ICT and Governance in East Africa: Preliminary Fieldwork Findings (Part 2)- Apac and Lira

By Albert Otieno,

This is a brief summary of our preliminary findings from interviews and focus group discussions on thoughts of ICTs in governance from the CSOs, NGOs and the citizens in general in Apac and Lira, two towns in northern Uganda. One of the research questions sought to understand the challenges facing the society and how ICT tools can be used to address them.

Among the CSOs we interviewed were Citizen Action Platform (by The Apac Anti-Corruption Coalition), Kubere Information CentreConcerned Children and Youth Association, Transcultural Psychosocial Organization, Corruption Brakes Crusade and Lira NGO Forum

For preliminary findings in the other Uganda study site, click here.

Lack of information brought about by high levels of poverty is one of the major challenges facing the society in the two regions (Apac and Lira); according to the participants of the focus group discussion in Lira district (Uganda), poverty remains a ‘killer disease’ affecting many people in the society. Poor people are ignorant even of their rights. A poor person has no access to a radio or the phone which means that access to information is also limited. Poor people cannot go to school. Service delivery is poor because people are poor; “The police complement the little salary they get by asking for bribes”,commented one of the FGD participantsThis is in relation to the poverty levels experienced by the police officers and the fact that the citizens lack information on their rights.


Figure 1: A section of participants during the focus group discussion at The Apac Anti-Corruption Coalition (TACC) offices

The importance of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in solving issues affecting the society cannot be overruled.  ICT has been raised as a new feature in Northern Uganda in sectors such as education, health and agriculture. Radio is one of the popular and quickest means of reaching the wider public with information. Many NGOs such as The Apac Anti-Corruption Coalition (TACC) and Transparency International Uganda have exploited the use of radio to reach a critical mass with anti-corruption messages given that it is the only electronic form of communication that is widely accessible and affordable for the rural communities to access information.


Figure 2: A section of participants during the focus group discussion at Amach Health centre in Lira

Daniel Okello from Lira NGO Forum notes that ICTs are important tools in promoting good governance in the society; however, they have to be made cheap and affordable for access. “I have observed that people tend to make calls on the radio stations at night when call rates are extremely low. This has prompted us to start a toll-free line in order to enable everyone to raise complaints and compliments on issues affecting them without fear of running out of credit”, says Mr. Okello.

Scenarios where ICT has been useful:

  1. The Government of Uganda started an initiative to develop Northern Uganda through a project dubbed Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF) where goats were bought for the locals with an aim of supporting livelihood investment. “At one time some officials bought a goat and exaggerated the price to be 500,000 UGX while in the real sense the goat would have cost 3 UGX!”, exclaimed one of the FGD participants. Through ICT (use of radios and TV) the matter was brought to the limelight and the culprits had to face the rule of law. This is after the citizens raised complaints over the radios. The president received the news of the malpractices going on and commanded that action be taken against the perpetrators (those involved in the goat scandal).
  2. According to the respondents in Apac, the use of ICT in governance has borne some fruits; problems have been minimized through the use of ICTs; there is transparency and power has been brought closer to the people e.g. the use of toll-free lines has elicited courage and strength among the citizens in reporting issues to do with service delivery in the hospitals, schools and other important sectors. (See ‘Governance is for Non-Urbanites’, from part 1 of this blog post series for an interesting contrast). At the same time ICT has created fear among teachers, health workers and other government employees and as such majority try to do their best not to be caught by the ‘hook’, a fact that was attested by one teacher who was part of the FGDs in Apac.

Motivations to use ICTs in Governance

The citizens are motivated by the fact that one does not need to travel to go and report-”You can report the case wherever you are”, says one of the FGD participants. The use of ICT has further washed away the fear of getting victimised; this has boosted the morale of the citizens to continue using ICT in reporting issues affecting them in the society. The fact that the organizations mandated to oversee transparency in service delivery are quick to respond also motivates the citizens a lot to continue reporting the cases whenever they come across issues that require attention of such organizations. This was true for both the citizens in Apac and Lira. The idea of using toll-free lines is also serving as a motivation to many of the citizens across Apac and Lira. Many organizations have realized the need for the same (toll-free lines) and have either implemented or are in the process of implementing them.


De-motivations to using ICTs in Governance

The key de-motivating factor when it comes to the use of ICTs in Governance is in regard to the cost. This was unanimous for both citizen respondents in Lira and Apac. Generally, the participants in both FGDs strongly felt it was somehow expensive to maintain the phone regularly. This is caused by the fact that many houses are not connected to the grid and as such majority of the citizens are compelled to charge their phones from the shops which costs 500 UGX. Toll-free lines have been a motivation to many citizens to engage with various initiatives. However, not all the organizations have rolled out this system; citizens are therefore compelled to use their airtime in order to engage with some of the initiatives (SMS and phone call-based ones). This, therefore, limits the ICT engagement levels between the citizens and the organizations since many citizens can’t afford the extra airtime cost.

Having successfully conducted our first round of fieldwork in Uganda we are now planning similar fieldwork in Tanzania (Dar-es-Salaam and Mwanza) where we hope to engage with citizens, government officials and the CSOs/NGOs on ICTs in governance.

Our study on ICT and Governance in East Africa is made possible by the generous support of SIDA and SPIDER,

*Please note: These are not all or the official findings of our study. The final report which will be made available will contain comprehensive findings from our study from all the three East African countries.


ICT and Governance in East Africa: Methodology

By Varyanne Sika.

Our study on ICT and Governance in East Africa which is made possible by the generous support of SIDA and SPIDERexplores the ways in which ICT tools can/have successfully facilitated or hindered two way interaction between government and citizens towards reducing the cost of delivering public services, curbing corruption and increasing transparency and accountability. We are also looking into the innovative ICT initiatives that have facilitated the interaction between citizens and governments, as well as the (de)motivations for utilizing ICT tools among the various stakeholders (citizens, governments, civil society and the general public).


his study is a qualitative audit of ICT initiatives and tools used in governance in East Africa. We are particularly focussing on the following four areas of governance:

–       Access to information

–       Service Delivery by Government

–       Tracking Corruption

–       Civic Participation (transparency and accountability)


Our study began with an exploratory study to gather data on which ICT tools and initiatives exist in East Africa and categorized them according to the stakeholder behind or driving the initiative, the purpose of the tool and the country in which the tool is found. This was done through crowdsourcing on social media and online spaces, and within the iHub networks as well as the ICT4Democracy East Africa Network. The matrix below contains the tools and initiatives we found in the exploratory study.



Note: These tools and initiatives were identified through crowdsourcing. We will share the final matrix of tools and initiatives that we will have identified in this study in our final report. If you know of more tools that we should look into, please share with us through this form.

The findings from the exploratory study informed our collection of primary data from the three East African Countries.

We are using semi-structured interviews to collect information from both CSOs and Government institutions or departments that are running some of the ICT tools and initiatives we identified both through crowdsourcing and desk research. In each country we aim to conduct at least 10 interviews with CSOs and at least 3 interviews with Government institutions. Further, we are conducting at least 2 focus group discussions of at least 8 participants each in each of the three East African countries.

Findings from this study will be disseminated to the East African governments, Civil Societies, developers and citizens. Recommendations based on the findings will be drawn and shared with relevant stakeholders in ICT for Governance in the region.

Having successfully conducted our first round of fieldwork in Uganda (Kampala, Apac and Lira), we will soon be sharing our preliminary findings from interviews and focus group discussions with Ugandan citizens.

Transparency International Uganda Acquires a Toll Free Line

Transparency International (TI) Uganda has completed the installation of a toll free call centre at its Lira field office. By calling 0800 200 188 toll free from any local mobile phone service provider, citizens can report on corruption and poor service delivery in the health sector in Northern Uganda.

Through the call centre and as part of its ICT4Health Service Delivery project, TI Uganda aims to reduce the rates of health worker absenteeism, increase community participation in monitoring the functionality of health centres and advocate for polices to improve health service delivery in the post conflict region. 

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.

ICT for Democracy in East Africa: January 2012 News

SMS for Human Rights

In addition to Lindi, Mwanza and Iringa regions, the Tanzanian Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG) extended its field studies to gather user requirements to Dar es Salaam. With a clearer indication of what citizens want, the Commission has now started work toward the system requirements and features design of the mobile phone based Complaints Handling Management Information System.

During December, CHRAGG undertook a study tour to the offices of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC). The two organisations shared knowledge and information on the technology aspects of their ICT for Democracy projects.

Catalysing Civic Participation and Democracy Monitoring Using ICTs
The Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) in December undertook a mini survey to identify the knowledge, attitudes, and the needs of citizen groups and local governments regarding the utility, effectiveness, and security of ICT for democracy in the country’s western region. The survey involved focus group discussions at the Rwenzori Information Centre Network (RICNET) and individually administered questionnaires in the town centres of Kabarole and Kasese districts.

At Kasese e-Society, CIPESA’s western region grassroots based partner, staff were trained in the use of a collaborative workspace that will be used to document the centre’s activities related to the project. To improve its work in using ICT for enhancing civic participation, CIPESA provided to the centre  two desktop computers, a digital camera and monetary contribution toward its internet connectivity.

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


iHub’s research team are undertaking work to ascertain the numerous mobile technologies out there in relation to governance. They are currently approaching governance application (apps) developers to seek permission to test their apps in a usability focus group during January. The aim of the tests will be to understand how various stakeholder groups would interact with the technology. The usability tests are to be carried out initially in Nairobi with the findings used for future  testing in other parts of the country.

In early February, iHub Research plans to hold a second workshop to disseminate the findings from the exploratory research and the Nairobi apps usability testing. The workshop will take on the same format as the one held last October.

Reforms through Citizen Participation and Government Accountability

The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) is in the process of procuring ICT equipment for 10 community-based Human Rights Networks (HURINETs). Information and work from the HURINETs on the ground will feed into the crowd sourcing and civic participation website KHRC is developing.

Website development is nearly complete and KHRC is due to hold a press conference to launch its project. The HURINETs, upon receipt of the equipment, will be trained on how to effectively use ICT to engage citizens and hold their leaders accountable.

Promoting Social Accountability in the Health Sector in Northern Uganda

In December, Transparency International (TI) Uganda carried out health centre visits in Lira and Oyam districts. Talks with centre users and arrival logs for health workers indicated that whereas health centre workers were reporting to work on time (8am), service did not begin until about 10am.  TI Uganda staff advised patients that they would soon be able to log complaints about health service delivery through a toll free helpline.

Talks are underway between TI Uganda and one of Uganda’s telecommunications service providers to install a call centre before the end of February. TI Uganda is also in the process of organising a press conference to inform the community about its project in northern Uganda. The aim is to sensitise citizens about the ongoing work and seek their involvement and support.

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

The Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) conducted two awareness-raising workshops on good governance and effective service delivery in Apac and Kole district during December. An Ushahidi platform was launched for Voluntary Social Accountability Committees (VSACs) to report and map prevailing poor service delivery issues in the districts. Workshop participants were trained on how to upload content and access information.