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.

ICTs and Governance: Learning Through Interactions

Understanding precisely what role Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) play in governance, and how, is very important to our work. Over the past 18 months, we have interacted with organizations at country, regional, and international levels that utilize and promote the use of ICTs in governance. These interactions have served as a learning opportunity for us, since the use of new technologies in governance processes in developing countries is not one with a long (recorded) history. But while these interactions have helped us to understand better how ICTs can have a good chance of delivering positive outcomes in –governance—and in many other areas—they have also helped us to share knowledge and resources with diverse actors.
And while our own understanding of the role of ICTs in service delivery, in encouraging participation, and in promoting governance is steadily changing, we have noticed that the way different stakeholders view this role differs rather widely. There are various facets to the matter. Some look at it from the access and affordability angle; others from the utility side (value and functions of ICTs). There are also cultural issues, which in some instances hinder the use of ICTs by women, and which many—particularly at the grassroots level – are eager to point out. A related one is the low level of literacy generally and in particular about using ICTs.
Not forgotten are social issues, such as who influences use of a technology in a community, or the use of technology for personal benefit versus use for community benefit. Here, from various interactions, it seems that where individuals will have direct, tangible, personal benefits from using a technology, they will be more likely to use it – which explains why in Uganda there are 8.9 million mobile money users, or ardent Facebookers, as well as thousands that read newspapers online, and many others that do online sports betting, but then the numbers for those engaging in online civic/ political actions remain low.
In many countries, ICTs are presenting a number of opportunities and alternatives in the delivery of services from both public and private sectors. The value delivered over these technologies is growing, especially in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. Because of these capabilities, the demand for transparency and accountability through the use of ICTs is increasing.
As part of its iParticipate Uganda project, CIPESA has conducted a series of citizen journalism trainings to empower communities in the use of ICT, especially social media, to report on governance issues. Based on a citizen journalism training manual we developed, CIPESA has equipped community members in three districts with skills for seeking and disseminating information related to reporting and monitoring of service delivery concerns. The trainings were conducted at grassroots-based partner centers, the Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC), Busoga Rural Open Source and Development Initiatives (BROSDI) and the e-resource center in Kasese.
These trainings also help to clarify what community workers understand about ICTs and governance, and what they see as possible areas where ICTs can promote governance. But beyond the trainings, many obstacles – sociocultural, political, and economic – stand in the way, and in our region there are few success cases that can be used to promote the uptake of ICTs in governance. And so we have realized, again, the need to promote access and awareness. We have also realized that government has a big role to play in this regard, itself being a champion of the use of ICTs, and having in place policies and practices that encourage citizens to use ICTs.
Additional difficulties include low awareness of the benefits of digital communications, high costs of accessing ICT tools, the low spread of access centers such as Internet cafes and telecenters, and misunderstandings about the intentions of initiatives that seek to hold leaders accountable and transparent. These are not minor problems. They are big problems, and they are well recognized by CIPESA itself, but even more so by our grassroots partners and the communities they serve. We have discussed some possible remedies – sensitization of citizens on the benefits of using ICT, trainings on the use of ICT for citizen reporting, lobbying leaders to become role models by adopting active use of ICT in their work – but all these take time and money. CIPESA will continue to advocate for use of ICT in enhancing citizen participation and also act as a center of expertise on the same.
The interactions and learning that we have done during 2011 and 2012 are a fulfillment of one of the objectives of iParticipate Uganda, namely network development among groups and institutions involved in the ICTs for citizen empowerment/ democracy work.
CIPESA has shared experiences and had the opportunity to voice collective concerns and advocate for the use of ICTs in governance not only at a regional level, but on the global stage too.
As we recognize the power of the Internet and its contributions to society, it is equally important to promote online safety, online freedoms and the free flow of information as well as freedom of expression. Research remains crucial in informing ICTs in governance interventions.
This article was published as part of the Swedish Program for ICTs in Developing Regions (Spider) Stories 2012. The full publication can be downloaded here.

ICT for Democracy in East Africa: May 2012 News

Building capacity in monitoring services delivery and governance in Northern Uganda
The Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) in May undertook a small survey on the knowledge, attitudes, and needs of citizens regarding the utility, effectiveness, and security of using ICT for democracy in Uganda’s northern region. The survey involved individually administered questionnaires in Gulu town.
In addition, at the Gulu-based Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC), journalists, CSOs, local government officials and students participated in a CIPESA-organised discussion on how best ICT could be used to foster citizen participation given the economic, literacy, and other challenges faced by the region. The workshop participants deemed civic participation to be of more importance relative to political participation, as it often resulted into direct and tangible impacts on community livelihoods. Using CIPESA’s recently published report, the event also involved a practical exploration of how ICT tools could promote civic participation. One of the outcomes of the activities undertaken with NUMEC was a mapping of priorities and possibilities for engaging with particular ICT tools in selected service sectors.
NUMEC is one of the grassroots based centres involved in the iParticipate project. CIPESA has provided to the centre desktop computers, a digital camera and monetary contribution toward its internet connectivity.
Meanwhile, Transparency International Uganda field office in Lira district, unearthed uncoordinated health workers and support staff transfers at five health centres. The transfers were adversely affecting the performance of the already strained health centre staff. In follow up discussions, district health officials explained that the transfers were necessary in order to staff newly created health centres elsewhere. The officials acknowledged that the transfers were done without consultations with the affected health centres.
Table 1: Lira district health worker’s transfers (Source: Health Centre transfer records)

Health Centre Post Replacement

Amach health center IV

2 Nursing assistants


1 Enrolled Nurse
1 Porter
1 Watchman

Barr Health Center III

1 Nursing Assistant
1 Porter
1 Watchman

Aromo Health Center III

1 Watchman
2 Enrolled Nurses

Ogur Health Center IV

1 Enrolled Nurse
1 Nursing Assistant
1 Porter
1 Watchman

TI Uganda also unearthed cases of staff who absconded from duty and those who were drawing double salaries. The matter has been taken up with district health authorities.
The community is also being urged to monitor health centres to ensure efficient and effective service delivery. To this end, the installation of TI Uganda’s toll free call centre for reporting poor health service delivery in Northern Uganda is now complete. 0800 200 188 is being widely advertised in the region to inform and encourage the community to report health centre challenges.
Meanwhile, May’s Voluntary Social Accountability Committees (VSAC) meetings spearheaded by the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) to report on governance and service delivery in five districts in Northern Uganda were complemented by radio programs. The Committee from Tarogali reported cases of Village Health Teams (VHT) being charged to receive bicycles which were actually provided free of charge by the Ministry of Health. Officials in Ibuje Sub County allegedly demanded UGX 70,000 (US$28) for each bicycle intended to ease the work of the health teams. The matter was debated on the local Radio Apac, leading to intervention by the Apac Anti-Corruption Coalition. The responsible officials were arrested, and the bicycles have since then been distributed free of charge to the targeted beneficiaries.
Besides, WOUGNET uploaded more content on their Ushahidi platform. Amongst the reports, drug shortages in Kole health centres, a security official who was extorting money from members of Chegere sub-county in Apac district, and a broken down bore hole in Alenga cell, Ibuje sub-county.
mGovernance and water in Kenya
iHub Research conducted in-depth analysis of data on Huduma, a web and mobile phone based platform for Kenyan citizens to voice the difficulties they encounter in using public services. Based on the results, the research team selected a thematic focus for the remainder of the mGovernance in Kenya project – governance in the Kenyan water sector. Preparations are underway for a workshop to bring together different water stakeholders in a single platform to discuss water issues and how to interact with each other in the chain of governance structure. The aim of the workshop is to evaluate the current feedback loop between stakeholders and the potential of technology, especially mobile, to enhance the Kenyan water sector.
ICT in human rights and democracy
In Tanzania, preparations are underway for a publicity campaign incorporating social media for the SMS for Human Rights System. The Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG) is still in talks with the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority and leading telcos for short code sms provision and toll free services, respectively.
Meanwhile, 10 grassroots Human Rights Networks (HURINETs) in Kenya this month received equipment from the Kenya Human Rights Networks (KHRC). The equipment, including computers, portable internet modems and digital cameras is aimed at enabling the HURINETs use new media in human rights and democracy monitoring and reporting human rights violations. The work of the HURINETs will feed into KHRC’s civic action website.
May 9 – 11, 2012: iHub research participated in the IST Africa Conference. Conference insights are shared by in two blog posts here and here
May 31, 2012: CIPESA participated in the Uganda National Civil Society fair and shared reports and work done in the democracy and governance session. The fair is an annual event organised by the National NGO Forum showcasing the contributions of different civil society actors to Uganda’s socio‐economic development and political growth.
June 26 – 29: In collaboration with the African Human Rights Consortium, KHRC is due to host the East African Region New Media and Human Rights Institute workshop.
This article was published on June 21, 2012, about the ICT4Democracy in East Africa project, which brings together various partners in the region – among them CIPESA.
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