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 (ACODE) in partnership with Uganda Local Governments Association (ULGA) launched the Local Government SMS Platform in selected districts across the country.
The SMS Platform is providing a method 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.
Short message service (SMS) is a mechanism of delivery of short messages over mobile networks.
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. SMS is being used by other organisations in Uganda like UNICEF to monitor health and education related issue.
This has been through MTrack and EDUtrack
Some research reports indicate that many citizens do not actually know the roles of their councillors.
However, many of the councillors themselves do not appropriately 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 participation of citizens in monitoring the delivery of public goods and services will help the Government improve its performance and create civic competence of citizens in demanding for good governance.
The writer is a research officer with the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment