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