Category Archives: Resources

In Search of Local Knowledge on ICTS in Africa

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By reviewing and comparing literature on the role of ICTs in statebuilding and peacebuilding in Africa, with a particular focus on neighboring Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia, this paper examines whether the claims of the transformative power of ICTs are backed by evidence and whether local knowledge – e.g., traditional mechanisms for conflict resolution – is taken into consideration by ICT-based initiatives. Several key findings emerged, including: 1) empirical evidence on the successful use of ICTs to promote peacebuilding and statebuilding is thin; 2) few differences exist between scholarship emanating from the Global North and from Africa; and 3) the literature exhibits a simplistic assumption that ICTs will drive democratic development without sufficient consideration of how ICTs are actually used by the public.

Download the full paper here.

Citizens’ Use of ICTs in Social Accountability in Uganda’s Kasese District

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By Ashnah Kalemera

The eSociety Resource Centre Kasese is a community centre hosted by the Kasese district local government in Western Uganda. It acts as a one stop point for local government officials and community members to access various Information Communication and Technology (ICT) tools and services. The centre provides ICT training programmes, hosts an information library, runs an online discussion group, maintains a news blog and social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube). These are all aimed at enhancing citizens’ competence in monitoring government services, promoting accountability, civic participation and good governance in Kasese District.

Since 2011, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) has provided support to the centre, including computer equipment, internet subscription, centre maintenance and support to an ICT training officer. The support is in the context of CIPESA’s project which seeks to promote citizens’ use of ICTs for improved governance partly through grassroots public ICT access centres. The other partner centres in the project are the Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC) and the Busoga Rural Open Source and Development Initiative (BROSDI).

The eSociety centre hosts an average of 250 users per month, mainly local citizens, journalists and local government officials. CIPESA has offered media and district officials training  in citizen journalism, geocoding methodology and data collection, information access and dissemination.

During the course of the CIPESA-eSociety partnership in 2014, we conducted a poll survey amongst a random selection of the centre users to assess their capacity and proficiency in demanding for better services, and participation in governance processes.

The results of the poll survey

On the frequency of internet access through mobile (phone and tablet), and desktop/laptop computer at home, work, internet café or the eSociety Centre 34% indicated daily use of the internet and 33% weekly.

Figure 1_Frequency of using the internet

Figure 1: Frequency of using the internet

When queried on the frequency of using ICTs to engage with leaders, 28% of respondents said they contacted their local leaders at least once a week, while 22% contacted them daily. Another 22% admitted to never contacting their local leaders.

Discussing a governance/service delivery issue was the reason most people (77%) contacted their local leaders. Second was following up on election manifestos (16%). Only 11% contacted their leaders to request for district budget information.

Figure 2: Frequency of contacting local leaders using ICT

Figure 2: Frequency of contacting local leaders using ICT

Email was the most commonly used means of contacting leaders at 72%. None of the respondents used text messages to contact their leaders despite widespread mobile phone ownership. Also, with an increasing number of people, including leaders, using social media, the platform was only used by 11% of respondents to contact leaders.

Table 1: ICT tools used to contact local leaders

Tool Yes No
Sending an email 72% 28%
Using social media (Facebook, Twitter) 11% 89%
Telephone call 50% 50%
Text message 0 100%
Other Physically/ Word of mouth

For 89% of respondents, drugs shortages in local hospitals/health centres was the most pressing community need. This was followed by corruption and poor road infrastructure.

 Table 2: Pressing service delivery issues in Kasese district

Issue Percentage of respondents
Drugs shortages in hospitals/health centres 89%
Corrupt officials 83%
Poor state of roads 83%
Lack of clean water 78%
Poor state of hospitals (facilities and standards) 72%
Low staff levels (doctors and teachers) 72%
Poor state of schools (facilities) 67%

Challenges to using ICTs

The most widely cited challenge to the use of ICT tools in accessing service delivery information in the local community was the high cost of accessing and using tools – cited by 78% of survey participants. Another common challenge was the lack of immediate feedback  from the responsible officials (17%). Other challenges cited by respondents included unreliable electricity supply, poor network coverage (voice and data), and the long distances that citizens have to travel to access ICT centres/services.

The poll results indicate a good level of citizen engagement and awareness of service delivery issues in Kasese District. They further show that free ICT services provision for the centre’s users has enhanced service delivery monitoring and citizen participation in governance through ICTs in Kasese district. However, there remains need to continue identifying emerging ICT participative practices and needs at the centre, and building citizens’ capacity to effectively engage with their leaders for improved service delivery and governance. There is also the need for more leaders to more proactively engage with the ICT tools that citizens are increasingly utilising to reach them.

CIPESA’s iParticipate Uganda project is part  of the ICT4Democracy in East Africa Network which is supported by the Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions (Spider) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

Featured image from: http://rwecovoice.blogspot.com/2010_11_21_archive.html

Colonial Laws Stunt Internet Freedoms in Tanzania

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By Juliet Nanfuka

Tanzania’s port of Dar es Saalam is one of the landing stations of the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy). However, the country’s internet penetration rate is relatively similar to those of its landlocked neighbours such as Uganda and Rwanda. A total of 9.3 million people of the population of 45 million accessed the internet in 2013. The country has a teledensity of 61 phones per 100 inhabitants, which translates into 27.6 million mobile subscriptions.

In a fast changing socio-political, economic and technological landscape, the extent of freedoms enjoyed by Tanzanian citizens both online and offline is being stunted by government practices and colonial laws.

In June 2014, British owned telecommunications company Vodafone, which operates locally as Vodacom, disclosed that in 2013 the government of Tanzania made 98,765 requests for local subscribers’ data. According to the firm’s Law Enforcement Disclosure Report, this was the highest number of government requests made among the eight African countries where it operates. It should be noted, however, that Vodafone could not publish the requests made by Kenya and South Africa due to legal restrictions.

The company also disclosed that it had not implemented the technical requirements necessary to enable lawful interception of communications in Tanzania and had not received any demands from authorities for interception assistance. However, the country’s Prevention of Terrorism Act 2002 requires service providers to “intercept and retain a specified communication or communications of a specified description received or transmitted, or about to be received or transmitted by that communication service provider” for purposes of obtaining evidence of commission of terrorism-related offences. This law permits the admission in court of information sourced through interception.

While the 2002 law makes it permissible for the state to snoop on citizens’ communications, other laws dating as far back as the mid 1970s constrain transparency and citizens’ access to information. The National Security Act of 1970 makes it a punishable offence to investigate, obtain, possess, comment on, pass on or publish any document or information which the government considers classified.

Another Act dating from the same era is the 1976 Newspaper Act, which gives authorities powers to “exclude” any newspaper from operation in the “interest of the public”. In a 2012 case, the MwanaHalisi newspaper was banned indefinitely on allegations of publishing two seditious stories claiming that state intelligence officers were involved in the kidnapping and torture of a national strike leader. More recently in 2013, two other publications – the Mwananchi and the Mtanzania- were banned both offline and online for two weeks and three months respectively on instructions of the Directorate of Information. This followed accusations of publishing content aimed at provoking discontent between the government and public.

Although the country’s constitution provides for access to information, freedom of expression and assembly and the right to privacy, the existence of laws that sternly limit publication of government information and support interception of communications raises concern over the country’s online freedoms credentials. Besides, the absence of data protection and privacy laws to safeguard citizens’ information collected as part of mandatory subscriber registration makes online users’ vulnerable to state interference.

Nonetheless, recent government announcements of the drafting of three laws – the Cyber security Act, Data Protection Act and the Electronic Transacting Act – come as a positive step for the country in fighting cybercrime and promoting internet freedoms.

While these steps indicate some appreciation of the complex relationship between data protection and online freedom, there remain many uncertainties about free speech and press freedom in the face of interception, draconian and unclear laws, and harsh penalties – especially with vague state transparency.

Read more on the practices, legislative environment, and threats to online freedoms in Tanzania in the 2014 State of Internet Freedom in Tanzania Report prepared by CIPESA.