By Opolot Nicholas L’akwang
Uganda’s National Vision 2040 underscores the need for Uganda to re-orient itself to make Information and Communications Technology (ICT) the main driver of its economic growth. For these targets to be multiplied and realized, Ministry of ICT and National Guidance has formulated enabling policies that will guide not only the development of ICT but also the foundations on which ICT stands. That foundation is connectivity for all to bring about affordability and digital inclusion in the economy.
At the Government Citizen Interaction Centre (GCIC), we believe there are significant opportunities for government to improve efficiency of service delivery through leveraging the power of social media for open government. Currently, Uganda boosts of a very young population. According to the 2014 Uganda Bureau of Statistics - National Population and Housing Census, 6.5 million Ugandans are youth (aged between 18 and 30 years) while 75% of the entire population is below 40 years. Most of these young people own a phone and have access to the internet. The shared mobile (wireless) internet has also increased from just 605,000 users in December 2010 to 14.8 million in August 2017 according to Uganda Communications Commission. This however, is still far below the global average in terms of fixed internet penetration.
Uganda currently, ranks 153rd in the world for fixed internet penetration with only 3 per 1000 inhabitants having access to fixed internet. By and large, a bigger portion of Uganda’s population with access to the internet are signed up to at least one social media account. This makes involvement of GCIC with a niche in online engagements critical to reach out to Uganda’s online community. The Government Citizen Interaction Centre (GCIC) operates under the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance as the key contact to citizens to enhance the monitoring of service delivery on various digital platforms.
More interestingly, the call centre service and the 900 toll free number at GCIC offers a reliable and timely platform for Ugandans without access to internet to communicate with government on delivery of critical services. Data generated from this call centre is analyzed to inform policy decisions, guide in the formulation of policy interventions and in the creation of targeted messages to citizens. GCIC aggregates government data and transforms it into messages that feed government and other platforms to keep citizens updated and informed about what’s going on by transforming it into clear, simplified, visualized and analyzed information which is channeled to responsible communication centers of government.
All form of feedback from citizens is critical to achieve GCIC’s strategic mission of providing timely, cost effective, and data driven communication between Government and its citizens through mainstream media and online communication channels. This results into effectiveness of public policy performance by enhancing monitoring of service delivery in a digitally connected world. GCIC uses its various social media platforms and website to disseminate tailored communications - highlighting access to critical services offered by Government of Uganda which enables the centre to reach out to various sections of the population who have diverse interests.
In this regard, GCIC is designed to function and operate as an open government platform where citizens can share their views about what they want and need, what they like and dislike, their overall expectation from Government and above all seek and receive information about Government’s sectors and receive it in a real time manner. Listening to people by government yields better and effective delivery of services to citizens, tweaking of policies to comply with needs of citizenry and creates more transparency and accountability.
The writer is a Communications Assistant at Government Citizen Interaction Centre (GCIC), Ministry of ICT and National Guidance.