Category Archives: Media

Open Development: The Engine for Uganda’s Advancement


Press statement to commemorate the International Right to Know Day

Kampala 28th September – Today is the International right to know Day. The International Right To Know Day began on September 28, 2002, in Sofia, Bulgaria at an international meeting of access to information advocates who proposed that a day be dedicated to the promotion of freedom of information worldwide. The goal of RTK Day is to raise global awareness of individuals’ right to access information and to promote access to information as a fundamental human right. It seeks to highlight the benefits of open, transparent and accountable governments.

On 11-12 September, representatives of diverse civil society organizations (CSOs), government, development partners, private sector, academia and citizens, met at Hotel Africana in Kampala for the Open Development Stakeholders Workshop with the objective of Understanding the Open Development landscape and issues in Uganda, and proposing a programme focus, strategy and design.

Open development is where organisations are using Information technologies, among other information sharing channels, to provide and share information. Open Data enhances transparency and accountability about resources that are available to be invested in development, how those resources are invested and what results they achieve. In the end, all the stakeholders involved in this information sharing chain benefit from this mutually reinforcing ecosystem.

Recognising the positive steps that the Uganda government has taken in Promoting transparency and good governance as enshrined in the Constitution and other regulatory and policy frameworks, the delegates nevertheless underscored the importance of putting in practice the several statutory pronouncements that government has into the access to information act, the constitution, and other government documents. The workshop further highlighted the importance of civil society, development partners and private sector opening up as well; as these efforts work better when all stakeholders with sharable information pull their efforts together.

The conference ended with the establishment of the Uganda open development collaboration and the partners agreed to establishment of a web portal where all sorts of development information; on Agriculture, Health, education, energy, will be displayed so that anyone who needs the data can access it. It will espouse robust data collection, access and use techniques as well as a feedback mechanism that allow interface with the producers and users of information.

The conference also ended with a call to action to all stakeholders to fast track openness as a way of promoting transparency and accountability, thereby improving development outcomes:

The call was to:

(a) The Uganda government to:

  • review and repeal policies, regulations, legislation and practices that are restrictive or inconsistent with the above provisions and with regional and international open data standards and that interfere with access to information and development;
  • prioritise the development of capacity and awareness, among stakeholders to facilitate open development, access to and dissemination of data and information;
  • sign on to, and apply the principles of, the Open Government Partnership;
  • ensure transparency of, and access to, public information;
  • ensure that the process of data access involves a wide cross-section of stakeholders, including civil society organisations, private sector, and development partners;
  • develop and support partnerships with civil society organisations on specific open development initiative.

(b) Uganda’s development partners to:

  • Openly share information on funding availability and disbursements in line with the provisions of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI);
  • Promote collaboration and networking with civil society organisations and governments in promoting open development;
  • Recommit to adoption of the Paris principles on aid effectiveness and the Accra protocol;
  • Support efforts that are aimed at promoting transparency of all resources, including budgets, aid, resources about extractive industries, and about private flows.

(c) Civil society organisations in Uganda to:

  • Adopt transparency principles as stipulated in the Civil Society Quality Assurance Mechanism (QuAM);
  • Strengthen support and collaboration to develop a network of ogranisations that actively advocate for and implement open development;
  • Create and use clear feedback mechanisms of engagement in identifying and addressing citizens needs;
  • Facilitate community and or citizen documentation of evidence on what works (or not);
  • Facilitate partnerships with development partners and government;
  • Encourage the development of technologies and applications that innovatively engage citizens and promote community participation in governance and account ability;
  • Participate actively in positively influencing uptake of open data and open development policy and governance issues at national, regional and international level.

(d) The private sector, think-tanks and academia in Uganda to:

  • Encourage research and innovation creating applications that can promote Open development in Uganda through innovative applications; Create partnerships and collaborations in developing open data platforms;
  • Invest in the process of developing open development and open data processes;
  • Contribute to analysis of primary data for ease of access to citizens; and
  • Explore opportunities for making communication products accessible and at reason able cost to users, in particular communities.

In the spirit of the international right to know day, and in support of the above

proclamations, therefore, partners:

  1. Agreed to collaborate in an Open Development Initiative that brings together stake holders in data access, analysis, and use, as well as developers of applications;
  2. Reiterated the need for a multi stakeholder approach to open development building on previous and current experiences and expertise, to minimize duplicating efforts, promote effective resource utilization, and enhance coordinated partnerships; and
  3. Recognized that openness at the national, regional and global levels is essential for development, democratisation and empowerment.

For further information, Contact 
1. Beatrice Mugambe – Development Research and Training (DRT) 

2. Richard Ssewakiryanga – Uganda National NGO Forum 

3. Lillian Nalwoga – CIPESA 

4. Charles Lwanga-Ntale – Development Initiatives: 

Read the full statement here.

Phone tapping: Uganda Govt seeks 200bn

By Edris Kiggundu

The government is looking for Shs 205bn to purchase equipment and establish systems for the interception of communication and registration of simcards.

This request is contained in the ministerial policy statement for the Office of the Presidency for financial year 2012/2013. The money will be channelled through the Internal Security Organisation, which will work closely with the Office of the President. The statement, tabled before Parliament this week, neither gives details about the nature or type of equipment to be purchased nor a breakdown of how the money will be spent.

All the statement says is that the money will be used to “procure and acquire assorted classified communication equipment.”

The statement says the equipment was supposed to be purchased last year but it was not possible because of financial constraints.

How it works

In July 2010, Parliament passed a bill, seeking to authorise the tapping of telephones and other private communication for security purposes. President Museveni assented to it a couple of months later.  Now law, it provides for interception and monitoring of certain communication in the course of transmission. It also allows the monitoring of postal or any other related service or system.

The law stipulates that only a designated judge issues a warrant of interception if there is reasonable ground to believe that the offence might result into a threat to life. A warrant would also be issued if the judge believes that information to be gathered concerns an actual threat to national security, national economic interest, and/or threat to national interest involving the state’s international relations. A warrant shall be valid for only three months.

Reliable sources in intelligence told us yesterday that at the moment government has limited capacity to tap phones. Government, they added, uses equipment it procured from Libya in the early 1990s.

“What is done is to get a printout from the telecommunication companies whereby they can know that phone number X called Y,” one source told us.

Even then, in most cases, security agencies are not in position to know exactly what X told Y. The new equipment is, therefore, expected to bridge this gap. According to various internet sites, there are a number of ways a telephone conversation can be monitored. For instance, Wikipedia says, one of the parties may record the conversation either on a tape or solid-state recording device, or on a computer running call recording software.

The recording, whether overt or covert, may be started manually, automatically by detecting sound on the line (VOX), or automatically whenever the phone is off the hook. As for mobile phones, especially the 3G type, the same website points out that they are harder to monitor because they use digitally-encoded and compressed transmission.

However, they can be tapped with the cooperation of the phone company, something the government has done before. For instance, in the aftermath of the 2010 July bombings, security agencies working with a major telecom company, were able to track and arrest three suspects – Idris Magondu, 42, Hussein Hassan Agad, 27, and Muhammed Aden Addow, 25 – thanks a phone that had been abandoned at a bar in Makindye.

Using the serial number of the phone, investigators were able to discern records related to calls made or received on the phone. That’s how they got to know that the phone belonged or was at least one time frequently used by Hussein Hassan. The ministerial policy statement notes that regional threats of terrorism have since increased and so has subversion, espionage and politically motivated crime. Therefore, the equipment will help government curtail these vices.

Simon Mulongo, the Bubulo West lawmaker who doubles as Vice Chairman of Parliamentary committee on Internal Affairs, told The Observer that he supported government’s decision to intercept communication provided this was not abused. On the price of the equipment, Mulongo said: “It is something that Parliament will have to crosscheck to establish whether the figure is reasonable.”

This article was published by the The Observer newspaper on July 13, 2012.

East African countries put IT spending on back burner

By Edris Kisambira

Though East Africa as a region has been quick to adopt technology compared to other areas in Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda appear to have de-emphasized ICT in budget plans for the next 12 months.

The money allocated to different sectors by the governments of those nations, and the lack of mention of ICT in the spending blueprints for the coming year, seem to indicate that the countries are either slowing down investments in a sector they regard as key or are postponing further funding.

Uganda’s US$4.8 million ICT sector allocation is the lowest in the past three years, according to an analysis by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA). The budget blueprints were reviewed by finance ministers on June 15. Looking at the Uganda allocation, the funding amounts to only 0.13 percent of projected government expenditures over the next 12 months. Uganda had spent $7.1 million last year and $5.7 million the year before that.

Ugandan Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka said new technology was driving the country’s efforts to give more people access to financial- and business-related services, considering that telecom services like mobile money payments have registered more users today than commercial banks. Kiwanuka said the government, for example, will in the next 12 months establish a one-stop center to provide online registration services for the various licenses required to start a business.

Meanwhile the Rwanda government, taking notable strides in promoting ICT infrastructure investments and enabling usage by citizens in recent years, did not specifically provide for ICT spending for the next 12 months, and no explanation was given.

John Rwangombwa, Rwanda’s finance minister, said in the next 12 months, the government will help enhance operations of the Carnegie Mellon University in the country and the Kigali Techno Pole tech area to boost ICT for private sector development. Speaking in parliament on June 15, Rwangombwa reported completion of work on a number of investments in the past few years, including the national fiber-optic cable backbone, a wireless broadband system for the capital Kigali, a national data center and an embassy intranet.

Kenyan Finance Minister Robinson Njeru Githae did not say a lot in his budget speech as far as the ICT sector goes but allocated some $5.6 million for the purchase of computers for schools and removed import duty on computer software.

Tanzania, which has in the past allocated far less money in comparison to its neighbors, increased duty on mobile telephone airtime, taking it into a league that Uganda has long dominated, where telephone services are taxed steeply.

Tanzanian Finance Minister William Augustao Mgimwa announced a $2.5 million allocation to strengthen ICT “so as to improve access to various services including information, access to domestic and external market, revenue collection, health services, education, financial services, etc.”

Compared to Uganda’s allocation of $4.8 million and Kenya’s $5.6 million, the $2.5 million Tanzania allocated to the sector pales in comparison, given it also has been spending less in the recent past.

Commenting about the cutback in spending on ICT in Uganda, Godfrey Mutabazi, the executive director of industry regulator Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), said, “How do you expect the industry to grow when you are not investing back?”

Ashnah Kalemera, an analyst at CIPESA, said ICT is not a field that most governments in the East African region have great experience or competence in. “But also, ICT is a sector whose full benefit is yet to be fully appreciated by government bureaucrats, as indeed like most members of the public,” Kalemera said. “Its contribution is largely seen as indirect, and there is thus a need to have studies that show direct impacts of ICT on development if regional governments are to be convinced to significantly raise budgetary allocations to ICT.”

East Africa is a leader in adoption of mobile devices and, led by Kenya, in adoption of mobile money. Kenya’s teledensity is 71 percent, while both Tanzania and Uganda have passed the 50 percent mark. Millions across the region routinely use their mobile phones to make financial transactions, which in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda total up to no less than $1.4 billion per month for all the three countries, with Safaricom’s M-Pesa accounting for the bulk of that money.

This article was published by Computer World on July 16, 2012