through various innovative strategies using methodologies of the prevailing times. These include advocacy and policy influencing, documentation, mass media, publications and materials production. Thus when the KHRC was invited to a workshop by the Swedish Programme for ICTs in Developing Regions (Spider), it was another great opportunity for the organization to not only take lead in the civil society sector in non-traditional methodologies but also to learn new and innovative ideas in the sector. 

What Have We Been Up to Lately

One of the earliest and easiest platforms that the project deployed is social media. While the KHRC already had Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts, they had not really been well utilized. However, since the commencement of the project, things have been turned around such that information published on the website can now be pushed further by sharing through Facebook and Twitter. For instance, in August 2011, the KHRC published a book on corruption and impunity of past injustices. The book, titled “Lest We Forget: The Faces of Impunity in Kenya,” was launched through the traditional mass media and sold out. The online copy hit a record 1,000 downloads on the day it was first uploaded and 13,780 downloads in the first month. There was a Facebook link created for it as well which helped further push the publication but also drew public interest in dialogue. It is a document which the public can use to audit who should not be eligible for elections based on corruption records.  The book is available for download here.

The KHRC has also been sharing documentary videos through YouTube as part of educating the public on human rights and governance issues. Recently, during the celebrations of the 2012 International Human Rights Day (IHRD), the KHRC held a series of community outreaches in Nairobi which included public forums and legal aid clinics. This culminated in the Annual Human Rights Lecture whose theme was “Judiciary, a Bastion for Constitutionalism”. Snippets of the event were uploaded on YouTube with the hope that it will stir up conversations about the implementation of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010, a process which is currently under siege from anti-reform forces in and outside the Government.  One snippet features judicial and legal experts as well as some human rights activists while the other features the views from the participants during the question and answer session. The snippets are available here.

Finally, the KHRC was privileged to host a team from the Commission on Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG), which is the national human rights institute of Tanzania. The team from Tanzania visited in order to learn how the bulk sms system works. The KHRC system is not yet up however we were able to have our service provider conduct a demo for the Tanzanian team. This was a shared learning experience for the two organizations as it was a challenge for the KHRC to ensure its own deployment is up in order to be able to share with CHRAGG how the system works.

Wilfred Warioba, (centre) Head of ICTs at CHRAGG together with his colleagues pay close attention as George Mburu, bulk sms service provider demonstrates how the system works 

The Learning Curve

Since the project began, it has been an exiting journey of learning a lot of lessons. It is also interesting to note that there are quiet a number of individuals and organizations interested in the project and an opportunity for the KHRC to showcase this new area of work, should it succeed. So far KHRC has been able to learn a lot while implementing the project. As an organization that is not technologically oriented, the project required quite a bit of research in order to find out what technologies to deploy. This has been through workshops and bi-lateral cooperation with other organizations and individuals.

One key area of learning has been in the area of policy development. Any organization venturing into ICTs as a tool for engagement with the public ought to have an ICT or social media policy. This is crucial because the dynamic of how one runs an individual’s own account is different from those of how runs or manages an organization’s online presence and a simple mistake can have a serious impact on how the organization deals with its publics. For instance, there are all sorts of people out there and when an individual or organization joins any of the social media platforms, one should be prepared for all manner of responses and attacks from the people. There people who speak from a point of ignorance while others are just out rightly rude, arrogant or malicious. It is imperative that the organization has a policy that provides guidelines for online behavior of the staff managing the platforms it uses otherwise it is easy to be drawn into unnecessary exchanges that can give the organization a negative image.

Since ICT4D is a relatively new area of work for most civil society organizations, there needs to be a lot of information sharing within the civil society so that the sector can embrace the changing engagement landscape. Besides information sharing amongst the CSOs it is also important to have multi-sectoral forums which include developers, CSOs (user side), development partners and beneficiaries in order to identify gaps and best practices that can be related.

As an organization, we have learnt too that when utilized well, ICT4D can complement the traditional methodologies and cascade its work. A case in point is using YouTube to share videos, where we have learnt that it helps drive traffic to our website and vice-versa. However we have also learned that long videos take long to download thus not too many people watch them, especially if they are not necessarily entertaining, thus we are working on getting shorter versions of key messages even though it is not easy to reduce complex human rights issues on documentaries to  two-minute versions.

Finally, we look forward to having all our platforms up and running soon where we expect more public dialogue to take place. For example, the citizen participation website  once complete will further help the public debate issues that the human rights networks raise in a community paper called Mizizi Ya Haki (Roots of Rights) that now will be uploaded on the site. This is indeed very exciting as now much of what we do shall be scaled up to reach audience not reached before and therefore we must exploit every opportunity it has afforded us.

Hurinet regional Mizizi Ya Haki editors planning for the next edition in Nairobi at the National editorial meeting. Through ICT4D, the community newspaper will find a wider audience than it currently does

“If you are not on these platforms (social media and other web tools), where are you?” – Ally Khan Sachu, a Nairobi Economist, commenting  during a TV interview on reports that Kenya is top in use of Twitter, only second to South Africa,  AFRICA: Kenya is second most active on twitter.


ICT for Democracy in East Africa: October News

SMS for Human Rights

The Tanzanian Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG) is due to undertake field studies to gather user requirements this November. The results of the study will go toward the features design of the mobile phone based Complaints Handling Management Information System.

Catalysing Civic Participation and Democracy Monitoring Using ICTS

IT support equipment has been procured for the two grassroots based centres that the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) entered into MOUs with last month. A needs assessment including survey of the knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAPS) to determine the ICT for democracy tools used, user and non-user profiles and their [de]motivations is scheduled for November and December. CIPESA’s analysis of Ugandan policies and practices that enhance (or undermine) eDemocracy is also to be finalised in November.

M-Governance: Exploring Conditions for Successful Mobile Governance in Kenya

The literature review as part of iHub’s exploratory research into the successful conditions for mobile governance in Kenya is complete. The review that aims to identify a Kenyan definition of good governance is to be circulated pending final edits. A workshop to identify issues in Kenya’s governance structures with an emphasis on stakeholder roles and relationships was held at iHub on October 27, 2011. The workshop also explored ways in which technology could facilitate and potentially enhance good governance. Further information is available here. Expert interviews and pilot questionnaires are scheduled for November and December.

Reforms through Citizen Participation and Government Accountability

The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) has contracted a web developer for their human rights issues crowd sourcing website. Information and work from Human Rights Networks (HURINETS) on the ground is to feed into the website using the Ushahidi crowd-map platform. One of the HURINETS working in partnership with KHRC is the KURIA Human Rights Network. The initiative, under the western region Kuria Reform Agenda Consortium, seeks to address systematic insecurity in the Kuria constituency. KURIA’s recently set up crowd mapping platform can be found here.

Promoting Social Accountability in the Health Sector in Northern Uganda

Transparency International (TI) Uganda in October held a workshop where Voluntary and Accountability Committees (VACs) members of Oyam districts were trained on how to report health worker absenteeism and poor service delivery. So far, the project has seen a slight indication of improvements in health service delivery in Lira and Oyam district. Based on arrival logs, health centre workers are recorded as reporting to work on time. For more information, visit TI’s Stop Health Workers’ Absenteeism facebook page.

Empowering Local People and Communities to Monitor Districts’ Service Delivery Through ICTs

Following the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET)’s mobilisations exercises in Gulu and Amuru districts held last month, similar exercises were undertaken in Kole, Oyam and Apac districts during October. The exercises, which involved community meetings, informed stakeholders on how ICT can enable effective service delivery. As per the project scope, the mobilisation targeted more women than men (ratio of women to men being 70:30).

Other news



ICT for Democracy in East Africa: Project Update

Launched in May 2011, ICT for Democracy in East Africa (ICT4DemEA) is a network of organisations undertaking collaborative projects where Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is used in various ways to promote transparency, accountability and democracy. The network, with seed funding from the Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions (Spider) comprises of organisations in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. These are the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET); Transparency International Uganda (TIU); The Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA); iHub (Kenya) the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and Tanzania’s Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG).

The projects spearheaded by each organisation leverage on ICT with the aim to fight corruption, enhance the right to freedom of expression, monitor service delivery, hold leaders accountable and encourage civic participation. During the recently concluded Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Nairobi, September 27-30, 2011, the regional network partners met to discuss the progress of their projects.

iHub, Nairobi’s technical and solutions centre, is conducting exploratory research into the conditions for mobile as a successful tool for improved governance in Kenya. Desk research is underway to identify a Kenyan definition of “good governance” and the weakest areas of governance in Kenya. This is to be based on global indices and will engage the United Nations, Strathmore and Jomo Kenyatta Universities, Huduma and SODNET (Social Development Network), among others. This October, iHub is due to host a workshop with Kenyan Governance experts and iHub’s application developer community, conduct expert interviews as well as pilot questionnaires in five [yet to be decided] areas of Nairobi. Besides, iHub is studying the different mobile and web applications out there as well as lessons learned from existing mobile governance efforts.

KHRC’s has identified and sensitised grassroots based Human Rights Networks (HURINETs) in the use of social media. Through the HURINETs, databases have been developed for an SMS and crowd-sourcing platform. With little ICT expertise, KHRC is facing technological challenges and is in the process of identifying suitable platforms and contracting developers. In the meantime, it is exploring collaboration with iHub (technical) and CIPESA (policy) as well as synergies with CHRAGG.

In its pursuit to empower communities through ICT to demand for better health service delivery in Northern Uganda, TIU, with headquarters in Kampala officially opened its offices in Lira on July 25, 2011. Since then, the selection and formation of Voluntary and Accountability Committees (VACs) which incorporate previously existing Village Health Teams, Health Management Committees, District Health Teams and Baraza structures has been successful. The VACs empowered through ICT to monitor health service delivery in Lira and Oyam districts currently have 199 members and have so far made visits to eight health centres. During October, TIU will be gathering user needs and requirements for the development of a database to support a short code SMS application through stakeholder workshops. TIU is working in partnership with WOUGNET, THETA Uganda, Lira NGO Forum, Plan Uganda, World Vision, Platform for Labour Action and Uganda National Health Consumers Association.

On the other hand, to enhance Ugandan civic advocacy and engagement and increase government transparency and accountability, CIPESA has entered into memorandums of understanding (MoU) with two grassroots based centres. One of the centres, Busoga Rural Open Source & Development Initiative (BROSDI), is a non-profit centre working to improve rural livelihoods and the second is the local government-run Kasese eSociety. The MOUs provide for CIPESA’s training of centre staff in citizen journalism and the undertaking and reporting on surveys, focus group discussions and polls on prevailing governance, political and service delivery issues. The centres are responsible for mobilising organised groups to join a Network of users and advocates in the use of ICTs to improve citizen participation as well as reporting on the activities and developments in the work of mobilised network organisations. The contact details of centre visitors and collaborators are being collected to receive regular informative SMSs and emails from CIPESA on governance issues and how citizens can play a role in them.

An analysis by CIPESA of Ugandan policies and practices that enhance (or undermine) eDemocracy is well underway. The output of this will be briefing papers and fact sheets targeting policy makers and the media. Already published is a briefing note that explains the Open Government Partnership (OGP). The Partnership, launched on September 20, 2011 aims to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. CIPESA’s Open Government briefing (available here) explains the OGP, looks at OGP indicators and prospects in selected African countries (Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa), and explores the role ICT could play in catalysing the achievement of open governance in Africa.

Similar to TIU, WOUGNET has also started its work to empower local people and communities in monitoring service delivery through ICTs. Its project is targeted at five districts in Northern Uganda: Apac, Oyam, Kole, Amuru and Gulu. The project, in its preliminary stages has so far seen mobilisation exercises undertaken in Gulu and Amuru. The sub-counties and parishes to work with in the two districts have been identified. WOUGNET is currently exploring a partnership with Track FM for radio talk shows to be conducted to discuss transparency and accountability in local languages.

In order to ensure citizens understand their basic human rights and the principles of good governance while dealing with the high complaints volume received, CHRAGG built a web based Complaints Handling Management Information System. However, the system is not accessible to citizens in remote areas and towns without CHRAGG branch offices. The Commission is currently developing and implementing additional features to the Complaint Handing System. The features via mobile phone platform are to incorporate text messages, image and video capabilities for informers or complainants. Additionally, the Commission is to send out information and also receive inquiries about its services through the platform. An MoU has been signed with the system design and development partner – Bessbrook International LTD. The Commission has also signed MoUs for collaboration with 10 non-government organisations.

Further information is available on individual organisations’ websites as well as the regional network’s social pages: Twitter ICT4DemEA and Facebook ICT for Democracy in East Africa.



ICT4Democracy in East Africa’ Project Launched

This article was published by the Swedish Programme on ICTs for Developing regions (SPIDER) on June 28, 2011, about the ICT4Democracy in East Africa project, which brings together various partners in the region.

Recently, we have seen a number of projects, pilots and tools where ICT is used in various ways to promote democracy. Many of these initiatives have been launched in East Africa: crowd-sourcing platforms such as Ugandawatch2011, uReport and Ushahidi (and variations thereof such as Uchaguzi, Huduma and Map Kibera); innovative SMS applications such as Grid 6464, CU@SCHOOL, 3356 shortcode by City Council in Nairobi and Trac FM; and of course the widespread use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

We have also seen some challenges in ICT enabled democracy projects emerge: lack of government involvement, too much government involvement (i.e. surveillance, filtering and censorship), low community involvement and problems sustaining the community involvement over time, expensive marketing strategies and reaching out campaigns, lack of visibility, how to show impact… The list can be made long.

In November 2010, Spider together with Association for Progressive Communications (APC), organized a Governance Stakeholder Workshop in Kampala, Uganda and invited East African organizations who could bring in important and valuable insight to the area of ICT, democracy and development. Following this workshop, Spider received concept papers and project proposals in the field of ICT and democracy and after reviewing the applications, identified several overlaps and areas in the project proposals that could benefit from a collaborative and stronger ICT for democracy program. The aim of the program is to synergize and compliment the individual projects with the ambition of possibly creating a network hub that deals in democracy through the use of ICTs.

A follow-up two-day workshop in Kampala in May 2011, brought together partners with various strengths who all lauded the idea of a program and expanding their individual existing networks. The Partners have different expertise that together will create greater impact:

Kenya Human Rights Commission has been in existence since 1992 and is the oldest partner among the projects. KHRC have for 19 years advocated for constitutional reforms within the area of human rights. As such they are currently looking at incorporating ICTs in their work, and this is an area that their partner iHUB also in Kenya has expertise in and can be of significant assistance. iHUB’s strength and expertise lie in their technical knowledge and solutions which they are now marrying to governance and democracy advocacy in Kenya and area they are relatively new at. Both Kenyan partners expressed interest and support for the idea of a program approach because in this case they can work together to strengthen each other’s weaknesses.

Women of Uganda Network has for the past 11 years worked with women’s groups and organizations promoting the use of ICTs to share information and address various social issues. WOUGNET’s vision is a society in which women are empowered through the use of ICTs for sustainable development. This strong gender-awareness in their ICT programs provides an opportunity for the ICT for Democracy program to ensure that activities and plans by each partner maintain gender sensitivity in their deployment. As these organizations will look at addressing social accountability in various rural regions in the region, Transparency International the Ugandan Chapter, with expertise in awareness and anti-corruption campaigning will be assisting the other partners in this area. TIU in turn expressed the need for help in addressing the communities with a gender-lens.

Towards the end of the workshop, the partners all advocated for regional facilitation of the program, and unanimously selected Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA). CIPESA by virtue of their experience in collaborative efforts was identified as the ideal partner to facilitate the cooperation and activities planned by the partners. CIPESA similarly look to KHRC, TIU, WOUGNET and iHUB to assist them in working with technology and with grass-root communities, and with CIPESA’s experience in Policy driven research changes, this program should have an all-round impact not just to the local communities where the activities will be anchored for the next 2 years but to overall policy.


Source: SPIDER newsletter, June 28, 2011

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