One can only remain in the era of “secrets and confidential” at one’s cost and peril.
By Col Shaban Bantariza
Traditionally, most if not all government information was "secret, confidential" or actually "classified" in the case of security organs.
Whereas it could and can still be understandable for security agencies, the rest of government policies, programs, projects and plans, which are meant for the people's welfare and development, can no longer be secret or confidential in this information competition age! Why? In a democracy, where those who have been mandated and empowered by the electorate to take charge of their governance and welfare, the governors, have both public and private interest in keeping in touch with the people, so as not only to remain relevant, but also to keep assessing the progressively changing needs and aspirations of their countrymen and women.
After the world has advanced into this irreversible information age, one can only remain in the era of "secrets and confidential" at one's cost and peril. Of course am not saying that organizations and government have no more secret information. Certainly, they still have and must have! But the days of waiting for a minister to "REVEAL" a government program at a function, are now limited by "Time and Speed"! To put context to this argument, I recently saw a picture of the President inspecting a coffee farm in Bunyangabu County of Kabarole District, which belongs to a successful coffee farmer. The good thing about this Presidential inspection is that it gives the President first hand information about the successes, prospects and challenges of the current presidential initiative programme known as Operation Wealth Creation (OWC)
And today, OWC program is the real cash cow, the popular effort to get Uganda to the middle income status by 2020, or thereabout! "Thereabout"? Why? Because, getting to that socio-economic status is not an event; it's a process in which all of us, public and private, must synergize deliberately and consciously to achieve! And herein lies the role of information communication to a minister of government, or the president who is really the first spokesperson and communicator for government and the country; as he "unveils" a pro-people programme, there must be, of necessity, subordinate spokespersons and communicators, whose role is to further disseminate information about the programme, propagate the value of the programme to the beneficiary populace, identify the program implementation challenges, communicate back to the program managers so that they make appropriate adjustments if need be, so that then, the program does not join the list of failed programs like the "Ntandikwa" of the late 1980s.
Today, we have critical programs like OWC, Youth Livelihood program, Re-skilling Uganda which are meant for the unemployed youths to make them responsive to the job market demands, etc. I have often been to my villages in Bushenyi and Mitooma districts and you hear genuine questions asked about these useful programs, which even the community Development Officers at Sub counties can't appropriately and informatively respond to! What is the problem? Good pro-people programs, good information, which is not popularly communicated, is dead in the waters! To that effect, the beneficiary population remains unaware of the government success in certain areas of the country where the program has done well, and hence cannot bench mark some of these farmers like those shown on Bukedde TV called "Omulimi Asinga" or the successful Madame Kiiza of Masaka or some of the Banana farmers in Bushenyi, upland rice farmers in Gulu, or Tea growers in Kanungu and Mitooma some of who collectivize their land for collective agricultural farming that gives them better and more output, hence better value!
In short, struggling to deliver better services to especially the rural populace, mobilizing them to take advantage of pro-people economic programs of government, necessitates talking to the people, from nearer the people, with the people, and then back to government, from the people! Hence , the current decision by government to enlist government communicators for all ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) is a very good move which however needs to be strategic, by reaching out to the "information needy and information hungry" Wananchi, who must not wait for the fruits of government effort to transform them, but must be partners with government in the struggle to get out of poverty by entering the cash economy, and this comes with such programs as Operation Wealth Creation ,which I must say , is a popular, and effective program, but needs the knowledgeable "catechists" to practically evangelize the poor peasants from peasantry, onto the road to the middle income status, and forward to VISION 2040, that will see Uganda a socio-economically, not only developed, but transformed society.
To achieve this vision and its preceding phases however, needs all of us, not to "speak to ourselves", but to the target and targeted audiences in rural Uganda.
Let's meet there.