Partnership for Transparency Fund (PTF) recently launched the pilot phase of a flagship program – Citizen Action Platform (CAP) – in the Apac region of Uganda.
CAP is pioneering a new approach to enable civil society organizations (CSOs) to more efficiently and effectively improve local governance and development outcomes. Using SMS, social media, and geo-mapping tools, citizens can provide powerful information from the grassroots to inform policy makers and the media to improve reform service delivery in affected areas.
CAP’s pilot phase will track issues with health care service delivery in Apac district of Uganda. Basic health services are essential to human, economic and social development, but public corruption in developing countries often poses a fundamental threat to their delivery. In Apac, there has been significant public outcry about poor health services – patients are denied health services, mistreated, or forced to pay a bribe before undergoing treatment which is supposed to be free. Through CAP, PTF and its partners – Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda (ACCU) and its local affiliate The Apac Anti-Corruption Coalition (TAACC) – will validate grievances in health services and work with authorities at the local and federal level to resolve them, then report back to citizens on the result.
Citizens are perhaps the best identifiers of problems in local governance and service delivery, but there has remained a major challenge to give them a voice in the processes that directly affect their wellbeing and transform the system as a whole. CAP will attempt to tackle this challenge by putting citizen participation the heart of constructive engagement. TAACC Program Coordinator, Tom Opwonya, emphasizes that through CAP, “everyone will become a monitor” and earnestly expresses his “ hope and prayer that this project will empower our people… and make them responsive citizens.”
“The beauty of the system is that all the grievances will be categorized, so when we set up a dialogue with duty bearers… we know exactly which kinds of grievances were submitted, where and when,” explains CAP Team Leader, Leen Solleveld. This hard data is expected to provide strong arguments for ACCU/TAACC to set up effective interactions with duty bearers.
Further indication of the CAP’s expected success lies with the duty bearers themselves, who expressed a commitment to improving health service delivery themselves. In a letter to PTF and partners, the Apac District Chief Administrative Officer states “I am very glad to receive this new project…. I hope these mechanisms…will enable us to generate accurate information for mobilizing, tracking, and reporting grievances in public service deliveries to derive solutions based on facts.”
ACCU and TAACC are currently implementing an awareness campaign to alert citizens to their rights and encourage them to report grievances within the health sector. As of January 2014, the CAP system will be publically launched and ready for use by citizens. Beginning immediately after the public launch, ACCU and TAACC will use the CAP’s pilot functionality to collect reports and analyze data. They will then engage with local authorities to resolve complaints and report back to citizens how their grievances were addressed.
Although the task of reforming health service delivery is a tall order, Opwonya offered encouraging words of wisdom to his community – “Even [a] long journey begins with one step. So let’s take [CAP] as the first step we are taking in order to improve our district.”
Following the pilot phase and a full analysis of its implementation, PTF will initiate a broader field deployment further test the platform and incorporate refinements and add analytics and report tracking functionality to the CAP tool in additional districts in Uganda and in Kenya. At the conclusion of both phases, PTF expects to have developed an adaptable “plug & play” technology platform available to CSOs globally to monitor government services, engage citizens, and fight corruption.