The internet and indeed social media plays a key role in improving communication between citizens, government-to-government interactions and at government-to-citizen level. Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and MySpace, has the potential to improve governance and democracy practices.
Accordingly, the Uganda government through the National Information Technology Authority Uganda (NITA-U) has developed guidelines to “to facilitate secure usage of social media (Facebook and Twitter etc.) for efficient exchange of information across Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as well as improving effectiveness of communication, sharing of information and open engagement and discussions with the public.”
On November 28, 2013 Leonah Mbonimpa, the Corporate Communications Officer at NITA-U spoke to CIPESA about the thinking behind the guidelines.
Q. What is the background to developing these guidelines?
A. Government has decided to utilise new channels to communication such as social media to communicate to citizens and give timely responses to emerging issues. In this vein, NITA-U was requested to develop guidelines to help government agencies to embrace social media while maintaining the same level of decorum as with traditional media.
Q. Why did the government find it necessary to draw up these guidelines?
A. Traditionally, Government agencies have been communicating through accounting officers such as Permanent Secretaries. The advent of new media channels and the quest for speedy provision of information has necessitated the shift from traditional approaches to more flexible ways of communicating, [such as] using social media. Given that social media is relatively new and comes with a higher degree of responsibility when communicating, it was necessary to provide guidelines for government agencies to ensure that we communicate [appropriately].
Q. What do the guidelines intend to achieve?
A. They intend to achieve uniformity in communicating and ensure appropriate consultation is made before posting government communication online.
Q. How is users’ privacy protected in these guidelines?
A. The guidelines do not infringe on user privacy. They only seek to standardise the government’s approach to communicating to citizens online.
Q. Are there other initiatives in place or under development by government to protect freedom of expression and privacy online.
A. NITA-U is in preparatory stages of drafting a Data Privacy bill which will eventually be enacted into law to comprehensively address privacy issues.
Further details about the guidelines are available here http://www.nita.go.ug/index.php/features/315-socialmediguide