Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Data revolution is at our door step

With the information revolution now reaching our small towns and villages, the author argues its high time we  embraced it!

By Warren Nyamugasira

There is a common saying that if you want to hide information from an African, you put it in a book. That many Africans don’t read much is an open secret. For those who did not have to the chance to go to school, it is not their fault that they cannot read. But the saying was not aimed at them. It is directed at those well schooled Africans who last touch a book the day they finish writing their last formal exam. They graduate from whatever institution without ever discovering that books are a gold mine, the source of all knowledge distilled from the best in all generations and across fields of expertise.

In blaming Africans who, by choice, don’t read, it is important to point out that there has been a real obstacle standing in their way when it comes to how data is packaged. Take Government Data and Information for example. Some of it is in voluminous books whose sheer size is intimidating to an average person. For example, the Ministry of Finance’s Approved Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure 2013, covering both Recurrent and Development figures for the 2013/14 Fiscal Year is a cool 1,118 pages! The smallest report from that source was the Annual Budget Monitoring Report for 2012/13 which is 600 pages. The truth is that there is too much data from multiple sources that oftentimes one is like the blind describing an elephant on the basis of the part they are touching. The more you try to get informed, the more you discover how partial your knowledge was in the first place. And that is not all. Some of these documents are in the public domain while others are not, still protected by the Official Secrets Act of 1964, which is the basis for Public Service Standing Orders that every public servant must sign within months of taking up a job and will be quick to fall back on to in cases of data he or she does not want to release to an inquiring public.

Make no mistake about it, data is good but is better when analysed to be made sense of. Analysis is good but is more useful when it is turned into information. On its part, information works better if it influences policy and practice. Policy is good only if implemented and can translate into improved services to the ordinary people. The link between the big volumes of government data must always be made down to the impact they cause in the lives of ordinary people.

A new global movement, the Open Data movement has emerged and is fast gaining popularity and traction in Uganda. It has its roots in the Open Government Partnership founded in 2009 and launched in 2011. Initially with a membership of eight countries it has since grown to 63 countries in a space of two years. Although unfortunately Uganda has not yet signed, the aim of the movement is providing a platform for domestic reformers committed to making their governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens. In all of these countries, government and civil society are working together to develop and implement ambitious open government reforms to make all data open; all open data accessible and all accessible data usable while all usable data must be accessible to all citizens. In Uganda one of champions of open data is Development Research and Training and partners through www.opendevdata.ug

In the process, it has now become possible for a whole load of data to be joined up and made to ‘speak’ to each other and then made available at as low a level as the district, sub-county and possibly the parish with the aim of improving citizen engagement and leadership decision making at those levels. When this is fully operational and is rolled out to every parish in villages and towns in entire country, data will have been returned to the realm of ordinary persons’ lives. Previously complex data will become part and parcel of ordinary people’s everyday conversations. With so many in villages now having graduates of Universal Primary and Secondary Education, and with the proliferation of FM radio stations, it will no longer be possible to hide information from any Ugandan because they will no longer have to look for information as information will now look for them. We are in the midst of an information revolution!!

The writer is an Economist and Development Activist. This article also was published in The New Vision of April 14, 2014

DRT’s Experience with Using UBOS’ Microdata

Bernard Sabiti

On March 19, 2014, I was privileged to attend a “Microdata Outreach Workshop” hosted by Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), with support from OECD’s Accelerated Data Program (ADP), Paris 21. I shared how we have used UBOS’ micro data since DRT’s inception 16 years ago (particularly during chronic poverty work). I linked this with our ODDC study on the impact of Open Data on Key resource allocation decisions and thereafter contributed to UBOS’ draft Microdata Access Policy. ppt here

Uganda Develops ‘National Web Portal’, tightens journalist regulations

From the East African Business Week

KAMPALA, Uganda – Uganda’s government has developed a Web portal that will ease the flow of information from its institutions to the general public.

Pius Mwinganisa the principal information officer at the Ministry of Information and National Guidance said the Government web portal will host all Government institutions.

It will help the public to access information from all the Government departments which has been a big challenge.

“The Government web portal will be a one stop information center where the public will access Government information.

“As a ministry, we shall ensure that all sectors avail the necessary information to us. This will allow our information and technology team to upload all the information to the central web portal,” he explained.

The information officer disclosed this during the News Editor Breakfast meeting organized by the Ministry of Information and National Guidance in Kampala. The objective of the breakfast meeting was to equip news managers with the new proposed media code which the Government want to implement soon.

Mwinganisa, who is also the secretary to the Media Council of Uganda, noted that the central Government web portal will help Government, the General public and professionals like Journalist to monitor Government Institutions in services delivery.

He said journalists have been facing challenges in accessing Government information due to bureaucracy but with the portal all the information will be available to the general public. According to him, this will help Government in the fight against corruption.

In order to ensure that the portal functions excellently, the Minister of Information and National Guidance Rose Namayanja Nsereko said Government will ensure that all ministries and autonomous institutions that have been operating without official spokespersons recruits information officers who will be updating the ministry of information from their agencies on how their agencies ministries are implementing Government programs.

“Some Government ministries have been operating without an official spokesperson. This hinders the flow of information from such Government institutions. With the coming up of this web portal, all Government institutions will be mandatory to have substantive spokespersons who can comment on behalf of the organization in the absence of the minister, permanent secretary, or the Executive director in case of an Authority,” he said.

The National Government web portal will be maintained by the office of the prime minister and it has been developed by the National Information Technology Authority Uganda (NITA -U) and it can be accessed at www.gov.ug .

It is expected to be launched very soon by the president of Uganda.

The Government web portal will not only inform the public about Government programs but it will also act as an investment guide where the Government will be posting information concerning investment opportunities in the country.

On the new media code, the minister said Government is coming up with new Journalism and media reforms  which will see journalists in the country registered by the media council and pay for the Practicing license certificates.

Namayanja observed that although the Government liberalized the sector in the early 1990s the Journalism professional has been highly infiltrated by non-professionals whom she said have killed the quality of journalism in the country.

“The Journalism professional in Uganda is the most disorganized one in the region. Where the sector is tightly monitored by the state, there is professionalism and that is where we want to go as Uganda. If the Government implements the 1995 Media statute we shall eliminate masqueraders in the profession,” the minister said.

However, a cross section of the Editors who attended the meeting objected to the registration fee which they said is very prohibitive to ordinary journalists in Uganda who largely operate as freelance journalists.

In such cases they are paid per story. Others said Government wants to use the Journalism registration to control the freedom of expression.

“The Journalism sector should be regulated but Government should not regulate the sector by over charging the practitioners. Some of the charges which Government is suggesting should be dropped,” said Babra Kaija the Editor in Chief of Uganda’s leading daily Newspaper the New Vision.

Walter Isenged the Editor In Chief at East African Business Week said the profession should be regulated but the payment of the sum of Ush 200,000 or USD$ 80 per journalist for the license fee should not be implemented by Government.

According to the new regulations issued by the Information and National guidance minister, Rose Namayanja, in a statutory instrument entitled the Press and Journalist (fees) Regulations, 2014, journalists will be required to pay sh200,000 or USD$80 for a practicing certificate and sh100,000 (US$ 40) for renewing the certificate every year.

The new regulations also require journalists to pay sh5,000 (US$ 2) as application for enrolment and sh30,000 (US$ 12) for a certificate of enrolment. Furthermore, to have his certificate entered on the register of journalists, the journalist will have to pay sh50,000 (US$ 20).