Tag Archives: ICT4Democracy

ICT4Democracy in East Africa Network to Participate in Inaugural Buntwani Conference

Buntwani Logo

The ICT4Democracy in East Africa network will participate in the first Buntwani conference scheduled to take place October 7–8, 2014 in Nairobi, Kenya. The conference is aimed at exploring the potential of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in strengthening citizen engagement and participation in Africa.

The network is made up of organisations pursuing projects that are tackling issues such as corruption, service delivery, respect for human rights, and civic engagement in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The shared goal is to collaboratively leverage on ICTs as tools for promoting good governance and democratisation.

As the use of ICTs in East Africa grows steadily, driven by the availability of cheaper smart phones and the popularity of social media platforms, so does the opportunity through which to utilise these very tools and platforms as avenues for transparency and accountability in governance. In Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, mobile access rates have grown to beyond 50% of the population – with Kenya reporting a 78% mobile access rate, Uganda (52%) and Tanzania (64%). Internet use has concurrently risen. Internet access in Kenya currently stands at 53% of the population, while Uganda stands at 22% and Tanzania (11%). It is upon this foundation that the ICT4Democrarcy in East Africa network pursues its work leveraging on tools including mobile messaging (short message services), FM radio, social media like Facebook and Twitter, toll free call centres, crowd sourcing platforms as well as direct community engagement.

The network is comprised of seven partner organisations including the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET), Transparency International Uganda (TIU), iHub Research (Kenya), the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (Tanzania), the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) and Toro Development Network (ToroDev). CIPESA is the regional coordinator of the network which is supported by the Swedish Programme for ICTs in Developing Regions (Spider) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

Network partners primarily work with grassroots based organisations, local governments, policy makers, voluntary social accountability committees (VSACs), the tech community, civil society organisations and media in the use and promotion of ICTs in governance.

At Buntwani, the network partners will be sharing their experiences in sessions on technology for transparency, avenues for citizen participation, and the motivations and demotivations of using ICT tools for governance, among others.

Network project summaries

Partner ICT4Democracy in East Africa Project activity
CIPESA(ICT4Dem regional coordinator) The ‘iParticipate Uganda’ project aims to catalyse the role of ICTs in citizens’ engagement and participation in governance. The project documents and publicises open governance, builds the capacity of media, public officials, citizens and other duty bearers in the use of ICTs for democracy, provides support to three grassroots ICT access centres and researches the ICT knowledge, practices and attitudes of citizens in Uganda. CIPESA is also undertaking an analysis of ICT legal and regulatory frameworks in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
CHRAGG CHRAGG has implemented a toll free Short Messaging Services (SMS) platform in Tanzania for citizens to utilise their mobile phones to lodge human rights violations and complaints. The project has targeted women and youth in its campaign which is also increasing awareness of human rights in the country. The campaign to popularise the SMS system includes radio talk shows, prime time TV and radio jingles, distribution of flyers, TV adverts as well as visual and performance acts through dance troupes.
iHub iHub is exploring the interaction between governments and citizens through ICT tools in support of civic participation, service delivery, transparency, accountability and access to information. The insights are being sought in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania through a series of field studies, focus group discussions, surveys, interactions with developers and literature reviews. The results of this work are expected to aid the implementation of initiatives that use ICT to monitor public services delivery, fight corruption and improve public sector transparency.
KHRC The mentoring of grassroots based Human Rights Networks (HURINETS) in Kenya is key to KHRC’s project. The organisation is partnering with 10 HURINETS to increase their capacities to effectively use ICTs such as crowdmaps, blogs, Twitter and Facebook in their advocacy work and to increase their role in promoting human rights.
TIU A toll free call centre forms the foundation of TIU’s Lira based project. Voluntary Accountability Committees (VACs) are playing the key role of monitoring health service delivery at health centres in remote areas in Lira and Oyam district in Northern Uganda. The project empowers citizens to demand social accountability of health workers in the region. TIU verifies reports of health service delivery challenges from VACs and the public received at the call centre through field visits before raising them with the respective authorities for remedial action.
ToroDev Working with 15 rural advocacy forums and the Rwenzori Journalists Forum, ToroDev is motivating citizen activism in Western Uganda in pursuit of transparency and accountability monitoring. Local FM radio stations are used   as hubs for information and   knowledge sharing sourced   through the internet   (social media) and   mobile phones (SMS) during which there is active engagement with local leaders and advocacy forum members on critical community issues.
WOUGNET Northern Uganda is the focus area of this project which empowers the local communities in five districts (Apac, Kole, Oyam, Gulu and Amuru) to monitor good governance and service delivery through the use of radio stations, digital cameras, mobile phones, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and the crowd sourcing platform Ushahidi. The project primarily targets women in Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and women groups.

The Buntwani conference (www.buntwani.org) will see the gathering of government officials, civil society organisations, the private sector, media and other sectoral players to share knowledge and information relating to citizen engagement and participation through ICTs. The conference will also provide a platform for technology innovators to showcase tools that are available for strengthening citizen engagement and participation as well as improvement of service delivery, and discuss with various stakeholders the strategies that have been used to make these tools a success.

Connect with ICT4Democract in East Africa online

Web: www.ict4democracy.org

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ict4dem

Twitter: @ICT4DemEA

Email: info@ict4democracy.org

 

About CIPESA: ICT4Democracy in East Africa Regional Coordinator

The Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) is one of two centres established in 2004 under the Catalysing Access to Information and Communications Technologies in Africa (CATIA) initiative, which was mainly funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID). CIPESA focuses on decision-making that facilitates the use of ICT in support of development and good governance. Besides the ICT4Democracy in East Africa project, CIPESA is spearheading the Open Net in Africa project (www.opennetafrica.org) to promote internet freedoms in a number of African countries, including Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. Under the Ask Your Government Uganda initiative (www.askyourgov.ug), CIPESA, in partnership with the Office of Prime Minister (OPM) Uganda and the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) promotes citizen’s right to access to information.

Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA)Plot 156-158 Mutesa II Road, Ntinda, P.O. Box 4365, Kampala, Uganda;

Tel: +256 414 289 502 | Email: programmes@cipesa.org

Website: www.cipesa.org | Facebook: www.facebook.com/cipesaug |Twitter: @cipesaug

 

Can the media help save the Peace Recovery and Development Project?

A participant listens intently during discussion on PRDP reporting

By Emily Mullins

In early July, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) met with members of the Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC) to discuss the Peace Recovery and Development Project (PRDP). First launched in October 2007, the PRDP sought to improve livelihoods in post-conflict Northern Uganda. Its stated objectives were to consolidate state authority, rebuild and empower communities, revitalise the economy, and to promote peace and reconciliation.

Individual projects to achieve these objectives included enhancing the rule of law, providing equipment and logistics to strengthen law enforcement, build and staff health centres, schools, and building roads, bridges, and market facilities. The plan also claimed that in the process, it would prioritise according to the concerns of the communities within which it was working.

To date, many feel that the ambitious program has not lived up to its hype and has instead been in a state of ongoing corruption and mismanagement of funds. NUMEC members presented cases of mismanagement and poor oversight, leading to devastating results. In particular, many of the contractors who were awarded construction projects implemented sub-standard work, with structures and roads crumbling after only a few years of use. NUMEC cited one example of a health centre that functioned as no more than an abandoned home once winds blew off the poorly constructed roof.

NUMEC trains journalists on how to track and report the progress of the PRDP in Northern Uganda.

NUMEC trains journalists on how to track and report the progress of the PRDP in Northern Uganda.

In other cases, contractors simply did not finish the project, cashing their cheques and abandoning the communities with half-built structures. In one such case, teachers at a PRDP-funded school are still living in overcrowded and poorly sanitised conditions, four years after permanent lodging was supposed to be built. One problem is that there is little or no accountability and oversight on these projects.

Another problem has been that of visibility. One reporter noted that citizens have difficulties knowing which programs are part of PRDP and which are non-PRDP development initiatives. The PRDP does not adequately advertise its proposed projects, so citizens may not even be aware that they should be expecting a service. When citizens are unaware of what promises the government is making to them, they have no reason to be upset when said services never appear. It leaves the government unaccountable for its actions, and wastes public funds. Without transparency on proposed projects, the people have no way to demand accountability.

The increased pushes for open data have, however, helped. For example, the PRDP has a website on which the Office of the Prime Minister – the initiative’s coordinating office – publishes budgets, workplans and reports. However, the danger in such pushes for “transparency” is that it can allow for complacency. Having marked the check box for open data, the government can avoid true accountability. Not all citizens posses the technological skills or resources to access the data and understand it. For many, the information might as well be in a different language, and in the most rural areas, where use of the English language is not as widespread, it is.

This is where the media can come in. The media serves as an intermediary between the government and the people. When the government provides the information, the media ought to have the tools to interpret the data, and turn it into something meaningful for its consumers. While rural populations may not have consistent access to the internet or social media, journalists have the opportunity to take the information from such sources and transmit it through more ubiquitous technology, such as print and radio.

With the availability of new technologies like geospatial analysis and infographics come new opportunities to tell simple, yet powerful visual stories with the data. Providing citizens with information empowers them to make better demands from public officials. As one journalist noted, “even if major news sources do not want to pick up a story, if the social media and grassroots sources generate enough buzz, they force the story to the forefront.”

This is not to say that the media should only focus on watchdogging. Reports on failures or mismanagements are important, but if the media only concentrates on the negative surrounding PRDP, it risks disengaging the public. For the public to be actively engaged, it needs to believe in the capacity for PRDP to succeed, and it especially needs to believe that its voice will be heard and that administrators will be responsive to demands. This necessitates, then, that the media seek out and also report on success stories. A hope for improvement is just as necessary to transparency as the recognition of failures.

The PRDP has the potential to help shape Northern Uganda’s recovery process, but it requires diligence from the government, the media, and citizens. It is within the power of citizens to force accountability from the government, but only if they have the right information. This is where the media can make a difference: by taking the data provided by the government, and making it relevant for the people, the media can keep the public eye on PRDP projects, both for its success and its shortcomings. The tools are there, it is only a matter of using them.

Members of NUMEC received training on the use of geospatial analysis tool, ArcGIS carried out by AidData Summer Fellow Emily Mullins who was stationed at CIPESA during June – August 2014. She holds a Masters in International Affairs from the George Bush School at the Texas A&M University, USA.

SMS System Boosts Reporting of Human Rights Abuses in Tanzania

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Growing the capacity of citizens and civic groups including human rights networks to use Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to foster free speech, human rights, access to information and open governance is one of the objectives of the ICT4Democracy in East Africa Network. Since April 2014, the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG) in Tanzania has conducted a campaign to raise awareness about the SMS for Human Rights system throughout Tanzania.

The system, which was launched on Human Rights Day in December 2012, has made it easier for citizens to report human rights violations to the Commission. In 2013, a total of 173,493 complaints were received through the system. Since then, the number of complaints filed with the Commission has averaged more than 100 per week compared to 10 per week prior to the system’s installation.

Given that CHRAGG has only four regional offices to cover a large country, the system has reduced the amount of time, inconvenience and cost to citizens for submitting complaints and following up on case progress, particularly for those in rural areas. The electronic case handling system has also eased the work of investigators by reducing their travel burden and enabling more efficient evidence gathering. Besides text message, the platform allows for video and image capabilities for complainants and informers.

The SMS for Human Rights System is a mobile phone based Complaints Handling Management Information System aimed at expanding CHRAGG’s case handling and tracking. An individual is able to file a complaint by texting the word ‘REPORT’ or ‘TAARIFA’ to the toll free number:  +255 (0) 754 460 259. The individual receives a text message confirming receipt of the complaint. Thereafter, a follow up phone call is made by investigators at the Commission to obtain further information, authenticate the report and assign the individual a reference number. The same number can be used to track the progress of a complaint by texting the word ‘STATUS’ followed by the reference number.

However, although many complaints are received through the system, many citizens, particularly on the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar, were not aware of its existence.  With an estimated population of 45 million people, Tanzania has about 28 million mobile phone subscriptions representing a teledensity of 61 phones per 100 inhabitants.

The system’s awareness campaign launch in Zanzibar in April was officiated by CHRAGG’s Commissioner Zahor Kharmis. CHRAGG’s Director of Human Rights Francis Nzuki and Wilfred Warioba, the Head of Management Information System Unit demonstrated how the system works and fielded questions from the attendees who included journalists, representatives from civil society organisations and ordinary citizens.

The event was televised live on Television Zanzibar (TVZ) and broadcast on Coconut FM radio station. It was also featured on Zanzibar Broadcasting TV and Radio, Independent TV, Radio Coconut, Radio Chuchu, Radio Hits, Radio Zenj, Radio Alnoor and two local print newspapers.

Since the launch, two public awareness meetings have been held in the North Unguja and Urban West regions of Zanzibar island. Furthermore, five similar events have been held in Mtwara, KilwaKivinje, Pwani and Dar es Salaam regions on the mainland.

In addition to the meetings, over four million print leaflets have been distributed encouraging citizens to seek redress for human rights violations particularly in the areas of poor service delivery, police brutality, corruption and employment rights.

The awareness raising campaign is expected to cover at least 18 more regions in the coming months. It is expected to incorporate nationwide TV and radio talk shows as well as social media as part of its outreach campaign.

Established in 2001 in fulfillment of Tanzania’s national constitution, CHRAGG plays the dual role of an ombudsman and a human rights commission for the protection and promotion of human rights as well as good governance.

CHRAGG is a member of the ICT4Democracy in East Africa Network whose work is supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the Swedish Programme for ICT in Developing Regions (Spider). The network is coordinated by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA).