ICTs for improved service delivery.

The following story was kindly provided to us by Victoria Mbigidde and Brenda Otika at WOUGNET.

Nowadays, the need for social accountability and gaining citizen contribution in promoting good governance cannot go without being noticed. This is why WOUGNET, with support from the Indigo Trust, initiated the project “Strengthening citizen’s capacity to monitor and report for improved service delivery using innovative ICTs”.

The project is being run in the rural districts of northern Uganda – namely Apac, Kole and Oyam – where the majority of people are illiterate and lack basic ICT skills. Furthermore, they do not have access to some of the basic ICT tools such as digital cameras, computers and internet. To facilitate the smooth running of the project, digital devices were purchased, while capacity building projects ensure that the local people actively engage with the project and demand what is rightfully theirs.

Voluntary Social Accountability Committees (VSACs) were equipped with digital cameras and mobile phones to ease their service delivery monitoring activities, as well as to provide reliable evidence to build cases.

VSACs have received some training on how the Ushahidi digital mapping platform works. This is because the photos that they take during their monitoring, with their findings are often uploaded and shared with the wider public. Poor service delivery issues identified and achievements realized are often shared on the platform. More information can be accessed via www.wougnet.org/ushahidi/reports.

Untitled1

VSACs from Kole and Oyam get familiar with the Ushahidi platform during an ICT capacity building workshop that was conducted in Kole and Oyam districts respectively.

Alutkot Primary School in Oyam district is one of the schools that were monitored by the voluntary social accountability committees. This school has four classrooms only, yet is designed to house pupils from primary one to primary seven. This leaves them with no option other than using the church as a classroom while others study in thatched buildings that prove unreliable during wet weather.

The school has only eight teachers for 628 pupils and only six toilets for the entire school.  The head teacher, Mr. Okello Francis, notes that this school has suffered for long and something needs to be done about it.

Untitled2

From left to right, grass thatched structure being used as a classroom, middle pupils in class and right pupils attending classes in a church which even has limited lighting.

Teachers commute from their homes to teach since there are no staff houses in the school. A twin House was constructed last year in Alutkot primary school. The building was handed over to the school by the contractor but by Feb 2013, before the building was even being sued, it had already developed cracks. The pit latrine wall has also developed deep cracks that could collapse soon.

Untitled3

On the left is the newly constructed twin staff house, centre is cracked floor before the building has been put to use and right is the cracked wall of the toilet.

The digital cameras and mobile phones availed to the VSACs have made their monitoring easy as they are able to document their findings which are in turn shared with the different stakeholders. Mobile phones are being used by the VSACs to mobilize for field work and also communicate their findings among themselves and with the project staff.

The evidence is being used by the VSACs to advocate for improved service delivery as well as build engagement with local authorities and other stakeholders in governance issues and service delivery. In some instances, the VSACs have seriously engaged with their leaders and achievements have been realized thus promoting transparency and improving service delivery.