Category Archives: Reports

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

esociety resource centre1

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

Exploring The State of Internet Freedom in Africa

Untitled

What is the price of security? Should it be your online freedom? 

By Juliet Nanfuka

Where do human rights and online rights meet? Is there a clash between online freedom and human rights? Is there room for self-regulation? These are some of the questions that a recently concluded online discussions report on Internet freedom in Africa explores.

Participants from Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria used online platforms to discuss these issues over a four week period at the end of 2013.

A key theme that came out of the report is the recognition of the increased numbers of internet users across the continent and parallel to this, increased measures taken by governments on surveillance of citizens. This, in turn, has brought to the fore many questions about freedom of expression and privacy.

Many countries are faced with contradictory policies when it comes to freedom of expression especially when it is placed alongside national security and stability. As a result, freedom of expression is threatened by restrictive legal measures that infringe on the access and sharing of information. In addition to these are the legal permissions granted to governments with regards to accessing information about users. Requests from African governments, although few, appear to be politically motivated according to the Google Transparency Reports.

In light of this, a participant asked a key question that also raises concerns about censorship, “How much can you restrict if those with no restriction can interact with and pass on information to the restricted using alternative methods of communication?” This led to the recognition of the conflict that exists between online freedom of expression and the state. Such was seen in the 2011 politically motivated ‘Walk to Work’ protests in Uganda in which the national communications regulatory authority, the Uganda Communications Commission, instructed ISPs to block access to social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook for 24 hours. More on this can be found here Internet Freedom in Africa Under Threat.

The report, prepared by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) in partnership with Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) can be downloaded here.

Study Shows Uganda is Ready to Implement Open Government Data

open-government-data

A new study conducted by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) and the Association for Progressive Communications shows that Uganda is ready to implement a national programme of Open Government Data but success will not come easy.

Why should Uganda open up government data (OGD)? Because implementing OGD has been proven to increase transparency in the conduct of public affairs, undercut corruption, enable citizens to reuse information to deliver improved products and services; and leads to improvements in the delivery of education, health and water to citizens.

Conducted between January and April 2012, the study explored the political willingness, public administration readiness, and civil society interest in OGD. The study’s overall objective was to recommend actions needed for the country to implement OGD and move to openness levels that countries such as those grouped under the Open Government Partnership are working to attain.

The study found that some Ugandan institutions are performing well as far as making public their data and information is concerned. Furthermore, the legal and policy environment, infrastructure, and appropriate human resources are in place. However, with no clear structures, data collection guidelines and tools, the quality of data and its output is limited.

At the top leadership, it was evident that whereas there was willingness to open up government data, this was yet to translate into clear and total commitment. At the middle level, there existed the competence to implement OGD, but the lack of clear goodwill at the Executive level was an impediment.

Fear of the negative effects that the opening up of government data and information might have was noted as a bottleneck. With regard to competence to re-use the data by the public and private sectors, it was evident that there was substantial capacity to use and re-use the open data.

The study made a number of recommendations, one of the most important being the call on government to fully commit to open government. The commitment at the top executive level will pave the way for a number of opportunities for government, private and public sectors.

Besides, there is need to task a government body, preferably the National Information Technology Authority –Uganda (NITA-U), as the in-charge of championing OGD in the country There is also need for awareness creation for public officers, citizens, and private sector on the benefits of OGD. On the whole, it was recognised that a number of initiatives have been running but without effective coordination and direction. It is imperative therefore that leadership is established to champion OGD in a structured and coordinated manner.

The findings of the study will form the basis of advocacy, awareness raising, and network building of CIPESA’s wider campaign in promoting open governance in Uganda and the use of ICTs in democracy and governance.

The study was conducted in the context of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) Action Research Network, a project supported by the International Development Research Centre of Canada (IDRC).

Download the full report here.

See also citizen’s perceptions on open government data and Q&A with the research coordinator.