How open data could transform the citizen-government relationship in Uganda

This blog is cross-posted from the AidInfo blog.

This Saturday is Open Data Day, a global initiative that encourages citizens around the world to show support for and encourage the adoption of open data policies by the world’s
governments. It’s an exciting time for Uganda because on Saturday we have jointly organised a hackathon with the Open Development Partnership and a group of Ugandan journalists, HacksHackers Kampala and in March, a CSO-led Open Data Platform will be launched.


We hope this might spell the beginning of the end to the
many years Ugandans have been waking up to alarming reports and news of mismanagement
of public resources, in particular of multi-billion aid-funded development programmes and
projects.

The open data portal should be among the Government’s planned anti-corruption interventions.
This would enhance the effectiveness of all the other actions they have taken in this area.

Open data initiatives have the potential to nurture a culture of transparency and openness among
public institutions and officials. Moreover, the information can be made simpler and more user-friendly for anybody who wants
to know about what their government is doing.

It is common
knowledge that citizens, donors, private sector, media, CSOs and even some public officials
are currently questioning the Ugandan government’s ability to fight theft and address the mis-use of public
resources. Openness will help build trust between the Government and the public. It will also enhance accountability and demonstrate the Government’s commitment
to spend public resources on the real national priorities.


Some people will say that eliminating
corruption in this country requires legislation and jail terms. But we all know that people still steal public
funds, despite the existence of laws against it. We need to make the practice detested, and ensure officials know that the public is tracking any attempts to swindle their resources.

It is important to note
that citizens have a responsibility to demand and use the information in order to realize
improvements in delivery of public services. A passive citizenry cannot help to nurture openness, transparency and accountability.

Finally, Openness can help to diffuse tension among the citizenry. When people don’t
have adequate information about government operations, they resort to speculation,
demonstrations, and other means. There should be no room for citizens to start suspecting
their government of hiding information.

Beatrice is Director of Development Research and Training

One thought on “How open data could transform the citizen-government relationship in Uganda”

  1. comparing Uganda with Pakistan may not be the best of comparisons, but being a Pakistani I feel compelled to do so. Given the multitude of multi-faceted problems the developing nations are facing, open data could indeed help eradicating critical issues that hurdle the growing yet instable economies. Open data may very well be the necessary condition for world governments to interact on international platforms in the unforseen future.

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