Online Meeting: Promoting Transparent Covid-19 Data Governance In Uganda

Invitation |

March 6, 2021 is Open Data Day, an annual celebration of open data all over the world which provides an opportunity to show the benefits of open data and encourage the adoption of open data policies in government, business, and civil society. This year, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), in partnership with the Open Institute will convene an online discussion to understand how decisions regarding the access and use of data in Uganda are made. 

Discussion Panel

  • Stella Alibateesa; Director for Regulation and Legal Services at NITA-Uganda
  • Dorothy Mukasa – Chief Executive Officer, Unwanted Witness
  • Bernard Sabiiti – Senior Strategic Partnerships & Engagement Manager,  Development Initiative
  • Atek Kagirita – Covid-19 incident commander at the Ministry of Health
  • Gabriel Iguma – Talk show host, Radio One (Moderator)
Join the online meeting on March 6, 2021 at 10h00-11h30 (EAT)
Register here

The Africa Digital Rights Fund Awards USD 152,000 to Advance Digital Rights in 18 African Countries

By Ashnah Kalemera |

The second round of the Africa Digital Rights Fund (ADRF) has awarded a total of USD 152,000 to 14 initiatives that will work to advance digital rights in 18 African countries. Among the focus areas of the initiatives are access to information, data protection and privacy, digital economy, Digital Identity (ID), digital security, diversity and inclusion, freedom of expression, hate speech, misinformation, and innovation for democratic participation, transparency and accountability (civic and social tech).

ADRF Round Two focus countries: Algeria, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia, Somaliland, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe

Launched in April 2019, the ADRF responds to rising digital rights violations such as arrests and intimidation of internet users, network shutdowns, and a proliferation of laws and regulations that hamper internet access and affordability. It offers flexible and rapid response grants to initiatives in Africa to implement activities that advance digital rights and the potential of technology to uphold human rights, advance democratic governance, and drive innovation. In the inaugural round of ADRF, initiatives with activities spanning 16 African countries received a total of USD 65,000.

The second call for applications attracted 164 applications from 33 countries. The applicants were assessed on the following attributes:

  • The applicant’s experience in advancing digital rights/track record on similar work;
  • Demonstrated need for the project, including relevance to described context and priorities of the Fund;
  • Eligibility in terms of geographic coverage, proposed activities, duration, and evidence of the applicant’s formal registration or operations;
  • Demonstration of innovation with regards to approach, feasibility of deliverables and timelines, and potential impact of the intervention;
  • Potential for data-driven advocacy;
  • Budget feasibility; and
  • Diversity considerations.

The assessment was conducted by CIPESA programme staff and five external experts with extensive experience in the digital rights field.

Together with the inaugural grantees, grantees from  the second round will be eligible for technical and institutional capacity building, including on data literacy and advocacy skills through the Data4Change initiative, as well as impact communication.

The grantees of the ADRF’s second call are:

Action et Humanisme – Ivory Coast: Action et Humanism will work to promote internet use among persons with disabilities in Cote d’Ivoire by conducting quality of service/user experience surveys, assessments of ICT accessibility compliance among government entities and telecommunications companies, and knowledge and skills building exercises on inclusive internet access for 100 representatives from media, disability rights organisations, academia and technology companies.

ADISI – Cameroon: ADISI will promote social accountability and citizen-duty bearer interactions beyond Cameroon’s economic capital Douala through its civic engagement and data journalism initiatives, and capacity building of youth leaders in digital advocacy, public policy participation, and  access to information.

African Feminism – Pan African: Through its network of writers, contributors and editors, African Feminism will document legal and policy developments as well as survivor experiences of revenge pornography in Malawi, Nigeria, and Uganda towards pushing for accountability (prevention, protection and redress) of governments and platform operators. The documentation will be via in-depth articles, visual stories and social media campaigns.

Centre for International Trade, Economics and Environment (CUTS) – Kenya: While acknowledging the potential gains of digital innovation in Kenya’s financial services sector, concerns about threats and vulnerabilities to privacy and data protection, as well as to consumer rights, prevail. Accordingly, through research, policy analysis and online campaigns, CUTS will examine the technological, institutional, and legal environment relating to digital financial consumer protection in Kenya and identify opportunities for strengthening the sector.

Digital Shelter – Somalia: In response to arrests and intimidation of several journalists and social media activists by the Somali federal government and federal states, digital attacks, and threats from terrorist groups, Digital Shelter will organise a series of events under the theme “Protect Our Online Space”. Targeting 120 human rights defenders, activists, journalists and bloggers, the project will work on digital safety and security, the shrinking civic space, freedom of expression and hate speech.

Forum de Organizacoes de Pessoas com Deficiencia (Disabled Persons Organisations Forum) – Mozambique: The Forum will conduct ICT accessibility and compliance assessments of Mozambique’s state obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and work to build the capacity of disability rights organisations to advocate for accessible ICT for persons with disabilities including through the G3ict Digital Accessibility Evaluation Index. The findings and recommendations will form the basis of a stakeholder submission as part of Mozambique’s upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

Global Voices – Sub-Saharan AfricaMiddle East and North Africa: Building on “Writing Toward Freedom: Politics and digital rights in Africa”, Global Voices will investigate identity-driven hate speech, disinformation and harassment in online spaces in Algeria, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan, Tunisia and Uganda. Through collaborative workshops, multilingual in-depth feature stories, and curated social media dialogue, the initiative will explore how language, culture, gender, religion and ethnicity affect digital spaces in the seven focus countries during politically charged periods, and how technology platforms regulate and moderate harmful content.

iWatch Africa – Ghana: This project will focus on tracking, documenting, and analysing online abuse and harassment against journalists and rights activists covering political and societal issues in Ghana. Based on the various cases, iWatch Africa will engage the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and policy makers to develop protocols for legal support for victims to seek redress.

Jamii Forums – Tanzania: In the run up to the general elections in Tanzania, Jamii Forums will work to enhance the digital security of 100 activists, journalists, lawyers, bloggers and human rights defenders, including raising awareness on digital vulnerabilities, the link to between digital vulnerabilities and physical/offline environments and effects on their work. A reporting and rapid response system will provide onward support in the elections period. The project will also feature stakeholder engagements on data protection and privacy, targeting law enforcement authorities and the communications regulator.

JP Media and Sobanukirwa – Rwanda: Based on Rwanda’s seven-year-old Access to Information Law and the five-year-old Sobanukirwa initiative, this project will research challenges to implementation of the law and uptake of the platform respectively, so as to promote increased citizens’ information requests, duty bearer responsiveness, and proactive disclosure.

Mzalendo Trust – Kenya: Building on its track record in promoting transparency and accountability, as well as citizen participation in legislative processes, Mzalendo will conduct research on the impact and perceptions of the Huduma Namba initiative in Kenya, run a public awareness campaign on data rights in Kenya and enhance the interactive functionality of its Dokeza platform.

Rudi International – Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo): Goma-based Rudi International will work to build a coalition of digital rights lawyers to support digital rights advocacy and strategic litigation efforts in the DR Congo’s fast-evolving but challenging telecommunications landscape. The lawyers, to be drawn from the four cities of Bukavu, Goma, Kisangani, and Lubumbashi, will benefit from ICT policy training, webinars, and connections to relevant regional and international fora.

Somaliland Journalists Association (SOLJA) – Somaliland: Through a knowledge, attitude and perceptions (KAPs) survey, design thinking workshop, digital literacy training, and roundtable engagements on digital media in the context of conflict regions, SOLJA will work with media practitioners and law enforcement authorities to strengthen media freedom and combat hate speech and misinformation in Somaliland.

Zimbabwe Centre for Media and Information Literacy (ZCMIL) and the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) – Zimbabwe: This collaborative project will work to empower 120 grassroots-based citizen journalists in media and information literacy. Covering a range of topics, including ethical standards, information and news verification and fact-checking, as well as digital security, the project beneficiaries will be drawn from six localities (Bulawayo, Plumtree, Kwekew, Lupane, Gweru and Hwange) and are expected to support citizen voice and agency in rule of law, constitutionalism, improved service delivery and good governance.


The ADRF is an initiative of the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) with support from the Ford Foundation, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the German Society for International Cooperation Agency (GIZ) and the Omidyar Network.

How Nigeria and Uganda are Faring on the Right to Information

By Tomiwa Ilori |
Transparency and accountability in governance are key tenets of participatory democracy. To this end, Sweden was the first country in the world to introduce a right to information (RTI) law back in 1766. Finland followed in 1919, and to-date, over 100 countries across the world have enacted laws that give citizens the right to access information in the hands of government.
In Africa, 21 countries have passed Freedom of Information (FOI) laws, while 16 have proposed laws. Most countries have constitutional provisions for the right to information, pursuant to obligations under various international and regional instruments. These include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression. A model law on access to information for Africa was prepared by the African Commission to serve as a template and encourage more countries to adopt legislation embodying international, regional, and sub-regional standards.
Meanwhile, there have been regional efforts to ensure citizens’ realisation of the right of access to information. Civil society organisations together with the African Union and African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopted the African Platform on Access to Information Declaration in 2011. There was also the Midrand Declaration on Press Freedom in Africa in 2013 which recommended that African countries take up open governance culture through access to information laws. However, the reality for most countries is that information requests are routinely refused or ignored, with citizens sometimes turning to the courts in order to access information in the hands of government.
Nigeria passed its freedom of information law in 2011. Under the Act, public institutions and “private companies utilising public funds, providing public services or performing public functions” are mandated to make public records and information freely available, guarantee citizens’ right to be duly informed of facts relevant to them and maintain records of all activities, operations and businesses. Without specifying whether its calendar or working days, the law provides for a response time to information requests of seven days. This may be extended if the request involves a large number of records or consultations have to be made. Proactive disclosure is also provided for under the law. Information exempt from disclosure includes that related to international relations, defence, law enforcement and investigations. Wrongful denial of information is an offence under the Act, punishable with a fine of Nigerian Naira 500, 000 (US$1,400).
The Attorney General of Nigeria is mandated to collate information on implementation of the Act based on information from the various government entities. According to statistics from the official FOI website, the number of requests made by citizens is on the decline. In 2013, 1,183 requests were recorded, of which 48 were denied. The following year, requests dropped by three quarters to 314, 35 of which were denied. Requests further dropped in 2015 to 217, of which 36 were unsuccessful. Figures for subsequent years are unavailable but denial of access to information remains prevalent.
In a May 2018 case, a human rights lawyer was denied information on fuel imports by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The corporation argued that it was established “by law to manage the commercial interests of Nigeria in the oil and gas sector of the economy and conduct trade therein”, and was therefore not a public institution within the meaning of the Freedom of Information Act.
The following month, a Nigerian court denied an access to information request for details of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s medical bills. The request was filed to the Central Bank of Nigeria by the Advocacy for Societal Rights Advancement and Development Initiative (ASRADI).
Some cases of denial have compelled requesters to seek orders for disclosure. For example, the Nigerian Contract Monitoring Coalition initiated a court case and succeeded in compelling the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, the Electricity Distribution Company Plc and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to release information, which had initially been denied.
Courts have also set precedent in proactive disclosure by public institutions. In February 2014, a Federal High Court ordered the National Assembly to make its financial records accessible to members of the public through the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act of 2011. This galvanised the #OpenNASS advocacy campaign. More recently, the Court of Appeal in the Akure Division, Ondo State, ruled that the Act is applicable across federal states. This has put to rest the debate as to whether States in Nigeria need to comply with the provisions of the Act.
The situation in Nigeria mirrors that in Uganda whose access of information law was passed in 2005 but challenges still persist. The law has remained largely unimplemented because many public institutions have a culture of secrecy –they rarely release information pro-actively and routinely ignore citizens’ requests for information. Where government information or data is available, it is often not in reusable formats. Likewise, most citizens are not empowered to make information requests due to ignorance of the law, thus undermining participation in civic engagements and governance processes.
Furthermore, implementation of the access to information law in Uganda is hindered by limitations to the bodies or organs to which information requests can be made – the law excludes private entities and civil society. Like Nigeria, information exempt from access in Uganda includes that related to privacy of an individual, defense, security, international affairs, legal proceedings and law enforcement. The response time for a request is within 21 days of receipt. Wrongful denial of requests is punishable under the Act with a fine of Uganda Shillings 4,800,000 (US$1,300) or imprisonment for three years or both.
User statistics from Uganda’s Ask Your Government portal show that since its launch in June 2014 to-date, 2,647 requests have been made to 106 agencies. Out of these, 231 are indicated as successful and 40 unsuccessful. With over 2,300 requests awaiting responses beyond the 21 days limit, the majority can be regarded as refusals pursuant to section 18 of the Access to Information Act (ATIA), 2005. The section states: “where an information officer fails to give the decision on a request for access to the person concerned within the period contemplated under section 16, the information officer is, for the purposes of this Act, regarded as having refused the request”.
Some Ugandan citizens have also opted to seek redress from the courts for denied requests. In 2009, two Ugandan journalists sued the government over failure by the Solicitor General to grant access to information regarding oil production, prospecting and exploitation agreements. The case was dismissed on the basis that a clause in those agreements provided for confidentiality.
In a landmark case, on February 2015, 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.
Implementation of access to information laws in Nigeria and Uganda shows that there is a lot to be done with respect to giving life to the existing legislation. Some of the ways through which the policy and practice gaps can be overcome is through records digitisation in all public institutions. This will not only help to save time in operations, it will also help with efficient record-keeping, search, retrieval and disclosure. Equally, translating freedom of information laws into local languages will help raise awareness on the rights of citizens and the obligations of duty bearers which will go a long way in realising the objectives of the FOI laws. Implementation of the laws can also be fast-tracked through compliance reporting to parliament by state institutions.
Ultimately, the experiences of Nigeria and Uganda show that courts are proving to be a means of recourse, and if effectively utilised, have the potential to set national and even regional precedent to make it easier for citizens to exercise the right to information.

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.