Thursday July 17 2014

SMS platform will improve service delivery

By Phoebe Atukunda

According to Uganda Communications Commission website, in 2013, there were 16 million mobile phone subscribers in Uganda. Most Ugandans communicate easily using mobile technology in almost every household. This technology can be effectively utilised to improve the delivery of public goods and services especially at Local Government levels.
In 2013, the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment in partnership with Uganda Local Governments Association launched the Local Government SMS Platform in selected districts. The SMS platform is a means for citizens to send feedback in their local languages to their district leaders about public service deficiencies in their communities. The platform has opened another channel for citizens to communicate with their respective district leaders to improve the performance of local leaders and public service delivery ultimately.

The use of SMS technology helps in bridging the gap between communities and their leaders. It facilitates the flow of information, especially about public service delivery, corruption and human rights issues, among others. It also presents an opportunity for political leaders especially at local government level to improve contact with the electorate by providing feedback to communities in regard to public goods and services in their respective areas of jurisdiction. This in turn reduces the cost of physical monitoring of service delivery units given its convenience. The SMS platform is being used by other organisations in Uganda like Unicef to monitor health and education related issues. This has been through MTrack and EDUtrack

Research done by ACODE and ULGA under the Local Government Score Card Initiative indicates that many citizens do not know the roles of their councillors and many of the councillors do not know their duties. As per the Local Government Act, local leaders are responsible for among other things monitoring government programmes and services within their sub counties, make by–laws for community development, participate in sub-county council meetings, representing and speaking out on community issues in the district council.

The SMS platform enables citizens to channel concerns to their leaders particularly about service delivery challenges in their communities.
The participation of citizens in monitoring the delivery of public goods and services will help government improve its performance and create civic competence of citizens in demanding for good governance.