Did you know government pays part of your Umeme bills, electrifying a village in Rakai district, tarmacking a road in Gulu and much more? 99.9 % of 34 million Ugandans will answer No, how am I to know? In a recent NTV Uganda interview, the spokesperson of the Directorate of Public Prosecution said the Directorate`s biggest challenge is dissemination of information to the public. Adding, “We have won 53% of cases…” news to questioners on social media.
Government; (ministries, departments and agencies) has continuously lagged behind on harnessing the value of ICT in rebranding itself as a performer. This is not to say government is performing but another wakeup call for government to open up to citizens to participate in developments by leveraging the ICT tool to promote transparency. I mean,
what`s more than gaining citizens` trust to a government?
In the rather ambitious Vision 2040, government alluded to the absence of a national value system slowing national mobilization on key developments, highlighting corruption and unconducive work ethics as big threats to economic growth and transformation which are difficult to handle without a national value system. The question is, can you build a value system without citizens` trust?
On the campaign trail, then-Senator Obama promised to “restore the American people’s trust in their government by making government more open and transparent,” On Obama’s first day in office, he issued two memoranda on “open government,” referring to increased transparency using ICT innovations. The first, on the Freedom of Information Act, (FOIA) to encourage government agencies to be more responsive to FOIA requests by citizens, stating that FOIA encourages accountability through transparency and is the most prominent expression of a profound national commitment to ensuring an open Government.
Similar to America`s FOIA, in 2005 the government of Uganda (one of the few in Africa) with development partners pressure, passed the Access to Information Act (ATIA) with “sugar-coated” objectives like; “(d) to promote transparency and accountability in all organs of the State by providing the public with timely, accessible and accurate information; and (e) to empower the public to effectively scrutinise and participate in Government decisions that affect them”. But an April, 2013 World Bank study shows that like many other laws, six years later implementation and intended objectives are both negative. Remember the Oil agreements saga where government held onto the PSAs! But little does government know that if innovatively implemented, ATIA could turn out in its favour and fuel the Vision 2040. Do i need to remind government that we are in the information era and using information innovatively wields power?
Let`s visualise a simple scenario, would you steal Global Fund money knowing that a million people are watching it? including; HIV positive peasant mothers upcountry who received an SMS that their ARVs are ready, elite Ugandans who conveniently view, engage with leaders and do independent checks and balances on budget allocations and spending over the web or smart phones? My answer is, “NO, I wouldn`t”. Not to pre-empt what our budding IT youth can innovate with this information/data to improve citizen participation, and service delivery.
Edwards Demings a reknown statistician is quoted to have said, “In God we trust, all others must bring data.” Government has long had a culture of keeping citizens ignorant which has worked to its detriment. Government now needs to rebrand from one famed for corruption to a transparent, and participatory (ingredients of trust) one by proactively giving “RELEVANT” information to citizens. Today URA is struggling to beat collection targets, but without convenience and trust from taxpayers, voluntary compliance is a dream way beyond even 2040.
Information Architect/ICT Consultant at elmot.ug