Tag Archives: Open Data
By Lillian Nalwoga
Between March and July 2014, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) in partnership with the Northern Uganda Media Centre (NUMEC) launched a project to document service delivery failures as a result of donor aid cuts to the Peace Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP) in Northern Uganda.
Focusing on the districts of Gulu, Nwoya and Amuru, service delivery failures under the education, health and infrastructure sectors were documented through Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Shoddy works, lack of coordination among project implementers, incomplete projects and inadequate funds are some of the challenges affecting the success of the PRDP.
Launched in 2007 in consultation with development partners, the PRDP was set up to consolidate the state authority, rebuild and empower communities, revitalise the economy and promote peace building and reconciliation in post-conflict Northern Uganda. The plan covers 55 districts and 9 municipalities. Although implementation begun in 2009, the PRDP has been dogged by corruption scandals and inadequate information on progress. The second phase of the PRDP which began in July 2012 and is due to end in June 2015, has faced similar challenges culminating in the suspension of support from key donors as a result of misappropriation of funds by officials under the Office of the Prime Minister.
In the education sector, the CIPESA-NUMEC documentation found that one school – Awoonyim Primary School in Patiko Sub County Gulu district – is reported to have received funding for the construction of a teacher’s housing unit, two classroom blocks and supply of sixty desks in the PRDP of 2009/2010. However, during field visits it emerged that the classrooms were poorly constructed while the housing unit construction was abandoned midway by the contractor without any explanation to the school administration. In another case, a vehicle meant to assist the District Education Officer in monitoring school activities was never procured despite a budget allocation of 80 million Uganda Shillings (UGX) under the 2010/2011 financial year under the PRDP.
Under the health sector, Koro Abili Health Centre II and Purongo Health Centre II in Gulu and Nwoya districts were reported to have also been affected. Although an outpatient unit had successfully been built at the Koro Abili Health Centre II, it was under staffed and the center porter was acting as the administrator on behalf of the Assistant Nursing Officer. Meanwhile, the construction of a maternity ward worth UGX 80 million at Purongo Health Centre II had been abandoned midway by the contractor despite having been fully paid.
On the transport infrastructure front, the construction of the 70 kilometre (km) road linking Guru-Guru to Pabbo, a main entry in Lamogi Sub County in Amuru district, had been abandoned by the contractor. The road is impassible during the rainy season thus cutting off the communities from each other. The contractor had also not paid off locals who were employed during the construction. Atkinson Ojara, the Sub-County Chairman of Lamogi, attributed the road construction challenges to poor communication between sub-county officials.
The overall objective of the CIPESA and NUMEC partnership is to make Public Sector Information (PSI) more accessible and reusable by stakeholders such as citizens, civil society and the media in Northern Uganda. This involves repackaging information availing it online, in print and over radio,generating evidence on the impact of information access and use on transparency and accountability.
Other activities have included building ICT skills and knowledge for citizens and journalists to access and gainfully use open data and PSI to contribute to better service delivery; increasing interactions between citizens and leaders; and promoting greater access to PSI for citizens in Northern Uganda.
This work is supported by the Swedish Programme on ICTs in Developing Countries (SPIDER) and is part of the ICT4Democracy in East Africa project.
By Lillian Nalwoga
At the end of May, Finland hosted an international conference to discuss ways of improving eGovernment programmes. In particular, the conference attended by Government Chief Information Officers (CIO) and other officials from across the world reviewed the role of leadership in e-government development.
While noting immense advancements in eGovernment, particularly in the European Union (EU), delegates at the ‘Leading the way in eGovernment development’ conference highlighted numerous factors hampering effective implementation of eGovernment strategies both in developed and developing countries.
According to a May 28, 2013 European Commission press release (see: ‘eGovernment improving but citizens ask for more), almost half (46%) of EU citizens go online to look for a job, use the public library, file a tax return, register a birth, apply for a passport or use other eGovernment services. In addition, 80% indicated that using online public services saves them time, while 76% like the flexibility of the services and 62% said they save money when they use e-services.
Despite these positives, European governments still believe that public perception of governments and public institutions is still low and likely to worsen, stated the press release. Factors cited as constraining eGovernment included: inadequate capacity by some CIOs to implement eGovernment strategies, inadequate trust citizens have in some eGovernment systems, ineffective technological systems, inadequate open, transparent and collaborative efforts by governments, and limited availability of cross-border eGovernment services. According to the UN eGovernment survey 2012, for Africa and other developing regions, the above realities, in addition to the lack of e-infrastructure, mean that eGovernment remains at an elementary level.
Paul Timmers, Director of the Sustainable and Secure Society Directorate, DG Connect at the European Commission, noted that these challenges can be solved by governments’ smart use of new Information Communication Technologies (ICTs), adopting new processes and skills sets. In agreement, Ms. Henna Virkkunen, Finland’s Public Administration Minister, noted that ICT is a key element of every government task and new ways of using latest technology like cloud computing must be explored. Nonetheless, she cautioned that ICT should not be an end itself. Governments need to find ways to use inclusive technology in a manner that benefits them and their citizens, as citizens are demanding for better, user friendly and practical e-services.
In addition, governments also need to include third party users in the design, development and delivery of e-government services such as open data. Mr. Timmers remarked that the “market value of Open Public Data” in EU countries alone is estimated at 140 billion Euros. According to the Open Government Partnership, the market value of Open data can be realised in three main channels – business innovation (making scientific research works more accessible hence driving innovation capacity in fields such as pharmaceutics and renewables); business creation (creating a new market as business can build new innovative applications and eServices based government data); and business efficiency (business and public bodies contributing to ‘smart’ growth by becoming more efficient in tackling citizens’ and customers’ needs by gaining precise and completer insight into citizens’ and customers’ preferences and needs).
But how do governments build positive perceptions of their citizens toward eGovernment? Ian Goldin, Director of the Oxford Martin School and Professor of Globalisation and Development at Oxford University, stated that in order to achieve this, governments have to build trust in the systems; address user privacy concerns; play a stronger role in regulatory frameworks; involve youth and the elderly in digital government and invest in latest technologies as older ones become difficult to work with.
Besides advancements in eGovernment, conference delegates discussed global related concerns such as openness and freedom on the internet as well as data protection. They called for immediate government attention to protecting citizens’ rights while considering the opportunities and benefits of private sector companies that provide online services in the “networked” era where multi-national players like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Yahoo have their own rules on how to handle customer data.
Further, the conference called for common efforts in capacity building for e-government development; sharing best practices to learn from each other; strengthening ethical behaviour in governments to pave way for a culture of openness and the adoption of political will in practicing openness. Other suggestions included the EU issuing directives to all its member countries to open up public data as well as the UN adopting a global framework on promoting openness.
The conference, which took place on May 28–30, 2013, was organised by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and Finland’s Ministry of Finance in collaboration with the European Commission.
More information about the conference is available here.
Open Data for improved resource allocation and effective service delivery in Uganda was the theme of the latest Africa Counts roundtable held in Kampala, Uganda on March 13, 2013. Organised by Development Initiatives (DI) and Development Research and Training (DRT), it was the fourth in a series of forums aimed at increasing opportunities for “cross-country, cross-sector and multi-stakeholder” engagements that involve citizens in decision making processes on development issues across East Africa.
The forum explored avenues through which open data can be leveraged to influence resource allocation and effective delivery of public goods and considered potential challenges to the operationalisation of an open development platform in Uganda and possible means of dealing with them. Furthermore, it argued the case for the inclusion of ‘open data’ as a stand alone goal in the post-MDG agenda.
DRT’s Paul Onapa commended the government of Uganda for having in place constitutional guarantees to the right to information, as well the Access to Information Act of 2005.
However, he said, despite having a robust legal framework, access to public information remained limited. “Public data and information management schemes are still largely paper based (available in bulky hard copies and/or online PDFs) and largely aggregated. In addition, this information is scattered in various government departments and only available to a few with adequate contacts,” said Onapa.
He added that open data, with its foundation modelled on digital technology and the internet, offers an opportunity to create a “one-stop portal/platform” where citizens can access, download, and analyse information on matters that affect them, particularly basic services and issues of value for money. With this knowledge, citizens can then meaningfully participate in improving public services.
His remarks were supported by Al Kags of the Open Institute, who stated that a “switched on, participating citizenry” is key to the success of open data as a mechanism for transparency and accountability. The Open Institute has been involved in open government initiatives in Kenya, such as Code4Kenya and africaopendata.org.
Panellists Professor Abel Rwendeire of the National Planning Authority and Margaret Kakande from the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development) acknowledged the potential of open data to ensure effective resource allocation and service delivery. However, Kakande pointed to a number of challenges being faced by government bodies in embracing open data, such as a lack of legal frameworks on data disclosures.
Edward Ssenyange of the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) and CIPESA’s Lillian Nalwoga highlighted ways in which citizens’ participation in open data initiatives can be enhanced: placing emphasis on capacity building in the use of ICTs, robust multi-stakeholder engagement (particularly with mainstream media), advocating for key government institutions’ commitment to openness, authenticity and relevance of data.
Currently, a civil society led Open Data platform has been created by the Uganda Open Development Partnership (see OpenDev.Ug and Data.Ug). A key objective is to share development information – on agriculture, education, health, roads sub-sector, etc – and on financial flows including all resource flows to Uganda (aid, domestic revenues, humanitarian assistance, remittances, etc). Making the information accessible and useable by various stakeholders – citizens, government officials, donors, civil society, media and private sector is another objective. CIPESA and DRT are among the founders of the Uganda Open Development Partnership.
Previous Africa Counts roundtable forums include The prospects of East Africa’s natural resource finds (July 2012, Nairobi, Kenya), The state of social protection in East Africa (October 2012, Nairobi, Kenya) and Progress in the Kenya Open Data Initiative (November 2012, Nairobi Kenya).
Outcomes of the Kampala forum will be used to develop targeted messages to inform policy and to stimulate public demand for openness in the conduct of data/information sharing in Uganda.