Sustaining the Gains of Freedom of Expression & Good Governance through ICTs
A case study of ToroDev Interventions in the Rwenzori region, Western Uganda ICT4Democracy Network for East Africa Workshop, Dar es Salaam Tanzania, December 4th – 6th 2012 By: Johnstone Baguma
Brief About ToroDev Established in December 2005 and started operations in early 2006 as a community based NGO. Later became incorporated as a non-profit private development institution (Limited Liability by Guarantee) operating in Uganda. Current operations cover seven rural districts of the Rwenzori region, western Uganda. ToroDev envisions “a Uganda community that is well informed, knowledgeable, empowered, wealthier, dem ocratic and responsible for her own development processes.” Mainly targets the marginalized rural women and youth… definitely with support of men.
ToroDev’s main Themes/Programs ICT- Enabled Public Accountability for Improved Service Delivery & Democratic Engagement ICT-Enabled Innovation & Entrepreneurship Development ( Business Incubation Initiative) Website; http://www.torodev.co.ug Facebook Keyword; “Toro Development Network” Twitter; @torodev1 Blog News; http://torodev.blogspot.com Phone; +256 464 66 0034
Understanding Freedom of Expression & Good Governance Freedom of ExpressionEnjoyment of a fundamental human right toassociation, communication. In practice, however, theenjoyment is not absolute in any country, and commonly issubject to limitations such aslibel, slander, obscenity, sedition, inciting ethnicviolence, etc.. Good GovernanceLeadership that is sensitive to citizens’ priority developmentneeds, accommodative to divergent citizens’ views andoffering responsible guidance to social, economic andpolitical development processes. Sustain (-ing)ability:The most appropriate, cost effective, relevant, people-ownedinitiatives/approaches to development
Understanding Social Media In the interest and concept of this presentation, Social Media may mean online tools powered by internet to facilitate data collection, information and knowledge sharing for purposes of social, economic and political development. This can be in form of text, audio, visual and other multimedia communications. Most Web 2.o tools are social media tools. ToroDev heavily relies on open source, social media tools for data collection, information access and knowledge sharing.
How ToroDev is facilitating theprocess?.....Identifying Gaps; Already much of legislation is in place in Uganda (AIA 2005, Constitution (Article 29) 1995, ICT Policy 2003, LG Act , etc. At District & Parliament levels PACs are in place. However, the local citizens hardly know that the above pieces of legislation exist and actually protects them. ToroDev identified the broadcast media as most appropriate ICT tool to converge other sources of information, including the internet applications because of challenges of both Basic and ICT skill illiteracy. ToroDev understands that, in a rural setting, hardy 3 out of 10 individuals can access print newspapers, neither internet connectivity, let alone having skills to access it.
How ToroDev is facilitating theprocess? Having a few well trained and committed individuals (Rural Monitors) who can access online tools to gather relevant information about service delivery/government development processes… Repackaging this info (using likes of Ushahidi) and freely communicating it through the broadcast media for the rest of local citizens in local content… ToroDev facilitates the process of bringing together local citizens and leaders to discuss development issues together ( democratic engagement) through virtual and physical platforms. Mentoring the Broadcast media practioners to innovatively engage both local citizens and their leaders to sustainably discuss priority development needs and address them.
Challenges & Efforts to Counterthem The participation of women in our initiative still desirable. Issues of women mobility, assertiveness, limited skills compared to male counterparts, lack of resources to own simple ICT tools like Mobile Phones, radio sets, etc always arise. Limited financial resources that directly influences, staff capacity at ToroDev, access to equipment and facilitating interventions like orienting local leaders on laws, organizing rural debates where women views and concerns can be recorded.. Political leadership Luke warmness to support civil society, manipulation and interference is high in
Conclusion When deploying any ICT tool for development in, any community, a careful study of local people’s capacity in terms of usability/skills, affordability – including the costs, infrastructural roll-out, perceptions, etc have to be carefully studied and considered.. The convergence/combination of ICT tools also should be explored and deployed. Whereas it may be expensive and requiring special skills for a rural citizen to access internet and use online social or print media information to engage his/her leaders for improved service delivery, convergence the same information on a local FM radio station, for example, can empower the local citizens in any given community to closely participate in good governance processes. This is exactly what ToroDev does with support from SPIDER.