Privacy & Protection: Do Ugandans Care What Happens to Their Data?

By Neema Iyer |

Let’s be honest.

When was the last time you read the “Terms and Conditions” before you signed up for a new service online?

We don’t blame you. It’s easy to get lost in the legal jargon.

But do you know what happens to your personal data every time you click on “I have agreed to terms and conditions”? Did you know at the mere click to accept, you could have given a way a portion of your vital information and put your data privacy in absolute jeopardy?

Today, it’s hard to raise the issue of data privacy without putting a thought on the recent Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal that made many people realize the power of data. Even with as much information spewed out explaining what the scandal was about, very few took a note to learn from.

A recent allegation from the Cambridge Analytica scandal pins the Uhuru Kenyatta presidential campaign to have employed social media surveillance results to target campaign messages to different profiles of voters. This was possible because Facebook monitors your social media activity and can predict your behavior from that, hence such information is used to target messages that speak to your interests and emotions to sway major decisions such as election outcomes. This isn’t just happening on our doorsteps, allegations claim similar outcomes in the United States and the UK.

The EU revised as much on data privacy and protection in Europe and promised to give users more power over their data. While Europe seems to take quick action, down in Uganda and Africa at large, we continue to grapple with weak data privacy and protection laws, a citizenry that is not well-informed on data privacy, a delay in passing necessary bills and weak implementation processes. Unfortunately, a majority of African countries lack the necessary mechanisms for the inclusive participation of citizens and other stakeholders in the processes of formulating the very laws on internet and digital rights that directly affect them.

Do we care about Data Privacy and Protection?

In December 2017, Unwanted Witness, an activists group petitioned the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) to compel Parliament to speed up the enactment of privacy and data protection law.

They argued that without a governing law, citizens’ personal data is exposed to abuse without collection and protection safeguards. They further asked UHRC to prioritize privacy and recognize it as a fundamental right under attack in the country. However, to date, we are yet to see significant action taken to build an informed citizenry on their digital rights and to provide appropriate protections.

When talk about data arises, many are not really willing to delve further into the ethics surrounding the topic. This can and will still be attributed to the high illiteracy levels in the country and because many don’t know what data is or how valuable it might be on the long run, they will give it away easily. Funny as it may sound, a majority internet users think ‘data’ is the a term tied to the internet bundles that the ISPs provide and it’s that school of thought that has stuck with them. Whether their data gets in the hands of the wrong or the right people, it’s the least of their concerns.

Data Protection basically means to ensure the right to privacy, respect to confidentiality principles in various relations such as doctor patient, employer-employee and service providers with their clients generally.

Did you know that privacy is your human right?

The right to privacy refers to the concept that one’s personal information is protected from public scrutiny. It is essentially, your right to be left alone. Privacy is a core aspect of human dignity and values such as freedom of association and freedom of speech.

One would wonder, even with the data privacy breaches, are there really laws in place to curb and punish those that are misusing people’s data and evading on their privacy or we are simply looking while our data gets tampered with and is easily handed to the wrong hands.

Are there Laws in Place?

Yes! There is a Ugandan Data Protection and Privacy Bill that was tabled before parliament in 2015 and although the Bill needs to be revised and aligned better with human rights provisions, comments have been raised on the need to balance civil liberties, national security and data protection and privacy.

According to a paper published a couple of years ago by Dr Ronald Kakungulu Mayambala a Senior Lecturer of Human Rights and Peace Centre at Makerere University, Article 27 of the Constitution guarantees the right to privacy of person, home and other property. In particular, article 27(2) of the Constitution provides that a person shall not be subjected to interference with the privacy of that person’s home, correspondence, communication or other property.

Unfortunately there is no comprehensive law giving effect to article 27, yet a lot of data concerning individuals are collected, stored or processed regularly by various institutions in the private and public sector, including banks, hospitals, insurance companies, the Uganda Citizenship and Immigration Control Board, the Uganda Revenue Authority, Uganda Registration Services Bureau, the Electoral Commission, utility service providers and telecommunications companies under the SIM card registration exercise

The Bill seeks to protect the privacy of the individual and personal data by regulating the collection and processing of personal information. It provides for the rights of persons whose data is collected and the obligations of data collectors and data processors; and regulates the use or disclosure of personal information.

However even with these laws and bills in place, further questions continue to be raised on whether they even hold any solid ground in implementation, especially, if there has not been enough sensitization of the bills and data literacy.


What do some people think about data privacy in Uganda?

A chat with a few random Ugandans around town shows you just how long of a way we have to go with the data privacy and protection talk.

“I honestly have nothing to hide with my data and anyone who wants to access it can go ahead and access it. Your data can only be private if you choose to keep it private but if you choose to put it out there and later claim for privacy, then you are playing yourself” — Lisa

“Whatever you put out there is public. I don’t really care who gets my data because once Ipost anything on social media, it’s no longer in any way private. I get a need for data privacy if it comes to my business data like emails. That is when i need some real privacy” — Hans

“Data privacy is not even a topic of debating here in Uganda because people don’t really care what happens with their data. Because we have a huge Internet penetration gap, very many people don’t even know what data is in most parts of africa.” — Emmanuel


Study Reveals that a Culture of Secrecy Among Public Officials Hinders Media Work in Tanzania

By MISA Tanzania Correspondent |
A prevailing culture of secrecy among public officials in Tanzania at both central and local government levels is hindering the work of journalists, according to findings by a recent study. This is affecting access to information necessary for media reporting towards increased civic participation, transparency and accountability in governance.
The study which was conducted by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Tanzania Chapter in partnership with the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) assessed the responsiveness of local government authorities (LGAs) and central government offices in Tanzania to citizens’ information requests.
The study found widespread laxity among officials in processing information requests, with many claiming to have misplaced or lost filed requests. “If you received someone’s documents, why would you say you can’t see them just a week later?” wondered Haika Kimaro, a newspaper correspondent in Mtwara town in the south-east of Tanzania. In the port town of Kigoma, Rhoda Ezekiel, a correspondent with Uhuru Newspaper, recounted how the secretary of the Ujiji Municipal Council once claimed to have misplaced her information request when she followed up on a query she had submitted.
Radio journalist George Binagi shared a similar experience from the town of Mwanza: “I submitted my questions in writing to the Regional Commissioner’s Office. I went back 10 days later and did not get the answers. They looked for my letter and [claimed they] never saw it.”
But it is not only the media affected by limited access to public information. Researchers are affected too. During the study, Jacqueline Jones, a mass communication graduate and intern at MISA Tanzania, went to the Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner’s office posing as a student researcher. She requested for information pertaining to the office’s functions, ongoing projects, income and expenditure. However, she was turned away for lack of an introduction letter from a university, with officials claiming that work procedures do not allow them to disclose information without such a letter.
“Their customer service is awful and the people at the registry department were quite harsh and rude. One of them actually shouted at me for insisting on getting my answers in a written form,” said Jones.
She submitted a similar request to the Dar es Salaam City Council, which, according to the city’s Information Officer needed approval by at least four different Heads of Sections. The Information Officer provided her with the requested information upon receipt of the approvals.
Alternative platforms for accessing information offered their own challenges. According to Zulfa Musa, a Mwananchi Newspaper correspondent in Arusha, administrative assistants manage the City Council offices’ telephone numbers and getting in touch with the Director or his Secretary to request for information required one to have these officials’ personal phone numbers. It was difficult to make information requests as the administrators were reluctant to provide the personal contact information of the Director or his secretary.
The frustrations faced by the journalists who took part in the study indicates that it is likely that citizens face similar or worse challenges.
It is widely recognised that access to quality and timely information for citizens is crucial in facilitating informed dialogue, monitoring and evaluation of development issues at the local level, thereby accountable governance and improved public services delivery.
Gasirigwa Sengiyumwa, the National Director for MISA Tanzania, stated that whereas an Access to Information Act was passed in 2016, “it appears that both public servants and the general public remain unaware of this Law.” He added: “There is a need for sensitisation about the law through training workshops for both parties [public officials and citizens] to ensure that the rights and responsibilities provided for under the law are realised.”
The study was conducted as part of the ICT4Democracy in East Africa initiative’s objective to document and publicise the utility and effectives of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for government-citizen interaction, proactive information disclosure, and responsiveness to information requests, for the realisation of the right of access to information.
Seven out of Tanzania’s 28 regions were covered in the study, with a total of 28 information requests filed to 14 institutions during March and April 2017. The written requests were emailed as well as hand-delivered to the institutions. Follow ups on approval or denial of requests was conducted through phone calls and physical visits.
Read the full study at here.

Promoting e-participation in Western Uganda

By ToroDev Staff Writer |
Radio has proved to be a key tool in promoting public accountability and improved service delivery in the Rwenzori region of western Uganda. Toro Development Network (ToroDev), a non-governmental organisation that trains marginalised communities on service delivery monitoring and participation in governance processes, has reached wide audiences by supplementing their radio activities with additional Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) tools and traditional offline engagements.

ToroDev members in an online training session led by WOUGNET in Fort Portal
ToroDev members in an online training session led by Women Of Uganda Network (WOUGNET)

ToroDev is working in partnership with two popular regional radios stations, Hits FM and Better FM, on public accountability radio talk shows focusing on topics such as corruption, politics, poor public infrastructure and health services delivery. ToroDev has enabled wider participation in the radio discussions through the installation of the online polling application Trac.FM at partner radio stations which is supported by pre-paid SMS enabling citizens to share their opinions. Journalist Forums, social media platforms and live call ins further facilitate the debates.
The convergence of these ICT tools has spurred audience participation from 304 monthly responses from citizens in early 2014  to 4,835 responses per month by November 2014, based on aggregated social media responses, radio station SMS and call in figures as well as Trac.FM statistics.
In December 2014, the Orukurato radio talk show on Hits FM discussed the issue of electricity load shedding in the region.  According to the show’s host William Kasigazi, over 5,000 responses through call ins on, Trac.FM and social media were received on the topic, of which 85% of respondents were affected by lack of electricity for a few hours at least once every day.
This unusual influx of responses during the December 2014 load shedding debate led to the regional Director of Umeme (the national electricity supplier) to request for a slot on the show to educate citizens on the cause of the power cuts.
Meanwhile, in order to promote more rural debate and participation (where access and cost of ICT remains a limiting factor), ToroDev also conducts monthly physical accountability meetings as opportunities for communities to directly engage with local duty bearers. The number of citizens participating in these meetings rose from 60 individuals per meeting in December 2013 to an average of 200 per meeting by August 2014. An increase in women participation in these meetings was also registered, from five in 2013 to 50 in December 2014. Half of the participants at each meeting were youths.
Instrumental to the success of the project has also been the use of 15 advocacy forums which were initiated to encourage rural service delivery monitoring and monthly governance deliberations.
Andrew Twesige of the Bufunjo Peoples Forum noted that its lobbying work for improved service delivery at the Bufunjo Health Centre III was a success. Through online and offline community engagements and increased awareness on the state of service delivery at the health centre by the Forum, the issue of low staff levels at the Centre reached the attention of local duty bearers and six additional nurses were recruited for the health centre.
Such outcomes are helping more citizens in communities where ToroDev works to embrace the use of ICT tools in public services monitoring.
“Before the radio talk shows were introduced, leaders were very hard to reach and we used to fear them, beg them, they were taken as special people. But radio talk shows, TracFM and accountability meetings have helped citizens to work hand in hand with both political and technical leaders,” said Jane Ahimbisibwe who heads the Butiti Peoples Forum in Kyenjojo district. She added that through these tools citizens are shedding the fear previously held for duty bearers noting, “we are brave enough to approach any leader because we have been given a good platform.”
Indeed, the increasing popularity of the talk shows, the use of polls on on Trac.FM and the accountability meetings have attracted national and local duty bearers to more willingly engage with citizens on the platforms availed through ToroDev. During 2014, a total of 60 leaders at sub-county and parliamentary level participated in the monthly accountability meetings, and jointly with the advocacy forums drew up action plans for priority public service issues. A notable participant in such engagements was the State Minister for Finance (Uganda), Aston Kajara.
ToroDev’s work is part of the ICT4Democracy in East Africa Network, a regional coalition of civil society organisations coordinated by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA). The network is supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

Using Technology to Advance Human Rights in Kenya

By Catherine Kamatu |
Joseph Kitaka, a resident of Yatta in Machakos County, Kenya, has always had an interest in defending human rights. His community is faced with numerous challenges, including gender-based violence, police brutality and many other human rights violations. Mr. Kitaka had little hope of utilising Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to advance his ambition in bettering his community, until he was elected the chairman of Yatta Paralegal Network, a local Human Rights Network (HURINET).
Today, Yatta, is among 15 HURINETs in Kenya that are being supported by the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) to strengthen democratisation by widening civil society use of ICT to advance political accountability, freedom of expression and respect for human rights. The initiative is part of the ICT4Democracy in East Africa Network, a regional coalition of civil society organisations coordinated by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA).
The network maintains various ICT platforms and undertakes activities including research, capacity building, mentoring, advocacy and civic engagement toward strengthening democracy. The network’s partners use digital technologies to hold leaders accountable to citizens, fight corruption, enhance communication and the right to freedom of expression, as well as the right to seek, receive and impart information and respect for human rights.
In Kenya, KHRC maintains an SMS short code and crowd mapping platform which enable citizen reporting of human rights violations, and building a vibrant social movement of citizens who monitor government performance toward a society free of human rights violations.
Through KHRC’s project, 10 HURINETs have received computers, modems, generators and digital cameras to support their work. Mr. Kitaka received a modem, a computer and a digital camera to enable the smooth operations of his network. He asserts that the equipment greatly eased information sharing among the networks and other human rights defenders.
“Three years ago, sharing information was a challenge. It took very long for human rights defenders to share reports, it was also very expensive since we could only access ICT equipment in cyber cafes at a cost. With the equipment given to us by KHRC, everything is moving on well,” he said.

Joseph Kitaka from Yatta Paralegal Network is interviewed at a communications training workshop.
Joseph Kitaka from Yatta Paralegal Network is interviewed at a communications training workshop.

Earlier in 2014, KHRC conducted two community outreaches in the Kibera and Kangemi informal settlements in the capital of Kenya where active audiences of 109 and 138 respectively were trained in the use of ICT platforms for promoting human rights and good governance. These engagements enabled hundreds of ordinary citizens to use web tools (such as SMS, Facebook, HakiReport, HakiZetu) to report on governance processes.
Kenya has high rates of access to digital technology, with mobile access rates at 80% and internet access rates at 57%. However, most citizens do not have the skills to use simple technology tools in pursuance of good governance at a time the Kenyan government is making laws and regulations that limit freedom of expression.
In a bid to enhance the quality of the content generated by the human rights networks, KHRC further trained human rights defenders on communications skills in February 2015. The training focused on news writing, multimedia use, interview skills, social media and use of the KHRC e-library as a research tool.
The training was attended by 15 local human rights workers, who will collectively contribute to the newsletter Mizizi ya Haki (The Roots of Justice), which focuses on activities of human rights networks. “From the skills obtained from the communications training facilitated by KHRC, I have managed to train other human rights defenders on how to file good reports,” added Mr. Kitaka.
The training evaluation indicated an overall change in the knowledge, skills and attitudes of all beneficiaries. Social media and article writing were indicated as the most useful training sessions toward the beneficiaries’ more effective human rights work.
However, further training needs were also identified, including digital security, media laws and multi-media content generation. Participants also identified a need for training in proposal writing and resources mobilisation as well as in paralegal work.
Read the full evaluation report here
The work of KHRC and the ICT4Democracy Network is supported by Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

Promoting inclusive use of ICT in monitoring service delivery in Uganda

By Lillian Nalwoga |
For true democracy to flourish there is need for government transparency, greater access to public information, and inclusion of citizens’ voices in decision-making processes. The use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) can aid in increasing awareness and empowering citizens to meaningfully participate in governance processes such as monitoring public services delivery.
The Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) has since 2011 implemented the iParticipate Uganda project, which leverages ICT to catalyse civic participation and democracy monitoring in Uganda. While working with grassroots based partners, CIPESA has offered capacity building sessions, and created awareness on how Ugandan citizens can effectively use different ICT tools for social accountability, including monitoring and demanding quality public services.
In 2014, CIPESA worked with the Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC) to document service delivery failures as a result of donor aid cuts to the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP). The PRDP was launched in 2007 by the government of Uganda in partnership with development partners to revitalise the economy and promote peace-building and reconciliation in post-conflict northern Uganda. However, implementation has faced challenges of corruption and a lack of transparency in its methods of work.

The progress of the  PRDP became the focus of talk shows initiated by NUMEC
The progress of the PRDP became the focus of talk shows initiated by NUMEC

The CIPESA-NUMEC work thus involved promoting dialogue between community members and duty bearers through community debates, radio talk shows and social media on how to improve service delivery for people living in post-conflict communities. Through these engagements, leaders have recognised the need to promote awareness of government programmes among the local communities for better monitoringof service delivery.
For instance, in one of the community debates organised by NUMEC, David Latigo Odongo, the Local Council Chairman of Acet village, Gulu district, acknowledged that lack of sensitisation hampers beneficiaries from monitoring government implemented projects. “They [citizens] do not know who will monitor and take care of PRDP projects, that is why when projects like water boreholes are constructed in the area, people look at it as freebies from either the government or NGOs,” he said.
Further, following the production of a documentary on poor service delivery, Martin Mapenduzi, the Gulu district Chairperson, was prompted to make follow-up on some stalled projects.
Members of the Kasese Youth and Women Forum
Members of the Kasese Youth and Women Forum

Similarly, in western Uganda where CIPESA is working with the eSociety Resource Centre located in Kasese district, another leader acknowledgenes to reach them. eources to health centers were located in semi-urban areas and the journalists lacked enough reseources toed the importance of promoting access to information as a means of enhancing citizens’ monitoring of public service delivery. “Meaningful participation in democratic processes requires informed participants hence the need for increased access to information,” observed John Thawite, the District Information Officer during the e-governance training for local leaders in the district.
This training was aimed at giving district officials skills to update the district website, elibrary and participate in the online district discussion group and Facebook discussions. As a result of this training, and the provision of free ICT services, the district online platforms have been more active and are updated regularly.
The centre serves as a community facility hosted by the Kasese district local government. CIPESA has supported it through the provision of computer equipment, internet subscription and facilitation for the ICT training officer.
Staff from th eDistrict Education Department are taken through an demonstration on the use of blogs
Staff from the Mayuge District Education Department are taken through an demonstration on the use of blogs

At the Busoga Open Source Development Initiative (BROSDI) centre in Mayuge district in eastern Uganda, local communities are being supported by CIPESA in using ICT to monitor education service delivery. This has included training in the use of ICT for civic engagement, access to information and service delivery monitoring. Beneficiaries from one of the training sessions went on to create a project blog to enable users report on different service delivery issues in the district.
In 2014, more than 200 community members benefited from the trainings conducted at our partner centres.
CIPESA also conducted participatory research to document citizens’ knowledge, perceptions and attitudes towards use of ICT tools in monitoring service delivery. Participants in the research acknowledged the need to empower leaders in the use of ICT to respond to citizens’ demands. “Social media will be great when a new breed of users, that is people in leadership, start using it for civic engagement and governance monitoring,” observed a participant in a focus group discussion on citizens’ motivations for using ICT in governance processes.
These grassroots-based engagements, as well as the findings of research exercises on citizens’ and leaders’ use of ICT, access to information and service delivery monitoring will further inform CIPESA’s efforts to close the gap in the awareness and use of technology for enabling democratic processes.