Residents of rural Northern Uganda, in the districts of Apac, Kole and Oyam, will be able to use a new revamped version of the SMS platform, m-Omulimisa, to easily report service delivery issues, pursue the resolution of problems, and to hold their leaders accountable, after its launch yesterday.
Whilst m-Omulimisa (mobile Omulimisa) has existed since 2013, it has now been improved for easy reporting and receipt of feedback about issues of poor service delivery, via SMS. Anyone can report a problem by sending an SMS to 8228 or visiting www.wougnet.org/ushahidi/. The platform is integrated with the crowd mapping platform Ushahidi. Messages submitted via the platform are forwarded to the relevant local authority.
m-Omulimisa is an initiative by Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) who have worked since 2000 to promote and support the innovative use of ICTs among women, as tools to collectively share information and address local problems.
Despite tremendous growth in Uganda’s ICT sector, the uptake of new technologies is hampered by poor infrastructure, low literacy levels, high access costs and lack of local online content, particularly in rural areas. 80% of Ugandans live in rural areas and have very little access to information and decision-making about local service delivery and information about the performance of their leaders.
Ms Grace Acheng, a local resident from Chegere Subcounty in Apac district says, “Our districts face regular service delivery problems, such as impassable roads, bridges that have washed away, absentee school teachers, low quality building construction at schools, and lack of medicines at our health centres. m-Omulimisa gives us a way to report these problems, as well as corruption issues.”
Ms. Goretti Amuriat, Programme Manager Gender & ICT Policy Advocacy Program, Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET), says, “Historically, information about service delivery and accountability has been in the control of the district political and civil service leaders. We want to show how ICT tools such as mobile phones, radios and internet can be inclusively used as tools for engagement in which local communities hold their leaders accountable on service delivery and corruption. Via m-Omulimisa, sending stakeholders SMS messages about service delivery issues increases the pressure on local authorities/duty bearers and will stimulate action.”
In recent years WOUGNET has already made substantial progress in fostering citizen engagement and government accountability, via various different projects. Just two examples include the repair of poorly maintained borehole pipes at Awiri Parish in Chegere Subcounty, Apac district and the construction of new toilets at Amilo Primary School in IIbuje Subcounty, both in response to community reports which were then escalated to relevant officials.