Project Evaluation: Open Data and Right to Information

Report |
During 2014 and 2015, CIPESA implemented a project aimed at empowering citizens in East Africa to use Right to Information (RTI) laws to lodge requests and document their experiences through the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). The project further aimed to undertake awareness raising and network building activities to promote the right to information in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, and create awareness among lawmakers on regressive policies and practices that undermine proactive disclosures. The project also planned on network building to be achieved through the sharing of experiences gained from the three countries among the engaged network of change actors across the region.
Since the closure of project activities, an evaluation was commission to establish the achievements, outcomes and challenges registered by the project during the period January 2014 – December 2015. The evaluation assessed the appropriateness, effectiveness and outcomes of the project in relation to its planned objectives.
The evaluation focused on project activities in Uganda and the use of Alaveteli – an Open source platform that enables citizens to request for information with the replies recorded for all to see on the AskYourGov (AYG) website ( as the key technology medium, as well as social media namely Facebook and Twitter.
Key findings
The use of the AYG platform by citizens is still low, compared to alternative Freedom of Information (FOI) channels (for example, a respondent at the Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development reported that he receives/responds to approximately 32 requests a day by phone, face to face, or paper-based request forms), and has not grown over the two years. As well, the response from MDAs is below average. Though there is political will from the Office of the Prime Minister in Uganda, ownership of the platform and its continued functionality is still the responsibility of partners – Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) and CIPESA and does not seem to have yet taken root within most Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA).

  1. Consider a phased approach to implementing the AYG platform in MDAs. Adopting a more systematic phased approach to implementation and roll out, and contextualized to the specific needs of each agency could help address the unique MDA contexts and ensure a more effective use of the platform. Rather than spreading efforts (of particularly limited resources) and adopt a blanket approach to the implementation of the portal, a phased systematic approach that involves a few MDAs coming on board at a time is recommended. For example the evaluation shows that the majority of the FOI requests are related to land, taxes and inquiries on internship and recruitment. This could be interpreted in two ways: – (i) that these issues could be the most pressing information needs of citizens currently; or (ii) that the effective response from the respective MDAs has created citizen demand. This could give some insight to justify a phased approach in prioritizing MDAs to work with on the AYG platform.
  1. Build an Advocacy network of CSOs to sustain the demand for government responsiveness on the AYG platform. Such a network is likely to realize a much stronger and sustained voice in mobilizing, advocating and lobbying continuous Government’s responsiveness on the AYG platform.
  1. Sustain stakeholders’ engagement activities (awareness raising and capacity building). Some of the issues that hinder requesting and disseminating information by the rights holders (citizens) and duty bearers (government officials) respectively are the culture of secrecy among duty bearers, and the limited understanding of the RTI laws among other things. Changing such individual and organization norms, cultures and practices takes time. Sustained engagement of rights holders and duty bearers is therefore very critical and future projects should avail sufficient resources for this.
  1. Make the platform more inclusive to encourage usability in different contexts. Future implementations could adopt a more inclusive approach that looks into mixing ICT platforms such as the web-based platform, SMS, as well as integrate a back-end function that can easily be manipulated to enable agencies to coordinate and centrally manage information requests from the various modes of delivery i.e. the back-end function should be in position to manage, monitor and keep track of all requests that come into the agencies irrespective of the mode of delivery. This should encourage usability by all classes of stakeholders, while the back-end would provide for easy management and tracking of requests.

Lessons Learned

  1. The Success of the AYG platform in an MDA is dependent on a number of pre-requisites that include functional business processes, policies, infrastructure, and human resources related to information disclosure. This kind of organization context makes it easy for speeding up the uptake of the AYG platform as it complements already ongoing work and may not appear as an additional burden to MDA officials.
  1. The AYG platform could be more effective if its roll out is prioritized to target specific information needs of citizens. This prioritization could be based on a number of factors that may include: – findings of a needs assessment of Citizen Information needs, readiness of MDAs, National priorities defined in strategies like National Development Plans among others
  1. The passing of relevant RTI laws in the country is key in providing an enabling environment to implement a project of this nature

Download and read the full evaluation report here.

Uganda District Officials Trained on Access to Information Tool

By Moses Odokonyero |

Local government officials from the northern Uganda districts of Gulu, Amuru and Nwoya were recently trained in the use of the online freedom of information portal Ask Your Government (AYG).  The officials have said the platform, which is accessed at, will be useful in improving the flow and exchange of information between their districts and the public. The training organised by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) in partnership with Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC) and was held August 31 in Gulu, Uganda. Participants at the training included Information Officers, Community Development Officers, Natural Resources Officers and an Assistant Chief Administrative Officer from the administrations of the three districts in the Acholi sub region.
The training aimed to promote the release of public information held by the state through the use of online tools but with a specific focus on the AYG portal. The portal was launched in 2014 by the Uganda Office of the Prime Minister in partnership with the Africa Freedom Information Centre (AFIC) and CIPESA and is aimed at supporting the Access to Information Act (2005) by enabling citizens to request and receive public information from government authorities.
“I was unaware of the website before the training. But I now know how to use it. I think it will be useful in the sharing of information between us in the local governments and the public,” said Anthony Onen, the Amuru District Population Officer. He added, “But we need more of our colleagues in other departments also trained on how to use the website … because these departments hold information that is important for the public.’’
Meanwhile, Santa Odwa, an Assistant Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) with the Gulu district local government, remarked: “The training on how to use this website will help improve sharing of information with the public but the public must also be sensitised on how to use it and what kind of information can be asked for and not asked for from us.”
The district officials were also taken through different laws in Uganda that govern citizens right to access information, particularly the Access to Information Act, 2005. The Act aims, among others, to promote transparency and accountability in organs of the state by providing the public with information, and to empower the public to scrutinise and participate in government decisions that affect them.
In the context of northern Uganda, transparency and accountability by public authorities and the involvement of the public in the scrutiny of the public organs is particularly important. In the last decade, the region has seen several post-conflict recovery projects funded by both the government of Uganda and donors aimed at rehabilitating the region following years of conflict.  Most of these projects have been implemented under the framework of the Peace, Recovery, and Development Programme (PRDP).
Due to a lack of public scrutiny and limited information available to the public about projects under the PRDP, substandard work and corruption impeded delivery of public services under PRDP. In 2012, the Auditor General uncovered the swindling of over 50 billion shillings (US$14.7 million) by officials, which may have been exacerbated by a lack of transparency in the operations of the programme.
In September, 2016, the government launched a UGX 233 billion (US$68.5 million) —Project Restoration of Livelihoods in Northern Uganda (PRELNOR). The seven-year project aims to improve livelihoods and construct community roads to link local communities in nine districts in the Acholi region to markets. This type of project underscores the continued need for the public to have access to information to empower them so they are in position to hold public organs and officials accountable.
According to the communications regulator, as of March 2016, there were approximately 21 million mobile phone subscriptions while 38.9% of Ugandans had access to the internet. These figures pose a great opportunity for citizens to find innovative ways to shape democratic governance, including to monitor government transparency. The AYG portal and other online platforms are increasingly gaining influence and becoming important channels to disseminate information, promote accountability and cause public debate around public service delivery issues in Uganda.
The training is part of activities by CIPESA, NUMEC and local partner radio stations to promote the right to information as a catalyst for service delivery monitoring in northern Uganda and in supported by the Indigo Trust.

Uganda Government Launches Open Data Readiness Assessment

By Ashnah Kalemera
The government of Uganda has officially launched an Open Data Readiness Assessment (ODRA) study to review the country’s state of play of Open Government Data (OGD). The announcement was made at a stakeholder meeting held at the Ministry of Finance Economic Planning and Development in Kampala on February 23, 2015. The launch was attended by representatives from civil society and different Ministries, Departments and Agencies involved in implementing open data initiatives.
Coordinated by the Finance ministry, in partnership with the National Information Technology Authority (NITA) and the World Bank, the ODRA study aims to develop an action plan that provides recommendations for the government on how to implement a national open data initiative.
The launch of the assessment comes on the tail of the World Open Data Day which was commemorated in over 100 cities across the world on Saturday February 21. In the country’s capital Kampala, the day saw local enthusiasts converge at an innovation hub to discuss Open Data trends and also conduct practical exploration exercises on currently available data.
The ODRA study is based on the World Bank’s Open Data Toolkit and focuses on senior leadership, policy and legislative frameworks, institutional structures, and the responsibilities and capabilities within government. Other areas of focus include government data management policies and data availability, demand for open data, civic engagement capabilities, funding availability for an open data program, and the national infrastructure and skills. The study will involve stakeholder interviews in key priority sectors such as health, education, water, agriculture, energy and minerals, and roads and infrastructure.
A similar open government data assessment study, for Uganda conducted by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) in 2011 uncovered that in the absence of a dedicated open data portal, some Ugandan institutions were performing very well as far as making data and information available in the public domain. Based on basic tenets of open data readiness: knowledge, attitudes and practice, the study concluded that Uganda was ready to implement OGD with appropriate support and guidance. There however remained the need to create systems and infrastructure to converge all government data into a single location. There was also the need for a shift in attitude towards open data use and the development of appropriate regulations and standards that conform to OGD initiatives.
Indeed, a number of open governance initiatives have since taken root, including those lead by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Water and Environment, Ministry of Health and CSO coalitions.
To further support availability and information provision in the public domain, the Ministry of Information and National Guidance, in partnership with CIPESA and the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) launched an online portal ( in August 2014 aimed at enabling citizen’s right to information as provided for under the Access to Information Act (2005).
According to the World Bank analysts, African countries that benefited from ODRA assessments have witnessed tangible results by implementing open data initiatives. These include Kenya, Burkina Faso and Ghana whose open data portals are aimed at promoting accountability, transparency, innovation and improved service delivery. In Nigeria, an initiative is in place at local government level while more recently, an Ebola Open Data portal was launched to help manage the disease outbreak in Western Africa. The various initiatives have recorded varied levels of success in terms of the relevance of the data availed, the frequency of updates, sustainability and uptake.
The Uganda ODRA study action plan is expected to be released at the end of March 2015 with validation taking place in April 2015.

Advancing the Right to Information Amongst Ugandan Journalists

Uganda’s Access to Information Act (ATIA), 2005 is gaining traction as more journalists and citizens become aware of how they could utilise it to demand for information from public offices. Last November, journalists from 16 print and broadcast media houses were trained in using this law and the Ask Your Government (AYG) portal to address challenges related to accessing information for reporting.
The journalists were drawn from the country’s central region (Kampala) and Hoima in the oil-rich Bunyoro region in western Uganda. During the training sessions organised by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), participants discussed challenges to accessing information from government officials. Only a handful of participants were knowledgeable about ATIA and its regulations passed in 2011.
Meanwhile, in a landmark case, on February 6, a Chief Magistrate’s Court in Kampala ruled that the reasons for which information is requested or the belief about how it will be used “are irrelevant considerations” in determining government’s approval or denial of a request. The ruling came after the Hub for Investigative Media was denied access to information related to activities of the National Forestry Authority funded by the World Bank between 2009 and 2011. The landmark ruling sets a precedent that could make it easier for journalists and citizens to exercise the right to information.
The journalists involved in the CIPESA trainings reported that in most of their practicing experience, they sought and acquired information from “inside sources” on condition of anonymity, as civil servants habitually declined to officially provide the information requested.
“Some government bodies do not have public information departments, forcing journalists and citizens in need of information to move from one office to another, often in vain,” remarked John Kibego, who writes for The Observer newspaper from Hoima. “Many times when there are PR (public relations) people they do not have sufficient information.”
Hoima lies more than 200kms north-west of the capital Kampala. A lot of information related to the country’s oil sector is centralised at the national government in Kampala and the country headquarters of key sector players such as Tullow and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), who have invested heavily in oil exploration activities in Hoima. This caused great difficulty for upcountry based journalists to access information on exploration and related activities in the region.
According to the trainees, in the instances where information was readily available, it appeared to have a public relations spin to it and did not adequately fulfil the requirements for which it was requested.
A journalist from Community Green FM in Hoima said the station had offered a free one hour programme for government to showcase work in the region, “but we have to beg government officials to come to the show and sometimes they do not come. Sometimes we have to promise to pay them before they come to the show.”
It was also noted that some government officials feel the media is always out on a witch-hunt, making them reluctant to part with information requested by journalists.
Nonetheless, participants were encouraged to always cite the ATIA when requesting for information from government officials. The law compels public officials to release information which is not exempted by the law. However, concern was raised about the 21 days within which an official has to respond to an information request. Participants highlighted this as an obstacle to receiving timely information as required in a fast-paced media environment.
The refusal to disclose information categorised by the Act as “classified” was another challenge. Information exempted by ATIA includes that relating to matters of national security, cabinet records, protected information (such as information being used during a court proceeding), and health records.
Furthermore, some negating laws such as the Regulations of Interception of Communications Act, 2010, Official Secrecy Act, 1964, and the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2002 provided additional barriers to citizens’ right to information and proactive provision of information by public officials. The Secrecy Act prohibits officials from disclosing government information.
To facilitate the media’s work, participants were encouraged to utilise the portal in lodging formal information requests. The portal provided a means to rectify media concerns over perceived lack of government transparency given that requests made and their responses (granted or denied) were made public.
At the end of the trainings, participants were encouraged to register on the portal and make information requests to government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as they develop stories for their respective media houses. Over the coming months, CIPESA will be documenting the developed stories as case studies on the implementation of the Access to Information Act in Uganda.

See a journalist’s experience using the portal: Ask your Government Could Stamp Out Corruption in Uganda

AYG is an initiative of the Directorate of Information and National Guidance, Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) in partnership with CIPESA and the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC).
To learn more about AYG, see:

Uganda Launches Portal to Support Citizens’ Right to Information

14 August 2014

Press Statement

For immediate release

Uganda Launches Portal to Support Citizens’ Right to Information

The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) through the Ministry of Information and National Guidance today launched the Ask Your Government (AYG) online platform ( at the Imperial Royale Hotel, Kampala. AYG is an initiative of the OPM in partnership with the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) and the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC). It is aimed at promoting Ugandan citizens’ right to information in support of transparency, accountability and good governance.

Uganda was amongst the first African countries to adopt Right to Information (RTI) legislation with the passing of the Access to Information Act of 2005. The AYG portal allows citizens to directly send requests for information to information officers in Government departments, ministries and agencies.  Responses to the information requests are relayed directly to the email address of the person who makes the requests and are also publicly displayed on the portal.

While Uganda currently has an internet reach of 20% of the population, this initiative will work alongside civil society organisations to ensure that digitally under-represented citizens including people living in rural areas and women can make information requests through the platform. Its wider target audience also includes general citizens with targeted efforts geared at journalists, researchers, university lecturers, and students.

The launch was officiated by Hon. Rose Namayanja Nsereko, Minister of Information and National Guidance who highlighted the changes that government has undertaken in improving information availability within government and amongst Ugandan citizens. She noted, “The tool avails to Ugandans an opportunity to access public information. We as government can also use the platform when planning by identifying the types of information that citizens most request.” She also added that the platform will increase public scrutiny of the Ugandan government and enhance transparency and accountability to citizens.

In his opening remarks, Simon Mayende, Director at the Ministry of Information and National Guidance (MING) in the OPM stressed the commitment of the Ministry towards “ensuring that the public access information held by all public bodies.” He added that“there should be no barriers of this right of citizens.” The launch was attended by media as well as information officers from various government offices who will be the key drivers of the success of the platform. Also present were members of civil society organisations and development partners.

Activities at the launch included a round table discussion. Panellists included Moses Watasa, Commissioner with the OPM/MING and representatives of civil society organisations including  Gilbert Sendugwa (AFIC), Wairagala Wakabi (CIPESA), Patrick Tumwine (Human Rights Network), Jude Odaro (Uganda Debt Network) and  MareikeLe Pelley (Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung).

Discussions explored topics such as Ugandan citizens’ rights to information as per the Access to Information Act, 2005 and accountability. It also explored the integral role that Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) play in promoting engagement between government, civil society and ordinary citizens.

Mr.Odaro commended the Government for building an elaborate legal and institutional framework to facilitate access to public information by citizens as a critical aspect of development. “This in the long run will help citizens understand government development priorities and plans while enhancing awareness and ownership of development initiatives,”  he said. He also stressed the work that has to go into sensitising government officials for increased commitment towards  right to information.

Mr.Wakabi stated that the increased proliferation of ICTs in the country provided immense opportunities for government to operrationalise existing legal frameworks and improve social accountability. Indeed, Mr.Watesa pointed out that the AYG website was an important tool in government’s efforts to improve communication with citizens – an area that government hasn’t been doing very well in.

Discussions were followed by the unveiling of the website through a demonstration in which a query on the ministerial policy statement for the Office of the Prime Minister for the year 2014/2015 was requested.

The live demonstration highlighted the simplicity of registering an account and making a direct request to government for swift responses while at the same time creating a library of queries and responses that can be accessed by other visitors to the website who may have similar questions.

A user guide was distributed amongst all those present to help them navigate through the processes of requesting and responding to information queries.

The website launch marks the commitment that government has towards making public information easily accessible to the citizens of Uganda while also providing an effective, cheaper and less time consuming solution to requesting information from the country’s public bodies.

Ask your Government is available on social media:

Facebook page:

Twitter @AskYourGovUg

For further information please contact

[email protected]

Twitter: @AskYourGovUg

Hashtag: #AYGUganda

Email: [email protected]

Ministry of Information and National Guidance – Office of the Prime Minister (OPM)Plot 9-11 Apollo Kaggawa Road,

Kampala, Uganda

Tel: +256 417770500

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

Tel:+256 414 289 502

Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC)Plot 5 Katego Road, Kamwokya

Kampala, Uganda

Tel: +256 414 533554