It’s crystal clear, there is just so much valuable information around us. Unfortunately, most of it is locked up in fireproof cabins — owned by the government — and not even easily accessible by the public.
This has bred contempt and suspicion. A lot of it.
In Uganda, on June 3 2011, the government finally put to paper the regulations that allowed absolutely any citizen access to information through an Act that was passed by parliament nearly nine years ago.
Ironically, the government passed the regulations in secret, only revealing them after they were leaked by local civil society organizations. These actions utterly missed the point of such legislation, which is designed to increase transparency and accountability.
However, that is changing. The office of the Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi, of Uganda in conjunction with partners is launching an open governance platform dubbed AskYourGov. This is a dedicated website that offers citizens chance to request for information from 63 government agencies/parastatals , for starters. Further more, it’s infused with social media to harness even more engagement with the meteorically increasing number of social media users. We have been tipped, that once in a while, there will be tweetchats with the those at the stewardship of these organisations.
Of course open governance is a great initiative, nonetheless, it’s also a building block to the journey to e-governance. A journey that will democratize information and loosen the barrier to information access.
The first building block of an e-government is telling citizens apart. This sounds blatantly obvious, but alternating between referring to a person by his mobile money number, taxpayer number, and other identifiers doesn’t cut it. Following the government’s efforts to register all citizens in a unified database, the future of a software powered government seems closer. Identification will use a simple, unique ID methodology across all systems, from paper passports to bank records to government offices and hospitals.
A lot has been said about the “openness-of-things” lately, especially about open data and how it could potentially change Africa. The openness will soon be the backbone of pivotal sectors such as health, governance, finance et al.
One data sheet at a time, we’ll get there.
Image | Open Government Partnership