Results follow up, ToroDevelopment Network 2017
ToroDev is implementing a project that aims to mainstream active electronic citizens’
participation to influence governance processes in Uganda and Kenya.
A baseline study and needs assessment aimed at facilitating the implementation of an e-participation system to improve governance and public service delivery in Uganda and Kenya was carried out for ToroDev. The study was conducted between August and December 2016 in Western, South Western and Northern Uganda, and Nakuru County in Kenya. The study was conducted by ToroDev, an indigenous civil society organisation based in Uganda.
ToroDev’s activities are premised on the ideals that community empowerment through knowledge and utilization of ICT4D tools leads to good governance processes, characterised by prioritised public resources appropriation and hence improved livelihoods. The organisation has thus pioneered the strategic use of ICT4D tools for resource utilisation, self-sustainability and citizen participation in governance.
ToroDev is implementing a project that aims to mainstream active electronic citizens’ participation to influence governance processes in Uganda and Kenya. The ultimate goal of the project is to design an e-participation system, called ‘Me and My Leader’ or (MML) that will eventually facilitate interaction between citizens and leadership at various levels. The promotion of citizens’ engagement with duty bearers is perceived to be fundamental in improving governance and public service delivery as citizens would air out views and concerns on different services, resource appropriation and to monitor and provide feedback on government programs.
To read the entire baseline and need assessment report please click here.
How some of the Baseline & Needs Assessment findings have influenced the on-going Project Implementation so far
Issue no 1: Information Security
Respondents expressed fear that their cases would be blocked by private secretaries or assistant officers.
A majority of respondents needed to know and be assured that information sent on the proposed MML e-participation system is received by the rightful persons or duty-bearers. They expressed fear that their cases would be blocked by private secretaries or assistant officers – which is a common case in public offices in both Uganda and Kenya.
In an attempt to address this, ToroDev incorporated this concern in the design and development of the e-Participation system by including an authentication page for the designated duty-bearers. The duty-bearer has to sign in with the same account they have created to be able to access analyzed decision support reports posted on the platform and the same reports are directly sent to their e-mail address.
The District/County-CSO forums that ToroDev is initiating are other counter-check platforms where the analysed decision support reports are discussed on a quarterly basis. In other words, there is an online-offline complementarity approach for quality control, assurance for discussion initiation, analysis of results and getting feedback.
Issue no 2: Personal security/safety and Misuse/Abuse of System
Respondents also needed to know and demanded a mechanism within the e-participation system that protects whistleblowers, especially on sensitive matters like corruption, sexual harassment, abuse of office, etc.
The developed system allows the user to create an account for visible and assigned discussions to the individual account on system. It does not display mobile numbers on the public interface, for those who use MobileSMS to participate. Such details are only held and fully viewed in the system database by the participation moderator. If a user desires not to be identified by the system as the source of any discussion responses, the user can be recorded as anonymous, when accessing the system from a computer.
Moderation control of the designed e-participation platform also targets inappropriate use of the system, where such contributions are not approved for public viewing.
Issue no 3: Connectivity barriers, ICT- and e-Participation illiteracy and youth participation
Data subscriptions, volume/bundle cost and pay per usage were major barriers from using the Internet for the majority of upcountry citizens.
Data subscriptions, volume/bundle cost and pay per usage were major barriers from using the Internet for the majority of upcountry citizens. Throughout the field study, researchers also established that a majority of the respondents had very limited knowledge of ICTs.
Particularly, the study revealed that while the respondents were zealous to the e-participation project objectives, a majority were not in position to pass over the philosophy and concepts of the project to their communities. In addition a few looked or received the project objectives in view of achieving personal needs but not the community needs or the wellbeing of the society.
In addressing these challenges, the designed system has already acquired two pre-paid toll-free numbers and key word for MobileSMS participation. This is done to target rural women and youth, who are the key groups in the project. ToroDev plans to advocate for districts and county ICT departments to facilitate the 2 keywords in Kenya and Uganda beyond the project period. This is part of the sustainability engagement that ToroDev has incorporated in their recent activities of initiating District – CSOs Forums at sub-national administrative units in Uganda and Kenya pilot sites.
The trainers of trainees’ sessions have also commenced, targeting civic groups’ members in Western & Northern Uganda, as ToroDev awaits completion of the general election processes in Kenya in August 2017. This activity is targeting increase in both ICT and knowledge of e-participation philosophy amongst community civic group members in pilot regions. The information component of the e-participation has also been designed and shall comprise of reports and adverts for economic opportunities or tenders for youth and women to tap into. These acts motivate respondents to view the MML as a community good.