Corruption is a very serious issue in most African countries and it has negatively impacted on service delivery. Corruption leads to misallocation of scarce resources where public priorities are distorted to facilitate lifestyles of public officials instead of focusing on the ordinary citizens. Corruption mainly affects the poor as they entirely depend on services offered by the government. For instance, in many government health centres drugs are often out of stock either due to delay in delivery of drugs to the health units, theft of drugs by health workers, limited number of drugs or even sending only essential drugs. Those who are fairly well off opt for private clinics. Access roads in most places in the country are also in bad condition and this interferes with business/trade and limits movement. Embezzlement of funds has also contributed to substandard/shoddy work.
WOUGNET, under the project “Empowering local people and communities to monitor district’s services delivery through ICTs”, has built the capacity of the community (Voluntary social accountability committees) to identify and report bad governance issues such as corruption and poor service delivery. It is also building their ICT capacities to explore the opportunities offered by them to promote service delivery. The major tools being used under the project include mobile phones and digital cameras and the Ushahidi platform.
One of the major gaps identified during the implementation of this has been limited ICTs skills by the communities to promote good governance. Support was sought from Indigo Trust to bridge this gap, to support the provision of ICT tools, mobile phones and cameras as well as the training to facilitate the use of the tools. In October 2012, a collaboration was reached with Indigo. Currently trainings for the VSACs from Apac, Kole and Oyam districts have begun to sharpen their reporting skills using ICTs.
During the training, especially ICT skills capacity building workshop, the VSACs were very excited specifically about the use of Ushahidi platform. When some of them saw their issues in the platform they felt so great as they knew that many people were aware of their plight. Some of them said they never expected to use the internet and believed it was a “thing for the educated”.
VSACs practically uploading poor service delivery issues identified on Ushahidi platform (left participants from Oyam district, right Paska Angulu uploading content).
Mrs. Paska Angulu, a VSAC from Tarogali parish Ibuje sub-county, Apac district said, “I used to type only letters but in the training I got myself uploading issues of poor governance on Ushahidi platform. This really made me build a heart of using computers though I used to fear. It also encouraged and strengthened me to work with WOUGNET”.
In a nutshell, ICTs are very instrumental in promoting good governance if well used. It is something that can be embraced by anyone irrespective of one’s’ level of education as long as one has interest. ICT infrastructure in hard to reach areas need to be strengthened so that rural people are not left behind. Together, let us embrace technology to transform our communities.
Article compiled by Mercy Lillian Ogema and Brenda Otika