SIM card registration in Uganda: When Data management and transparency is tested

Photo credit: Infrastructure magazine

In April 2017, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) ordered a 7 days ultimatum demanding Ugandan citizens to register their SIM cards with local service providers using their national identity cards or risk deactivation. The move by government is defended on grounds of safeguarding national security and curbing crime in Uganda.

While the decision behind the initiative may qualify to be positive, the requirements asked of citizens to register their SIM cards is problematic. SIM cards belong to individuals who purchase them for personal use. However, the deactivation and registration deadline was agreed upon by selected committee comprised of the Police Chief,  UCC officials and service providers from different Telecom companies.  This seemed like a transparency trap since decisions affecting the wider public were discussed by few stakeholders without the involvement of the user department i.e the citizens.

In a transparent environment, sharing information with all stakeholders is very important. Ugandan citizens deserve better  transparency through sharing information and sensitization from UCC as to why SIM card registration is important, and  reasons for the preference of the national ID unlike other nationally issued identifications.This will result into good cooperation from the wider public, less speculation and rumors.

Being open and honest about all aspects in a given environment is advantageous, because it positions you in such a way that you can quickly and efficiently respond to problems and controversy if it arises.

Data management theater

Uganda has other agencies like the Ministry of Internal affairs where the national passport issuance agency i.e the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration is housed. Before obtaining a Uganda passport, verification and recommendation from local leaders, birth certificates, recommendation from Ugandan passport holders etc are required.

In fact, the data requested for by the Passport issuance agency is substantial and good enough for National Identification and Registration Authority-NIRA to update their systems. Further still, we also have Face technology which issues out computerized national driving permits and without it, one can never traverse Ugandan roads. Obtaining this too requires verification from police, doctors during eye check amongst others.

Despite having citizen’s bio-data with different agencies in addition to the growth of the ICT sector in Uganda, there is a missing link regards to the data harmonization and management framework between the data based agencies. This automatically brings us to the data-management theater Uganda is facing now!

Where is the problem

Uganda does not have a harmonized data management portal where key citizen information is securely posted, kept and updated. In fact the SIM card registration ultimatum exposed a lot of data management loopholes within the government agencies.

If Uganda had just one institution responsible for data management and safety, information from the Face technology, Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration, National Social Security Fund, police etc would be  easily harmonized. In any case of loopholes, citizens would be informed to update their information.

Without a harmonized system, a person can easily use a deceased’s details to register his/her SIM simply because the system tracking death and birth is independent of one issuing national IDs.

The SIM registration exercise itself has exposed the poor cooperation between some government agencies in Uganda. For instance, if UCC could only cooperate with ICT agency and others having citizen’s data, it would be simpler to access information required of citizens.

Therefore, the government could consider doing the following to improve its data management and handling practice.

  • Harmonizing all registration data bases with NIRA to avoid duplication of services and wastage of taxpayers’ money.
  • Sensitize masses on the need for registration instead of ordering ultimatums backed with justifications not easily understood by the common man.
  • Do not align the national ID to only SIM card registration. People will easily interpret it as a SIM ID.
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Embrace Open Justice to improve judicial transparency and accountability in Uganda

open Justice

Justice Steven Kavuma greets Justice Anglin Flavia Senoga at his arrival to grace the opening of New Law Year at High Court in Kampala (Photo credit: RedPepper)

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Performance of Uganda’s health Sector; Can increased financial allocation improve service delivery?

A woman in labor rested in the delivery room of the hospital in Arua (photo credit: NewyorkTimes)

Uganda’s human development especially the health sector is ranked 20th on the continent  at a score of 70.3 in the Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance 2015. To her credit, Uganda’s health sector has  registered improvements over the last four financial Years ( 2013/14- 2016/17), including the expansion of provider networks, abolishing of patient user- fees, sustained management of HIV patients amongst other achievements.

Despite the progressive markers, improvements have been unevenly distributed with a clear and persistent urban-rural gap.Though health related gender outcomes such as access to maternal health care have improved, they are slowed down by worrisome indicators like high fertility rates.

While a healthy citizenry is paramount for  the socio-economic stability and sustainable development of Uganda, this is not a product of the health sector alone, but also improved sector  financial allocation,  sector prioritization in the national budget and effective policy implementation.

What is Uganda’s health sector  financial Stand?

Uganda’s health sector remains significantly under-funded, mainly relying on private sources of financing especially out-of-pocket spending, thus making it difficult  to attain sector targets.

At less than 10% of its budget to health care, public spending on health is less than the 15% agreed upon in the Abuja Declaration by heads of African states.The current funding of US$ 27 per capita per annum expenditure on health care is far below the US$ 44 per capita recommended.

In principle, a good health financing system raises adequate funds for health in ways that ensure people can use needed services, and are  also protected from financial catastrophe or impoverishment associated with having to pay for them.

Generally, the health status of Ugandans remains poor, characterized with a low level of life expectancy and a high level of mortality undermining the efforts and investments for social and economic development.

Health sector allocation for the last Four financial years

Financial Year Amount allocated  % on the national budget Status
2013/2014 1,142.83 8.60% Moderate
2014/2015 1,197.80 8% Moderate
2015/2016 1270.8 7% Reduced
2016/2017 1.385 7% Low

Relationship between  health budget and  sector allocation  for the last four financial years ( Data  Source :CSBAG ,MoFPED)

In FY 2013/2014 and 2014/2015, the health sector received  approximately 9% of the national budget. In the period, a reduction of maternal mortality rates  was seen i.e from 168 per 100,000 in FY 2012/13 to 146 per 100,000 in 2013/14 . This was attributed to  recruitments  i.e deployment of midwives and other health workers, availability of medical equipment to health facilities and  60% health units having enough medicine.

Despite the moderate financial allocation, Local Government health services financing was inadequate. Financing of primary prevention initiatives at the district level was minimal thus leaving Civil society Organizations to fill gaps. Further still, recurrent budgets under the  Primary Health Care (PHC) grant still show limited improvement.

In FY 2014/2015 – 2015/2016,  sectoral budget allocation  was reduced from 8% -7%. At 7%,  nine hospitals  were constructed with World Bank support equivalent to US$ 52 million. i.e Moroto, Mityana  Nakaseke, Kiryandongo, amongst others. Ten (10) ambulances for Kampala metropolitan area were procured by the Ministry of Health contributing to a reduction in continued Maternal Mortality Ratio through implementation and distribution of Emergency Obstetric Care (EmONC) lifesaving medicines.

Projections for 2017/2018 Health  Sector Performance.

In FY 2017/18,  continuous implementation of a plan to accelerate investments in maternal, newborn and child health  is underway.This proposes five strategic shifts reflecting a paradigm shift in the reproductive, maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health(RMNCAH) agenda. i.e targeting areas with highest number of deaths, increasing access for high burden populations,placing emphasis on evidence based high impact interventions,  amongst other plans.

Whereas, the Ministry of health has outlined good proposals to advance the health standards of Uganda’s citizens, achievement is doubtable if the  health sector budget is reducing financial year after another. With a limited budget allocation, the ministry has little to deliver.

Though the burden of maternal and perinatal deaths was addressed at policy level by launching and beginning Implementation of a reproductive health maternal, newborn and child health (RHMNCH) sharpened plan 2013 to accelerate reduction of maternal, newborn and child mortality; sectoral priority to attract, recruit and retain staff to offer Maternal and Newborn care services could remain on paper due to continuous sectoral cuts.

Going Forward

Prioritization health sector financing in the national budget is key for implementation of the sectoral plans, ensure universal health coverage and improve service delivery for the betterment of Ugandans health services. Adequate financing of the health sector will provide all people with access to needed health services (including prevention, promotion, treatment and rehabilitation) of sufficient quality to be effective and ensure that the use of these services does not expose the citizens to financial hardships who mainly depend on 2 dollars a day for survival.

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Using open data to strengthen human rights reporting and awareness creation in Uganda

Photo Credit: Human Rights Network for Journalists Uganda- HRNJ

Uganda has an impressive legal framework like the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda 1995, chapter four of which highlights the fundamental human rights enjoyed by Citizens. Other laws include; the Access to Information Act 2005, Whistle blowers Act 2010, Anti corruption Amendment Act 2015, Anti torture Act among others.

The country prides in having an institutional framework supporting implementation, monitoring and reporting of laws namely, the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) whose mandate is spelt out in Article 52 of the Constitution, accredited with A status by the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions.

Law enforcement agencies like Uganda’s National Police force have a Directorate of Human rights and legal services, while Uganda People Defense Force (UPDF) has a human rights department.  Further more, Uganda has courts of law which administer justice and safeguard human rights. Through her institutional framework like the Uganda Human Rights Commission, Ugandans are sensitized on their human rights, access and protection thereof.

Overview on human rights performance In Uganda

Despite the legal, institutional and policy mechanisms, Uganda’s human rights performance remains dismal as human rights are under siege. The Global Integrity report 2011 conducted in 31 countries highlighted Uganda as having a low implementation gap with a score of 52%, with an excellent legal framework awarded at 98%, giving the country an implementation gap of 46%.

In Uganda, leaders have succeeded inculcating the minds of the citizens that human rights are no longer entitlements but tokens and privileges dangled out by the leaders. For example, while Ugandans have  the right to freedom of association, expression, movement and association as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, it has controversial laws like the Public Order Management Act 2013 and NGO Act  2016 which  could rob citizens of their rights.

The POMA requires citizens to seek permission from Police to hold a public gathering, which permission is often selectively or never guaranteed. Concerns about violations of freedom of association, assembly, and expression continued during and after Uganda’s February 2016 elections where the leaders of opposition were not allowed to gather for their cause and arrest of citizens under the disguise of idleness. Institutions like the Uganda National Police Force, Uganda People Defense Force and Courts which are supposed to safeguard human rights, are commonly cited at the center of the abuse.

During the 2016 elections, disenfranchisement of voters due to late delivery of polling materials in Kampala and Wakiso was cited, disenfranchisement of Ugandans in the diaspora, detainees, media was unable to operate freely and journalists were attacked and restricted while covering the elections, limited freedom of assembly especially for opposition candidates and supporters and excessive use of force by security agencies. This could be interpreted to mean that, human rights are no longer inalienable but offered as a piecemeal.

Despite having documentation of numerous human rights atrocities in Uganda, data sets on human rights reporting seem invisible. This alone can bring bias in human rights reporting; limit action on human rights injustices by interested actors as well as hinder awareness creation efforts.

Current Reality

Uganda has numerous human rights activists and agencies finding difficulty in accessing human rights data sets as each party  i.e activists and government has an independent database for individual use.

With access to data by selected individuals  and agencies, information could be used for selfish interests while limiting the additional pathways to raise awareness to human rights issues like describing a vivid story and sparking grassroots advocacy initiatives, while grounding these issues within a local context rather than relying so heavily on international initiatives with a Western lens.

On the other hand, lack of a centralized human rights data base affects human rights monitoring and reporting as each party interprets and reports what they have, but not what is actually on ground.

Whereas the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) is mandated to document cases of human rights abuses throughout the country, its work and operation are curtailed by limited funding and staffing. As a result, instead of carrying out independent documentation, UHRC relies on police records and cases only brought forward and registered in their offices.

Furthermore, even civil society actors  seem to operate in isolation, each with its own data. This makes national outlook on human rights reporting incomplete.

How open data strengthens human rights reporting  and awareness creation.

To curb human rights violations, open data advocacy and data analysis should be applied in reporting human rights violations. Good data analysis by human rights groups will help bolster litigation cases, and technology will provide free and open access to the data that governments and the public possess.

Access to data can make it to be used more widely and effectively in cases. With increased access, data could be open to analysis by a larger range of actors, including a variety of local human rights groups, which could help mitigate bias. With few people accessing human rights violation data, it is much easier to paint a subjective picture within a court of law.

Therefore, using data to tell a story, analysis, visualization and reporting can play a huge role in stimulating grassroots engagement campaigns or legislative policy advocacy. The end result can present an opportunity to utilize these strategies to monitor human rights.

Conclusion

Having a central database for human rights violation in Uganda is important to ease access to human rights violation cases by human rights groups, Journalists, state agencies and general public as a whole. While all actors i.e Civil Society, Journalists and state agencies may be inputting cases in the data portal, with centralized information, it’s anticipated that government will ease access to justice for the human rights victims.

With the database, parties will able to hold others accountable because performance benchmarks will be accessed by all i.e rate of disposing off cases, access to justice and evidence based data driven compelling stories will be produced by media without bias.

 

 

 

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Uganda’s Open data Trek

Road

(Photo credit: User.ug)

Open data are online, free of cost, accessible data that can be used, reused and distributed provided that the data source is attributed and shared alike. Open data is valuable in many ways including; transparency and democratic control, participation, self-empowerment, improved or new private products and services, innovation, improved efficiency and effectiveness of government services, impact measurement of policies and new knowledge from combined data sources and patterns in large data volumes, amongst other uses.

Uganda’s open data Journey

Uganda has laws which guarantee access to information  by the people and disclosure of  the same by government.  A good example is the Access to information Act (ATIA) 2005  which  manifests  a step forward for government’s willingness to provide useful public information. However, accessing information does not guarantee open data.

In principle, open data should be complete through making it publicly available and not subject to valid privacy, security or privilege limitations,  Primary where data is as collected at the source, with the highest possible level of granularity, not in aggregate or modified forms, timely by making it available as quickly as necessary to preserve the value of the data, Accessible by being made available on the Internet so as to accommodate the widest practical range of users and uses, machine processable  where data is reasonably structured to allow automated processing, Non discriminatory, Non proprietary by having data available in a format over which no entity has exclusive control, and License-free where it is not subject to any copyright, patent, trademark or trade secret regulation.

While open data is free data without restrictions, Access to information in Uganda’s context is the absolute opposite to the open data principles. Uganda’s Access to information regulations support implementation of the ATIA in a number of important ways like establishing procedures for citizens to request government held information and for government to respond to citizen requests,  but the same regulations have controversial factors like the burdensome provisions that make access unnecessarily costly and difficult .

As such, these provisions may not be in the spirit of the right to information provision as found in Uganda’s Constitution.  For example financial terms, application fees, details on what you use the information for,  amongst other restrictions are  some of the requirements and/or restrictions  to be fulfilled for one to access information in Uganda.

These factors greatly challenge the transparency and accountability principles in the search for information but also, could be a thorn in the throat to Uganda’s access to information and open data.

Not all is Lost

While there are bottlenecks in the laws surrounding access to information in Uganda, the country strives to make significant contributions towards opening up information for public consumption.  

Two government institutions should be credited for  their efforts towards opening up data sets  to the general public in a country which is not a member of the Open Government partnership. These include; Ministry of Planning Finance and Economic development (MoFPED) as well as the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA). For instance, Budget conferences are conducted by the  Minister of Finance Planning and Economic Development where the Budget Strategy for the next Financial Year is presented to all Ministries, Departments, Development partners, Local Governments, Civil Society and the public in general. This implies that the Finance ministry is  not only interested in  involving citizens in the budgeting process  but also informing them on the financial operations of government.

While  the same institutions institutions could be challenged by  financial resources, a non existent open data policy and Uganda not being a member of the Open Government Partnership,  the open budget initiative by the MoFPED and disclosure efforts by the PPDA to disclose timely online data are a positive step for Uganda’s willingness to open up data sets for public use.

These two government institutions could qualify as the leading data transparency institutions in Uganda,  but their efforts may never be appreciated by the biggest section of the population who do not access internet to search and make use of the data.  

Way forward

The open data movement in Uganda maybe be challenged by controversial laws, the country not being a member of the Open Government Partnership, 19% internet users and consumer’s illiteracy in the face of growing corruption.

However, independent groups like activists and media  should bridge a gap between the information released  while facilitating access and usability of the released by information by the population.

Media  should  interpret and disseminate the budget for easy understanding and follow up of events by the masses. 

 

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