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Data for Development in Africa

How does civil society use open budget data to advocate for improved public services within the Ugandan political context? Name: Elma Jenkins E-mail: Course: MSc International development studies, University of Amsterdam Cover photo: Budget champion volunteers receiving training from the Advocates Coalition in Kampala (observation 2).

Acknowledgements Thank you to the wonderful people I have had the honour of speaking with while undertaking this research, including but not limited to; ACODE, their budget champions and staff who were kind enough to let me travel with them and introducing me to some truly wonderful people; CUWEDA for your excellent planning, hospitality and dedication; Development Initiative, for setting me on the journey; Development Research and Training for the insightful discussion giving me new angles for questioning; Bugisu NGO Forum for helping me connect to the youth and patiently translating; All the African Centre for Media Excellence journalists for being an inspiration, asking tough questions and setting the curve; Overseas Development Initiative for giving me insights into your project and to all the individuals working on promoting truth patriotically and standing up for what they believe in.


Inhoud Acknowledgements........................................................................................1 List of figures ..................................................................................................3 Abbreviations .................................................................................................4 Summary ........................................................................................................5 Policy recommendations ...........................................................................5 1. Introduction ...........................................................................................7 2. Theoretical framework ..............................................................................8 2.1 Open budget data ................................................................................8 2.2 Civil society advocacy...........................................................................9 2.4 Surveillance ..........................................................................................9 2.5 Governments and transparency ........................................................10 3 Research Methodology .............................................................................11 3.1 Introduction .......................................................................................11 3.2 Research questions ............................................................................11 3.3 Sampling .............................................................................................11 3.4 Methods .............................................................................................11 3.4.1 primary data................................................................................11 3.4.2 Secondary data ......................................................................12 4. Country context .......................................................................................13 4.1 Historical context ...............................................................................13 4.2 Economic and social context..............................................................13 4.3 Political context..................................................................................14 4.4 Civil society.........................................................................................14 4.5 Open data...........................................................................................14 4.5 Participatory budget structure ..........................................................15 5 Transparency in Uganda ...........................................................................16 5.1 The landscape of data use .................................................................16 5.1.1 Responses to digitisation ............................................................16 2

5.1.2 Dissemination and engagement ................................................. 18 5.1.3 Processes and products of advocacy .......................................... 20 5.2 How transparent is Uganda’s budget? .............................................. 22 What data do CSOs want? ................................................................... 23 5.3 Conclusion ......................................................................................... 25 6. Social-political impacts of open data....................................................... 26 6.1 Open data impacts on public services ............................................... 26 6.1.1 Impacts at the national level ...................................................... 26 6.1.2 Sub-national level impacts ......................................................... 27 6.1.3 Empowerment impacts .............................................................. 29 6.2 Political context of Uganda................................................................ 30 6.2.1 The legal framework in Uganda.................................................. 30 6.2.2 Safety using budget data ............................................................ 31 6.2.3 Citizens self-censorship .............................................................. 32 6.3 Conclusion ......................................................................................... 33 7. Conclusion................................................................................................ 34 Bibliography ................................................................................................. 35 Annex one – Overview of respondents ....................................................... 40

List of figures Figure 1 World Bank development indicators, 2016 Figure 2 - Governance structure of Uganda Figure 3 - National print data in Ugandan Newspaper Figure 4 - DI budget data visualization Figure 5- Tally of digital comments 2015 Figure 6 - Hard copy display of local budget information Figure 7 - Main types of budget information used or analysis (Renzio&Simson, 2013) Figure 8 - Data gaps identified by CSOs Figure 9 - Davies (2015) 5 stars of data engagement Figure 10 - Participatory timeline, Nebbi Figure 11 - Citizen at Mbale Ekimeza


13 15 16 17 18 19 21 23 24 29 33

Abbreviations ATI: Access to Information ACODE: Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment ACME: African Centre for Media Excellence BM: Black Monday CBO: Community Based Organisation CSOs: Civil Society Organisations DI: Development Initiative DRT Development Research and Training HDI: Human Development Index IO: International Organisations M&E: Monitoring and evaluation MoF: ministry of Finance NGO: Non-Governmental organisation NRM: National Resistance Movement OECD: Organisation for Economic and Cultural Development ODI: Overseas Development Initiative RCT: Randomised Control Trials UDN: Uganda Debt Network


Summary The debate on whether open data can be used for effective advocacy has many conflicting viewpoints. Different scholars see both an empowering effect through the increase of social accountability with evidence-based advocacy or the breakdown of trust in society as ICT-mediated information increases anonymity and creates passive transparency. This research adds to this debate by assessing how civil society groups use, disseminate and apply a recently launched transparency initiative for open budget data in Uganda. The analysis further explores the landscape of budget data use; how transparent budget data is; how open data impacts on government accountability to public services and what impact the political context has on advocacy. Based on fieldwork that was carried out over 10 weeks in two urban centres and one rural area of Uganda. Overall, it is argued that civil society uses open data to increase bottom-up transparency through improved monitoring and evaluation work. However, impacts are currently only visible at the sub-national level and do not always lead to hard accountability. The initiative does improve the ability of CSO to use evidence based advocacy but it is further limited by the digital divide and a weak legal framework. Worryingly, neutral civil society groups have also been branded as opposition in the pre-election climate while the initiative can distance national government from local service delivery issues. The thesis concludes, while that are strong theoretical links between transparency and advocacy, it has been shown through comparisons with international standards that the open budget initiative in Uganda displays an opaque level of transparency and consequently a weak level of advocacy. It is suggested that the best way for civil society in Uganda to use digital data is by building local government capacity and awareness of open data requirements, especially 5

to improve local hard copy displays in order to re-affirm local governments’ responsibility to provide public services and to increase data journalism in the national media. The research also emphasises the important role infomediaries will play as ICT-mediated open data increases.

Policy recommendations For the open data web portal: 1. Build a data request section into the web portal. 2. Increase offline dissemination and engagement through the media. 3. Add a map to the web portal to help visualise and improve administration of district boundaries. 4. Improve responsiveness to comments through closer collaboration with local governments helping build their capacity to understand budget processes. 5. Actively engage media house to encourage debate about the budget and open data in Uganda at the national level, including those from a wide range of political views. 6. Include a help link to explain how data can be searched. 7. Include tools to aid data analysis on the website I.E an Excel template outlining typical data comparisons. 8. Match data inputs with outputs. For example, matching funding inputs with service improvement (outputs). 9. To introduce a wider range of languages on the toll free call line especially with more representation from the North of the country. For broader open data practices in Uganda: 10. To include qualitative data which contextualises budget information

11. Create more feedback loops between CSOs and governments which builds confidence in political structures. 12. Encourage local governments to hold consultations with CSOs on their data needs. 13. Make steps to implement a process of further opening data beyond the district budgets in order to meet the data gaps as outlined here. 14. Encourage NGOs and CBOs to share stories with the media to generate debate, particularly at the national level. 15. Provide deliberate mechanism of empowering the local citizens through creating stronger and cluster advocacy interest groups such as budget champions and interpreters of budget information for the ordinary citizens. 16. Monitor budget implementation through setting up budget monitoring committee at different levels. 17. Encourage the use of data at the participatory budget planning meetings. 18. To encourage CSOs to increase monitoring at the sub-national level in urban centres.


1. Introduction Un-equal growth is a major hindrance to inclusive development and corruption is one cause of this inequality. Uganda has the highest levels of corruption in East Africa scoring 26/100 in the Transparency International rankings with 86% of people admitting to paying a bribe (TI, 2014). While the country has seen GDP growth in recent years (Alexis Rwabizambuga, 2015) it measures poorly (164) on the Human Development Index (HDI) while growth in consumption is consistently low for the poorest income levels in society, demonstrating a rising income inequality gap (HDI, 2014, p. 39). The development of public services has also not matched the economic growth of the country as the World Bank estimates of 40-60% of urban accommodation are slum dwellings. Opening government data is being explored as a way to increase transparency and fight corruption (Renzio & Masud, 2011). In a report published by the UN entitled “A world that counts” (2014) president BanKi-Moon called for a data revolution in the post-2015 development agenda which has led to new funding streams for open data initiatives to hold governments accountable (UN, 2014: 3). Comparative studies show how open budget data are related to transparency and accountability and how ICT will play an increasingly important part in the future by increasing the scope and reach of transparency (Harrison & Sayogo, 2014). Particularly interesting is the growing focus on micro data, seen in the IMFs 2015 Enhanced General Data Dissemination Systems (E-GDDS) (IMF, 2015).The amount of data in the world is increasing (estimates say 90% of today’s data has been created in the last two years) but it will take some time for civil society, governments and academic groups to adapt to these new knowledge flows (UN-IEAG, 2014, p. 5). 7

This has led some to suggest that the practice of open data is racing ahead of empirical or theoretical thinking (Fox, 2015, p. 346). Furthermore, critics have argued that open data can cause more harm than good by increasing anonymity and reducing trust between governments and citizens. (Meijer, 2009), (Dawes, n.d). Globally there has been an increase of interest in open budget websites (Making budgets, 2011). The world bank launched ‘Boost’ in 2010, a budget tool which “collects and compiles detailed data on public expenditures from national treasury systems and presents it in a simple user-friendly format” (Kheyfets, Mastruzzi, Merotto, & Sondergaa, 2011, p. 1) while many individual country budget websites soon followed such as the U.S, UK and Kenya. This cutting and pasting of open data policies across countries has led some to call for open data to be subsumed in information justice issues (Johnson, 2014 ). The Government of Uganda recently launched their own web portal making budget data more transparent, consequently this is the first time sub-national budget data is available in a widely accessible form (MoF, 2015). By looking at how civil society groups in Uganda are using digital budget data this research can fill a knowledge gap on how useful a data revolution is in a country like Uganda. This research aims to contribute to the debate on how data, which has been described as a tool for positive change in the world (Taylor, 2014), can be used for development purposes by focussing on its use for social accountability.

2. Theoretical framework This chapter will unpack some of the literature debates behind the main concepts of open budget data, civil society advocacy and government transparency.

2.1 Open budget data In 1914 American lawyer Brandeis famously said “sunlight is the most powerful of all disinfectants” (Brandais and the history of transparency, 2009). Today this translates into open data which is defined as “accessible, machine-readable (i.e. in a form where you can manipulate it with digital tools), and licensed to permit re-use, rather than restricted by copyright or intellectual property rights” (Davies T. , n.d, p. 20). Making budget data open and freely available is one of the key aims of the open data movement (Heald, 2012) because it is seen as a mechanism to increase citizen’s participation and government accountability to public service (Gray, 2015). Of course transparency levels need to be taken into consideration. Fox (2007) has theorised that openness, as a form of transparency, can be placed on a scale between clear and opaque, either hiding or revealing the true nature of an institution. (Fox, 2007, p. 666). These scales of difference are due to the malleable nature of the term transparency, which explains why open data does not always lead to accountability. Closing low accountability gaps has further been theorised with the use of a ‘virtuous circle’ of accountability which can be initiated through a sandwich strategy of state and society working together (Fox, 2015, p. 347). This solution emphasises the importance of feedback loops encouraging communication between data users and data producers. Davies (2012) draws on this in his 5 steps for open data engagement which 8

“generate social and economic benefits to hold state institutions to account” (Davies T. , 2012, p. 1). In an increasingly ICT driven world, open data is being promoted as a modern equivalent to Brandais’ disinfectant. Yet there are still many challenges to overcome especially around government transparency and especially in the African continent public accessibility (Renzio & Masud, Measuring and Promoting Budget Transparency:, 2011). Open data initiatives tend to be top down which requires critical assessment within a given social-political context, especially where unequal social privilege and vast differences in the capabilities of data users exist (Johnson, 2014 ). Critics have further noted that quantitative data needs to be properly contextualised otherwise it loses meaning and increases the likely hood of anonymity in data leading to decreasing trust in governance institutions. Citizens also can face challenges analysing the data, all of which creates further engagement problems (Meijer, 2009). This aligns with Janssen et. al thinking that the benefits of data openness are more complex than often credited (Janssen, Charalabidis, & Zuiderv, 2012). A prominent development approach which can help evaluate the degree of development with open data is Sen’s (1999) ground-breaking capabilities approach which theorises development as freedom and emphasises the importance of subjectivity. Sen argues that individual freedoms are crucial for inclusive development, capturing aspects of individual agency in poverty eradication and differences in resource access and use. The focus here is on citizen’s freedoms regarding “transparency guarantees.” In the context of open data, one way to view Sen’s approach is to view development as accountability (AccountAbility, n.d) giving citizens more power to advocate for themselves.

2.2 Civil society advocacy Civil society is often seen as an engine for social change with normative assumptions that civil society will always promote a democratic agenda (Pearce & Howell, 2001, p. 59). The term struggles to recognise issues of CSOs co-option and bribery by the state it is therefore important not to treat civil society as a homogeneous unit (Kew & Oshikoya, 2014). The problem is further transported onto conceptions of civil society advocacy. For example, the Open Budget Survey (OBS) has defined Budget Advocacy as “a strategic approach to influence governments’ budget choices, aimed at achieving clear and specific outcomes e.g., healthier people, less poverty, or improved governance (IBP, Orientation to budget advocacy, n.d) which assumes that budget advocacy will strengthen good governance. Civil society campaigners often couple the concepts of accountability and transparency together by, “incorporating the right to know into both their strategies and their tactics, with the hope that transparency will empower efforts to change the behaviour of powerful institutions” (Fox, 2015, p. 663). As such, accountability is emerging as a key strategy for development by rooting advocacy in knowledge and information (Houtzager, 2012). This builds on the above definition of advocacy to include social accountability as an advocacy approach. Along with scales of transparency Fox also theorised scales of hard and soft accountability (Fox, 2007). Soft accountability with open data often focusses on strengthening data transparency over accountability at the national level while hard accountability involves naming and shaming as well as institutional sanctions. There is a higher prevalence of soft accountability as shown in a survey Gray (2015) conducted using digital methods which found data visualization (65%) to be the most common data use. Joshi & Houtzager (2012) argue that current trends in 9

accountability have come to focus on “widgets” such as web portals. These they argue do very little to tackle low data engagement rates (Houtzager, 2012, p. 153). Furthermore, literature assessing open data is often focussed on benchmarking and evaluating a data set which leaves a gap in knowledge around end user practices (Susha, Zuiderwijk, & Janssen, 2015). In order to avoid a homogeneous view of civil society and to ground understanding of how social accountability is working in practice, a new concept alongside the concept of social accountability is necessary. Renzio and Simson (2013) have compiled a list drawn from African NGO publications showing their main uses of budget data. This list will be used in the data analysis to explain how data is used in Uganda. It highlights a growing strategy by civil society in developing countries: independent monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of government programmes (Gildemyn, 2014). For example, Bjorkman and Svensson (2009) conducted Random Control Trials (RCTs) of community M&E on primary health care centres in two Uganda villages and found that behaviour of health care staff at the local level changed with increased engagement of citizens in their local health centres.

2.4 Surveillance M&E can be measured through levels of citizens’ surveillance to see how open data is being used as a tool for social accountability. Surveillance is defined as a “focused, systematic and routine attention to personal detail for the purpose of influence, management, protection or direction” (Lyon, 2007, p. 14). There is a tendency to view surveillance negatively in our growing digital age, but this does not always have to be the case. As Lyon points out, surveillance contains elements of care and control. An example is the crowdsourcing website in India which allows citizens to report

bribery and corruption online (Janaagraha, 2015). As a community activity M&E helps ensure inclusive development by involving citizens in the decisions which affect their lives. However, Gildemyn (2014) argues that M&E is limited in its ability to tackle unequal power relations between CSOs and service providers because it is confined to the sub-national level. The UN also recognises the risk of a data gap between the “data haves and the data have-nots” (UN-IEAG, 2014, p. 6). Others have described this as a ‘digital divide’ linking it not only to lack of internet access but also a lack of usage and benefit from data (Fuchs & Horak, 2008). Heald (2012) argues that we need to be realistic about what open data can achieve and the importance of studying the format and function of open data carefully. For example, a country may score highly on an open data index and but this may not always result in accountability because of low uptake in civil society in this way weakening transparency initiatives. Therefore, open data cannot provide answers “to profound ideological and practical questions concerning the scope of the state” (2012: 47) but it can increase evidence based citizen’s advocacy.

2.5 Governments and transparency Governments, as the largest providers of data often adopt a simplistic approach to data sharing, viewing open data as an ends rather than a means to development. Janssen et al (2012) identify several open data myths commonly held by governments such as: disclosure will automatically benefit society, all data is required to be open and open data automatically results in open governments (Janssen, Charalabidis, & Zuiderv, 2012). In actuality, much government open data is voluntary making it important to study how data is made available as this can communicate a message about the motivations and objectives behind 10

government open data policies. These could be to do with investments in democratic accountability, public policy influence and equity or social control rather than real structural change which Sen theorises as necessary for development (Susha, Zuiderwijk, Janssen, & Gronlund, Benchmarks for Evaluating the, 2015). Political leaders in Africa typically exert control through the use of state resources to create patronage structures as a way of retaining power (Tangri & Mwenda, 2005). This is expressed in Uganda through the control of data as well. How Ugandan authoritarian leadership react to increased evidence based accountability with data will be analysed here by studying the format and uses of open data.

3 Research Methodology 3.1 Introduction This chapter will introduce the sub-questions (3.2). It will then describe how sampling was conducted and the units of analysis (3.3). The methods will be outlined under sub-sections of primary and secondary data (3.4).

3.2 Research questions The main research question is divided into four sub-questions for further conceptual development. Sub question 1: What is the landscape of open budget data use in Uganda? Sub question 2: How transparent is budget data? Sub question 3: How has open budget data impacted government accountability to public services? Sub Question 4: How does the political context affect the advocacy practices of civil society groups?

3.3 Sampling My initial sample were selectively chosen, known as purposive sampling (Bryman, 2008: 458) followed by a snowballing approach1. Samples were selectively chosen to locate respondents who had come into contact with or previously used the web portal. Civil society was operationalised as NGOs, CBOs and the media in order to research a wide variety of civil society actors who drive advocacy work. NGOs were further narrowed 1

See Annex one for a description of respondents


down to those who work on improving public services. With the media this was improbable (journalists inform on a large range of subjects) so media were selected based on familiarity with data journalism training. Respondents from three geographical areas (Kampala, Nebbi and Mbale) were chosen to ensure the findings were not limited to one geographical area. The research used an inductive approach to locate a range of target samples.

3.4 Methods 3.4.1 primary data Semi-structured Interviews: A total of 23 in depth interviews using semi-structure questions were conducted. Each interview was transcribed for analysis. Discretion was used when making direct approaches to organisations. For instance, NGOs were directly approached but government ministries, without formal correspondence, were not. The research aim was always introduced and respondents were assured verbally that their anonymity would be guaranteed.

Observations: Observations allow behaviours to be directly observed rather than inferred from secondary data (Bryman, 2008:254). A participant observer approach was used (2008:257) for four observation opportunities which made note keeping and requesting translations easier. Observation can provide contextual knowledge to the research while nonstructured conversations can assist in networking for more respondents.

Participatory method: The research includes a participatory method in order to explore the central themes of the research question from the perspective of a CBO working at sub-national level (Bryman: 2008, 473). A

participatory time line was selected in order to map experiences of using budget data on the ground.

3.4.2 Secondary data Secondary data collected from the field includes government correspondence, photos and media coverage as well as online comments extracted from the web portal. Secondary data was especially important for data on the media component who have a greater online presence. The data collected includes: 1. Online comment from the website. 2. Online and in print budget coverage of the last two years (blogs and news articles). 3. Official correspondence from Ministries.


4. Country context This chapter will begin with an overview of the historical context (4.1) followed by Uganda’s economic & social contexts (4.2). 4.3 will look at the political context followed by a brief overview of civil society in Uganda (4.4). 4.5 will describe Uganda’s open data context and 4.6 will cover historical changes to the budget and the participatory budge structure.

telecoms industries ( Alexis Rwabizambuga, 2015, p. 4). Government debt, however, remains consistently high reflecting the reliance on international aid (WB, World Development Indicators, 2016).

4.1 Historical context Uganda gained independence in 1962 however, democracy has alluded the country as two dictators have held power for over 17 years, between 1963 until the general elections in 1980. Colonial administrative structures were not altered in this time continuing a system of closed records and data in Uganda. These political structures were not challenged until the National Resistance Movement (NRM) led by Yoweri Museveni demanded a return to democratic elections (Mutibwa, 1992). Museveni has held on to power since 1980 and has over-seen economic and political reforms which included transparency, openness and accountability (Kuteesa, Magona, Maris, & Wokadala, 2006). However, the need to retain power by the ruling party has seen the corrosion of these reforms as spending priorities are re-directed and selective transparency is implemented. In the last election (2011) it was estimated the NRM spent Shs350 billion maintaining power and is set to spend more in the coming election (Matsiko, 2014).

4.2 Economic and social context Uganda is a land locked country with a population of 37.58 Million (WB, World Development Indicators, 2016). Figure 1 shows Uganda’s macroeconomic stability with a GDP growth of 5.9% driven by the agriculture and 13

Figure 1 World Bank development indicators, 2016

Uganda has been rapidly urbanizing due to a lack of opportunities in the rural areas. However, currently only 18% of the population live in urban areas (Sengendo, Lwasa, & Mukwaya, 2010, p. 268). This has led to recent changes in the district administration as governance areas re-adjust to the influx of people by demanding new district boundaries (25 more districts created, 2012). The majority of the countries revenue is made and collected in the only registered city, Kampala, though there are several

urban centres in the running to be given city status in the coming years (Jinja, Mbale, Arua, Mbarara and Gulu) which will rival the economic strength of Kampala in the future.

which are viewed as corrupt, particularly the Presidency, Parliament and the Police (AfroBarometer, 2015).

4.3 Political context

Civil society in Uganda find themselves working in an increasingly regulated society where they previously had a strong say in policy decisions (Robinson & Friedman, 2007). For example, the passage of the recent NGO regulation bill allows more scrutiny of NGO work. Increasingly Ugandan CSOs have been taking part in international discussions which has led President Yoweri Museveni to be distrustful of CSOs with large or external funding (Monitor, 2012).

There is political tension with the upcoming 2016 elections. President Museveni has been accused of a sham democracy and has been linked with a number of human rights abuses (Izamo & Wilkerson, 2011, p. 65). He recently passed laws limiting freedom of speech and increasing ICT control which suggests political control through violence. The continuation of corruption within the current regime is especially apparent in the kickbacks for public service contracts (WB, April 2004). Some argue that President Museveni’s power is weakening due to corruption charges, for instance parliament recently passed amendments to the anti-corruption bill in order to bring political leaders in line with the law (Parliament, 2015). There have been some Internal attempts from the ministry to stamp out corruption, the move to decentralisation in 1997 was designed so citizens can hold their local officials to account (OECD, 2004). Despite this, some entities in Kampala are still dealt with directly through the central government office making them effectively personal entities of President Museveni, another sign of his strong grip on the country. Most recently the government introduced the Leadership Code of 2002 (WB, April 2004) in an attempt to regain control. Andrew Mwenda a Ugandan journalist reports on corruption and how elite officials continue to go uncharged (Mwenda, 2014). The strong leadership of President Museveni was, arguably, necessary after the Amin years but now criticism is starting to emerge about Uganda’s slow democratic reforms. There is also decreasing trust in government bodies 14

4.4 Civil society

4.5 Open data Global indexes show that the state of open budget data is low, especially in Africa (Renzio & Simson, 2013). However, Uganda now excels in open budget data scoring the highest in East Africa in the Open Budget Index (OBI, 2015). The web portal launched in 2013 provides open data access to national and sub-national budget data with the aim of eventually building capacity so each district can upload their own data. Uganda has a history of reforming open budget data, for example, the 1992 Mid-Term Expenditure reforms (MTER) led to newspapers regularly publishing national government releases and introduced participatory budget reforms (Kuteesa, Magona, Maris, & Wokadala, 2006). However, government concepts of open data were outdated which many CSOs complained about ( Nandyona, 2014). Furthermore, requesting information was a long process with low success rates (Anderson, 2015) and for those who did not have internal contacts, gaining access was problematic (ibid). The move to ICT for open data is a bold but historically founded in government reform.

ICT uptake in Uganda is low, only 2,2% of all households have a working laptop in their homes with large differences between rural and urban areas (UCC, 2015). Literacy rates are at 66.8% and skewed toward men (CIA World Fact Book: 2009). Together these statistics demonstrates that a digital and gender divide in Uganda. Developments in fibre optic cable access and higher speed internet may impact these figures in the future, matching trends across Africa to connect the continent (ItNews, 2015).

4.5 Participatory budget structure The Local Government Act of 1997 also set out requirements for a participatory budget process in order to improve services (IFPRI, 2011). Local meetings in the smallest administrative unit, the village are feed into the larger units to create an inclusive budget. Figure 2 shows Uganda’s governance structure around budget decisions. There have been complaints however that power is concentrated at the sub-county and that the participatory process is merely consultative (Kiwanuka, 2012). Most of Uganda’s 111 districts are reliant on the central government grants for money which adds to the challenge of making local voices count in the participatory structure. Furthermore, the central government only spend a total of 15% of the national budget on district grants (DI, 2015) leading to low capacity among local leaders and poorly planned local services (IFPRI, 2011).


Figure 2 - Governance structure of Uganda

5 Transparency in Uganda Chapter five will begin describing the landscape of budget data and the local/global responses to it. Section 5.1 will describe how citizens are engaging with budget data both online and offline and what advocacy products and processes have emerged at the national and sub-national level. Section 5.2 will study how transparent the budget website is and will conclude with a comparison to international standards.

5.1 The landscape of data use 5.1.1 Responses to digitisation In 2013 the Ugandan Ministry of Finance (MoF) paired up with the Overseas Development Initiative (ODI) a UK think tank. Together they built Uganda's first open budget web portal in 20132. The website includes a search function down do the parish level listing budget planning figures and quarterly release dates. It includes a feedback section and a toll free call line available in five languages. The website represents the first time sub-national level data is freely available in Uganda. Responses to national open data National budget data have been printed every quarter in major national newspapers for the past few years in Uganda. Figure 3 shows the level of print detail. It includes central government budgeting figures split into sectors.



Figure 3 - National print data in Ugandan Newspaper

BUGISU NGO forum, an NGO which works to strengthen democracy through participation, view the data as a way to create accountability around public funds, “each time they release money, they publish it in the paper so that everyone knows that money has come [laughs] there should not be any excuse for not implementing�. Interview 16

However, it is important to bear in mind that national budget data in Uganda represents only 15% of the total country budget (DI, 2015) reminding us of the voluntary nature of open data in Uganda. There is low transparency in the rest of the budget, most prominently the defence and state house spending. This is demonstrated by low response rates to Access to Information (ATI) requests. Between the 2008 and 2011 a total of only 10/33 requests were granted (AFOIC, 2012). Furthermore, online open data creates a digital divide limiting its use to the educated and economically well off while the previous availability of national budget data in newspaper and the low trust in government institutions lessens any impact of digitising the national budget. Responses to sub-national digital data Prior to the web portal it was difficult, although not impossible, to access sub-national level data from local gatekeepers. But access was often entirely reliant on connections, as one NGO employee describes, “So for those who are persistent like us if we wanted the information, now they know us and they know we are working in that area, we would get it. But any citizen, if you went to the district you probably wouldn't get that information. Interview 16 The biggest response from the Civil society community to sub-national data has been in data visualisation, typified by the Development Initiative's (DI) new web tool (Figure 4) in the hope that it will improve citizens understanding of public finance. 17

Figure 4 - DI budget data visualization

Overall many who have been working with government data are excited to see the web portal as one NGO worker explains, “we are quite happy; may I say probably even excited that actually you can with a click on the computer you can download some of these things” Interview 4 Improving ICT in society means CSOs are increasingly able to access open data. However, these responses are still limited by a digital divide. To understand it’s full reach offline engagement needs to be studied.

5.1.2 Dissemination and engagement The prevalence of a colonial closed data mentality in Uganda is difficult to measure. Some indication might come from the amount of data uptake in Community Based Organisations (CBOs). Open data is impacting on older forms of information sharing including hard copy displays, CBO training and debate and dissemination through the media. Digital comments Despite the low uptake of ICT across Uganda there were just under 200 (as of 09/15) online comments on the new web portal. They offer a unique opportunity to analyse a new avenue for communication and engagement between civil society and government. Figure 5 shows the types of comments and their frequency. Category

Type of feedback


Negative comments

Work not done

5 5 2 8 1 9 1 2 7 6 3 2 1 1 1

Money not received Shoddy work Ghost services Extortion for public services Services not running Money returned complaints over spending complaint procurement delay complaints no feedback on spending Community meetings not held 18

% of total 27.92% 14.21% 9.64% 6.09% 3.55% 3.05% 1.52% 1.02% 0.51% 0.51% 0.51%

Positive comments

Requests for change

Positive comment on work



positive comment on website Money received Request for work

3 1 7

1.52% 0.51% 3.55%

suggestions for site improvements more participation Incorrect information/ information requests

1 1 4 0

0.51% 0.51% 20.30%

Figure 5- Tally of digital comments 2015

The top two complaints concern incomplete work and incorrect administrative boundaries. The majority are negative signifying an overall dissatisfaction with the implementation of the budget at sub-national level which match Uganda’s low HDI score. They do demonstrate a high level of interest in citizen local service monitoring but also show the challenges of locating the responsible authority for social services due to confusion with district boundaries, highlighting an area CSOs need to be aware of, as one NGO worker explained, “Today KCC [Kampala city council] is a district, then the next day it's a city then some budget is going through this level then at some point they are going direct to the service delivery units. Then you have projects, special projects that have different modalities, you know, so by all means the information cannot be complete.� Interview 2 The comments are to be flagged with the duty bearers in the districts to encourage follow up (interview 21) in effect creating a digital feedback loop as Fox (2015) Suggested.

Offline dissemination, debate & discussion In Uganda community workers, radio hosts or journalists can make data locally meaningful which increases their importance. Development Research and training (DRT) an NGO working to reduce inequality with data explained, “so to use this (open data) of course you have to know how to use a computer. So that's why these infomediaries are coming into play. Actually that's another fancy word that this revolution is creating so the infomediaries are people who stand between the analysts and the consumers of this information.” Interview 4 NGO’s in Uganda often recruit district volunteers to disseminate information. The Advocates Coalition (ACODE) a national level NGO who aim to reduce poverty in East Africa use 'budget champions,' volunteers who act as information brokers and advocate for more informed community engagement within their district (interview 17). They are successfully reminding local service providers of their duty to display hard copies of budget information as demonstrated in Figure 6. This information is more localized and therefore more accessible for citizens, particularly in rural areas therefore, it can be argued, budget champions increase transparency.

Figure 6 - Hard copy display of local budget information

Training was identified as another important tool in making data more transparent. ACODE open data trainings are in high demand (Observation 2) however many volunteers had trouble keeping up which was evident from complaints that the training was too technical, demonstrating the pervasiveness of the digital divide. Interestingly, data training in Uganda is not limited to civil society. Local government officials are also targeted by NGOs. Development Research and Training (DRT) explained that they have at times specifically targeted government officials, “Yes we have actually trained parliament, the members of parliament that sit on the budget committee, because some of


these, you know when they are debating the budgets they actually don't know” Interview 4 There is clearly a real challenge of overcoming the digital divide and increasing transparency across all sectors of society in Uganda, not just civil society. Digital mediums can also be used to dissemination budget data, which will be considered next. Radio The radio is a popular medium to disseminate budget data and is particularly effective because of its ability to sensitize people to issues due to strong oral traditions in Uganda (Kalyango, 2009, p. 213). For this reason, CSOs often pay for radio time to raise budget issues (Interview 5). During radio debates the public call in for clarification of budget figures such as the actual amount of a quoted percentage (Observation 4). This demonstrates a demand for budget information at the sub-national level in Uganda through interactive ICT platforms beyond the website and shows how citizens are using local resources to improve transparency freedoms. Media Few journalists in Uganda are aware of the web portal (Interview 11). The African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) a journalists’ capacity building organisation which promotes higher news standards estimates that, of those coming to their data journalism training, only 30% are aware of the budget website (interview 8). ACME did however note that there had been an increase of sub-national budget data requests from local news writers: twenty journalists last year requested their local budgets through ACME because the costs as still too high for downloading and aggregating the 20

large PDF files. But data journalists are still concerned about the lack of data use, as one explained, “We have a general problem with our people. I mean this information is available and it would be good for these guys to build their advocacy campaigns on this information. But still you find them going on rumors and not following the actual information” Interview 14 Sub-national open data has had the largest impact across the country, as can be seen from the online comments and improved local hard copy displays. This is because CSOs have identified key indicators which increase data engagement such as the importance of oral information sharing and locally meaningful data. However too often info-mediaries are unable to cope with the high demand for information which presents a problem which they cannot overcome alone. More needs to be done to promote sub-natinal data use, particularly in the national media. During the DI map launch in July 2015 (Observation 2) director Charles Ntale argued that better data can inform and monitor progress and CSOs should try to overcome the current disconnection between data and users by encouraging wider engagement as a way to build citizens capabilities, however the inequality inherent within open data due to the digital and literacy divides in Uganda can not be ignored.

5.1.3 Processes and products of advocacy Advocacy practices often have a division of labour, either working from within the governing system to influence policy makers or working from outside to apply pressure. Renzio and Simson (2013: P6) identify nine

indicators which cut across both and show which budget data are used for advocacy in the African continent for analysis (Figure 7). Figure 7 - Main types of budget information used or analysis (Renzio&Simson, 2013)

1. Fiscal balance (after grants) as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) (actual). 2. Actual versus budgeted expenditure. 3. Actual spending on medicines (and medical supplies) as a share of total health expenditure. 4. Actual spending on primary education as a share of total expenditure. 5. Ratio of actual primary education expenditure to tertiary education expenditure 6. Ratio of actual wage and non-wage recurrent expenditure in agriculture. 7. Total budgeted transfers to subnational governments as a share of total budget. 8. Actual capital expenditure as a share of total expenditure, and explanation of the purpose and expected results of different capital projects. 9. Foreign aid grants actually received as a share of those initially foreseen Internal advocacy processes The Civil Society Budget Advocacy group (CSBAG) which advocates at the national level is an example of a CSO which openly admits to being coopted into government (Interview 6). They are regularly invited along to internal Ministry of Finance (MoF) meetings to present their budget priorities and view this as an opportunity to influence decision making 21

from within. They analyse budgets for actual sector spending as a share of total expenditure (indicators 3&4 on the list) in order to explore how much has been spent on key social sectors in comparison to the total budget. They go on to compare these to their own budget priorities by writing an annual alternative national budget proposal (CSBAG, 2015). Tracing the share of public resources in this way invites a critical look at the ruling parties budget priorities and helps assess the quality and relevance of public sector spending. Doing so also queries ratios of spending within sectors; are funds equally spread across all educational levels for instance (indicators 5&6). Another popular national level analysis is to compare total budget transfers to sub-national governments as a share of the national budget (indicator 7). For example, many CSOs in Uganda do not consider 15% of the national budget to be adequate for all the district budgets (Interviews 7 + 11). These are popular analytical use of budget data across Africa and shows how national level data can be useful to raise the agenda of social services. External advocacy processes Sub-national level accountability practices analyse actual versus budgeted expenditure in the key sectors (indicator 2). This allows CSOs to assess the credibility and implementation of the government’s budget by following up on the ground, as one ACODE budget champion described, “I would say’, we are watchdogs. We are monitoring government programs. Are they meeting the needs of the people? Are people satisfied?” Interview 19 Sub-national level monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of public services

with budget data is an example of evidence based advocacy. For example, citizens are able to name and shame corrupt practices as demonstrated in the Black Monday newsletters, a movement which formed to challenge corrupt government practices and which is supported by the INGO Action Aid, “Judiciary is reported to have further failed to account for millions of shillings released for training of Judicial Officers and purchasing of 15 vehicles for new Judges” (BM, 2014, p. 1) Edition 21 However, such examples of hard accountability are limited to educated CSOs, figures show Uganda is failing in adult literacy rates (reporter, 2016), while their ability to apply sanctions are low. The next section will ask what new advocacy messages this creates. New advocacy products and processes CSOs have created new indicators which build on Renzio & Simons list. With open data CSOs can improve the timing of their advocacy messages. One volunteer monitor explains how he is more informed then local officials, But now, you find a technical person being surprised by budget champions saying, “you man, do you know they have released this money for this quarter?” By the time he goes to check whether the information is true. Interview 15 22

CSOs also think more critically around structural issues, for instance ACODE have started campaigning for a higher minimum educational level of local elected officials in order to tackle a lack of financial literacy. They see this as a roadblock to the proper delivery of public services. These additional indicators: “cross-checking quarterly release dates with actual dates” and “measuring ability of elected leaders to manage district budgets” demonstrate how CSOs have increased agency with their transparency freedom. Many new indicators will continue to emerge as citizens engage with budget data. For instance, the Hub for Investigative Media (HIM), an independent media outlet advocates for taking legal action against political frameworks which keep data closed. This begins to tackle a larger problem with budget data in Uganda, not covered by Renzio & Simson’s list, which is the issue of unavailable data, to be discussed in the next chapter. In summary, citizens’ hard accountability is currently limited to CSOs external to the government and while national level data has many uses, sub-national data has a higher impact. Currently however the digital divide is limiting the impact of open data to improving evidence based advocacy. It is also important to emphasise here Sen’s theory on the interconnectedness of development freedoms, that without social or economic freedoms, transparency freedoms are redundant emphasising the importance of education and ICT access for open data.

5.2 How transparent is Uganda’s budget? This section will show how transparent Uganda’s open budget portal is. It builds on Fox’s (2007) scale by arguing that data which is not demand driven is also opaque, that is: data can be analysed by its ability to meet

the needs of the individuals who use it. Lastly it will measure the Ugandan web portal against global open data standards.

What data do CSOs want? CSOs have identified many budget gaps in addition to the web portal signifying the varied ways data is used by civil society in Uganda. Figure 8 below is a tally of CSO data gaps extracted from 23 interviews. They show differences between NGOs and the Media, representing the scales of government criticism within Ugandan Civil society. Type

Data gaps



District data



knowledge gap


Media/NGO Sensitive data


Media/NGO Auditor General Reports



Output / real time expenditure data



Archived budget data


Media/NGO Improve search engine




Procurement information

Figure 8 - Data gaps identified by CSOs

Sub-national data remains high because the web portal does not always accurately reflect allocations to each district (Interview 5). For example, in the south east the Toro road has been on the budget for twenty years yet there are still quality complaints from local residents (interview 9 & 6). Furthermore, data availability is reliant on timely and correct data submission by each division to the MoF who report regular delays in these submissions (Interview 21). This demonstrates the low transparency of the site and the necessity to cross check information. Some technical needs 23

were also identified such as the need to improve the online search engine to locate budgets per sector and including archived budgets for comparison. Media demands included the need for more output/expenditure data so users can locate missing work quicker as one journalist explained, “But OK so you have mapped where the money is going, how about someone goes and maps what it has done and what it hasn't done� Interview 7 When studying these data gaps, it becomes clear that the budget data on the website represents a narrow definition of budget data in light of which it becomes necessary to ask: what is budget data? Government data is often made available depending on what a government wants to achieve. In Uganda it has been suggested open data policies are there to full fill donor expectations (Tangri & Mwenda, 2005, p. 460). This highlights the issue of low political will which has challenges beyond opening data. If local leaders do not have the will to lobby central governments for funds or to pursue good contractors, information access is only a small part of a bigger problem bringing into question the theoretical foundations of open data as outlined by Brandais. Instead low political will implies that transparency alone is not sufficient which is a starting point Fox takes in his framework for analysing accountability (2007: 265).

How far Uganda’s web portal complies Demand driven ★ Are choices of data release and structure need driven: Are choices of data structure need driven: Option for data request included: Option for data response included:

Score: 2/4 Yes – sub-national data in high demand No – structure still in PDF* No – No formal request area Yes – Comments section included

Data in context ★★ Is data clearly described, and of high format quality Is data regularly updated frequency, format and quality: Qualitative data included for data history and use clarifications: Links to data analysis (done by self or others) in data:

Score: 1.5/4 1/2 – data online is clearly described 1/2 – complaints of slow updates 1/2 – budget described but not often clarified No – No other links to data analysis

Supporting conversations around data ★★★ Can people network comments on the data: Do you join the conversation: Is interaction with the data owner possible or encouraged: are there offline opportunities for conversations:

Score: 2/4 Yes – Other uses can respond to comments Yes – MoF often checks and responds No – Data owners not included No – few or little available publicly

Building capacity & networks ★★★★ Are there tools provided for people to work with: is there a “how to” link for data analysis for people to learn from: Do you run skill building workshops on skill building on the dataset: Do you sponsor or engage capacity building initiatives:

Score: 1.5/4 No – No tools included No – no help link 1/5 – press releases held, but no workshops Yes – Engaged with ACODE actively

Collaborations on common resource data ★★★★★ Are there feedback loops to improve the data Are there collaborations to create new data sets Do you provide support for people to build tools with the data Are there initiatives to connect to other data sets: *As of August 2016 data has been available in CSV format

Score: 0/4 No – No feedback loops to improve dataset No – No new collaborations No – NGO's building their own No – No only in third sector Total score: 7/20

Figure 9 - Davies (2015) 5 stars of data engagement


International open data standards Davies’ (2012) five stars of open data engagement attempt to define how data can be used for hard advocacy by moving the discussion beyond advocating for open data towards data advocacy. He adds stipulations such as the need for data to be demand driven (point one), the need to include qualitative information (point two) and feedback loop requirements (point 5) (Davies, 2012: p1) which match closely with the literature on open data from Fox’s virtuous circle (Chapter 2). Figure 9 shows the extent to which Uganda's web portal adheres to this model. It scores low with only 7/10. Its best areas are being demand driven and supporting conversations around data although these areas still need work. While work on collaborations (linking to other data sets) and contextualising data still need initiating. However, applying this model to the Ugandan context is not without problems. For instance, the model does not emphasise the importance of oral tradition, as argued earlier. It also simplifies complex social problem without recognising the detrimental impacts that open data can have, such as reducing citizen trust in government. (Dawes, n.d). For open data standards to be more transparent there needs to be consultation with a wide range of local actors rather copying and pasting international policies into a country context. Here it is possible to grasp why Sen avoided applying universal instrumental indicators for development freedoms as an open data initiative in America will not build the same capacities as in Uganda. This further emphasises the need to analyse open data’s application within a socio-political context.

5.3 Conclusion Sub question one asked what the landscape of budget data use is. Analysing the empirical evidence has demonstrated, firstly, that civil 25

society is heterogeneous in its use of budget data, from criticising the ruling party to increasing hard copy display. Sub-national data has had the biggest impact, reflected in CSOs interest for data visualization. Worryingly, there has been no wider national debate around budget data as reflected in the low uptake of sub-national data in national media. The digital divide is a huge barrier which CSOs cannot overcome without improvements to ICT access and educational levels generally. Though small the data shows a growing interest in citizens to use evidence based advocacy while offline data dissemination tactics demonstrate the creative ways CSOs have found to build citizens capabilities. The biggest use of open data so far has been to improve its visualization – either through hard copy or online, which matches global trends but which means that so far data has only been used for soft accountability. Sub question two asked how transparent the web portal is when compared to the data needs of civil society. The diversity of answers led to the conclusion that budget data in Uganda has an opaque level of transparency as theorised by Fox (2009). Suggestions to improve transparency would include a consultation between local government and CSOs on what open budget data should include. The most critical data gap was the failure of the web portal to match inputs with outputs the result of which is that the same services appear on the budget year after year. This shows how, without context data can lose meaning and can create anonymity around budget planning. It has further been suggested that the website can be viewed as a mouthpiece for the government rather than as a tool for public accountability. Writers such as Mwenda (2005) have drawn this conclusions, questioning the aim of the open budget initiative. Looking through the lens of the capabilities approach, it can be asked to what extent does open data increase citizens’ capabilities in Uganda and does it

really make a difference at the national level if there is low political will. The data shows that political and social freedoms also need to be realised before the transparency initiative can be used to improve social services. The next chapter will explore what impact open data has had at the national and sub-national level. It will also look at how the political context is impacting open data initiatives in order to measure the effectiveness of evidence based advocacy.

6. Social-political impacts of open data This chapter will discuss the impacts of the open data initiative with a specific focus on improvements to public services. It will begin with an analysis of the empirical data showing to what extent CSOs aims have been achieved with open data (6.1). It will then consider the political context to explain how open data mechanisms work in Uganda (6.2).

Cultural change In Uganda political changes have largely influenced by the new modus of open data discussions at the national level because the budget is no longer a closed document. Partners external to the government have noticed an increase in the amount of discussion about the budget, as one stakeholder put it, “Every government official now, they all continuously talk about the budget website, they talk about the national call center” Interview 12 NGOs have also reported a reduction in the amount of trips they have to make to the ministerial offices therefore breaking the culture of personal connections in government and challenging patronage structure, as one NGO worker explains,

6.1 Open data impacts on public services This section begins with a study of the national and sub-national level impacts of open data and will conclude by analysing the participatory timeline in order to find out how the web portal has been used by a CBO in Nebbi.

6.1.1 Impacts at the national level CSOs in Uganda have been calling for a ‘culture change’ in government in response to high levels of corruption (Observation 1). Open data has been at the forefront of this change internally and although direct impacts are difficult to measure, there have been some political and social changes internally.


“our trips to the ministries everyday are reducing, because even they are doing it reluctantly, they have to share some of their data online so our trips to go the ministry to get what we want is reducing.” Interview 4 There has also been improved levels of communication and engagement with the Ministry of Finance and national NGOs which has strengthened their own advocacy message, as CSBAG explains below, “I think the thing we are having is presenting more credible budget information which is where we have official budget data because when [..] because we have credible budget information [….] we are

not just pointing fingers and accusing them we actually have real data and [..] that is why they feel they can work with us.” Interview 6

there is an option to call in or send an e-mail, but when you call, you are actually not helped.” Interview 7

Evidence based advocacy is now essential to influence internal decisions by reducing factual errors and persuasively influencing policy makers. These factors can account for a culture change through the weakening of government officials gatekeeping roles which is breaking down colonial mind sets. The stronger culture of debate about priorities in budget spending is creating a more sophisticated political environment and creating new channels of engagement around public services. In the media ACME report increased interest in data journalism as writers start to critically analyse the budget to highlight uneven growth (Asiimwa, 2015). However, open data’s scope to improve public services at the national level is questionable as one INGO worker noted,

It can be argued that the virtuous circle of accountability is failing in Uganda which supports the theory that the open data increases passive transparency while potentially hiding corrupt practices because officials are further distanced from local problems. The consequence is reduced trust between citizens and the administration. National level advocates overcome this by trying not to match inputs against outputs and instead focussing on the cultural change such as the engagement channels created through evidence based advocacy. However, with regards to the central question of this thesis, open data has not resulted in top down improvements to public services

“but you cannot tell whether their (local officials) attitude towards service delivery has improved or not at the moment.” Interview 12 Ultimately these cultural changes have minimal impact as one journalist reported that the feedback loop on the website for reporting social service issues is not effective, “talking to a local government official from Mukono and he says, “you will find that appropriations they say: we have released this amount of money to this district Mukono” and he says that when they actually have not received the money then on the website 27

6.1.2 Sub-national level impacts There are two areas of impact at the sub-national level in Uganda due to the web portal: debate and responsiveness which are spurred by an increase of hard copy displays of budget data at the sub-national level. However, the argument that local services are not improving is further strengthened due to low information asymmetry between data owners and data users. Improving debate CSOs have reported that open data approves citizens M&E work to local government which mean citizens themselves are more willing to engage with local governments overall improving the communication between citizens and local leaders. NGOs have noticed this through improved local radio debates,

Interview 15 “Traditionally you will have people getting angry and pointing fingers so they (leaders) do not show up to the radio talk shows. But we have seen them (the public) recognise that some of these issues, sometimes, are not always someone who is directly responsible, so they are discussing things a little bit more openly” Interview 5 Evidence based advocacy along with the new spaces for interaction, such as radio or online comments sections, are resulting in calmer debate and improved listening. Particularly interesting is that these debates show increased voluntary contribution from citizens and local government officials which is sparked by the access to new information. Improved responsiveness CSOs disagree on open data’s ability to improve government responsiveness. For example, the open data website has since its launch already had an upgrade making it more interactive while there are plans to change the formatting and to speed up and refine the search engine (interview 21). These changes demonstrate an increased responsiveness from policy makers to citizens’ engagement. However, reducing long term information asymmetry through the website is not assured. Increased responsiveness can be seen in local official’s attitudes, as one ACODE volunteer monitor noticed, “They are no longer the way they used to handle: To Whom It May Concern ah- ah they are now conscious. Because they know there is somebody else who knows about the work” 28

At the sub-national level this had led to some concrete examples of public service improvements. Uganda Debt Network (UDN) an NGO which builds advocacy networks has mobilised community groups across the country to write petitions and hold demonstrations if local services are not of a high enough quality. During the building of a maternity ward in Mbale for instance the locals noticed the cement mixing was not adequate, “The community were really on the look out to see how this was constructed and they were able always to challenge the contractor, and you see him improving. Because when he started the construction, they said no no, no, we can’t allow that, the way you are mixing they made noise and he had to adjust. They have now completed the work and its ok.” Interview 15 Here is an example of bottom up surveillance (Lyon, 2007) but, as Bjokrman & Svensson (2009) argue it is currently only limited to the local level. Data journalists are more critical, in particular they feel that the web portal should be used to find discrepancies in the data in order to build criticise and that open data is not being used to its full potential. Here one Journalist explains, “my problem with NGO's in Uganda is that they are almost no different from a government worker. Instead of going out and looking for stuff (budget discrepancies) that I can write in a story so

that people can use. In my view they don't put enough work in this civil society work” Interview 7 The critical stance of a CSO towards the ruling party can explain these contradictory views, while some do not think the website goes far enough, others view open data as an expression of power by the ruling party; those who have access to the means of surveillance (in this case the national government) are encouraging bottom up surveillance to tackle corruption. But as chapter 5 demonstrated, the responsibility for data dissemination and engagement is not spread equally across the governance structures and bottom up surveillance has not increased hard accountability. As a result, it could be argued that the information asymmetry necessary for accountability has not yet been fulfilled, yet all CSOs recognise the need for increased citizens M&E.

Prior to the web portal launch in 2013 CUWEDA was already using the printed data to cross check their local quarterly releases. Early in 2015 the CBO tried the toll free line but were excluded because their language was not supported. The most important event for the CBO was the M&E training they received in late 2012 from CUWEDA. After this point their activities increased and the CBO formed a women’s rights defenders group. This demonstrates how data dissemination responsibilities are being left to the CSOs while the inherent inequality within open data makes it difficult for sub-national advocacy to transcend unequal power relations between CSOs and governments, as argued by Gildemyn (2014: 509). The context further shows how ICT quick fixes for accountability are not sufficient as argued be Houtzager (2012) while ideas of society moulding to ICT needs are unrealistic (Johnson 2014). The next chapter will look at what impacts the political context of a country, soon to hold another election, has on evidence based advocacy practices.

6.1.3 Empowerment impacts Many NGOs use the concept of empowerment to strengthen evidence based advocacy as a DI report states, “We also hope that citizens and decision-makers will be better empowered through free access to key information on what is being spent and where” (DI, 2015). Figure 10 charts the main achievements of the CBO Community Uplift and Welfare Development (CUWEDA)over the last four years. Based in the Nebbi district CUWEDA engages citizens with budget data to improve local M&E work. Figure 10 - Participatory timeline, Nebbi


6.2 Political context of Uganda This section will outline the legal structures which affect the use of the budget data in Uganda and consequently if citizens experience any safety issues using evidence based advocacy. Throughout the importance of political context with be discussed.

6.2.1 The legal framework in Uganda It is important to understand a countries legal framework in order to contextualise advocacy practices. This Involves knowing the legal structures but also understanding the extent of its implementation. There are an increasing number of laws in place to control civil society in Uganda such as the anti-terrorism laws (2002) or the digital communication act (2010) which aims to curb freedom of speech. These are in addition to the Secrecy Act which restricts Access to Information (ATI) laws and new NGO certifications (Mwesigwa, 2015). While there are no laws restricting the use of budget data directly, the above mentioned laws are in place to keep data closed and help create a “culture of secrecy” (HURINET, 2010: p7) described below by one NGO worker, “The anti-terrorism laws they are so wide that so if the person has a reasonable belief that ... that information going out might jeopardize state security, you know the phrasing is ridiculous itself, but they can do all sorts of things they want,” Interview 4 One important structure for accountability of public service money is the anti-corruption bill. In August the bill went through a second amendment. The articles under discussion were regarding specific definitions of “a person who commits an offence” (Uganda, House passes anti-corruption 30

amendement bill, 2015) to include political leaders (ibid). This demonstrates a willingness make corruption a serious issues and to include political leadership in the law. The ruling party is aware of delays and failures in service delivery and are responding (Museveni vows to crush corruption, n.d) but without tackling the culture of secrecy few local leaders will connect their obligation to provide budget data with the fight against corruption bringing into questions how these laws, including the amendment bill, are enacted on the ground. As one investigative journalist commented, “Because our experience has shown us everywhere we have gone, they (local government) don’t know anything about the law. They don’t know about their obligation to provide information to the public. What they know about is their official security act that bars government officers from disclosing government information.” Interview 14 In the run up to the elections criticism is being limited. A recent letter leaked onto social media sight Facebook (TVO, 2015) from the Ugandan Communication Commission (UCC) a quango body in charge of communication for the ruling party further illustrates this. It reminds all media stations in the run up to the election to avoid ‘negative trends’ and ‘unreliable sources of information’ (ibid). In a climate where most CSOs do not know about official sources of data, warning letters further discourages criticism and create an environment where freedom of speech is limited.

6.2.2 Safety using budget data CSOs have genuine concerns using budget data for advocacy as it is recognized that data can be used to incite people. Many district officials are threatened by bottom up surveillance of their local services, especially if they have been using local budgets to bolster patronage structures. One local volunteer from the Advocates Coalition recounted, “some of those members at the sub counties are always threatened by politicians. Yes some of them are. They come to you and say: now you see [...] you first wait, you don’t take that information about this, it will make people start asking this and that. - By who? Those LC3s” Interview 15 NGOs overcome this by angling themselves as non-partisan and monitor only at the sub-national level. They consider this a strength in their approach because they do not offer their members up as a vote bank and can work with multiple political parties. Problematically in Uganda, especially in the run up to the election, non-partisan criticism is often branded along with the opposition as one local monitor explained, “Yes there is a lot of risk there because these people don’t want to be monitored, so they will feel, this person here is trying to make our work very hard. So they will brand you opposition if they are politicians they will brand you”. Interview 15 Furthermore, the external funding many NGOs receive can cause problems because of President Museveni’s dislike for CSOs external funding 31

(Monitor, 2012, p. 16:02). One international funded, but nationally written newsletter wrote that, “We have been accused of being as corrupt as government, labelled agents of imperialism, funding the opposition and plotting to overthrow the government and President Museveni” (BM, 2012). Not all NGOs are branded opposition, for example, during the ACODE budget training it was interesting to note that there were many ruling party (NRM) supporters amongst the volunteers. This was evident from the shouting and cheering when mentions were made of the ruling party (Observation 2) which brings into question their ability to impartially monitor and evaluate services. Some ACODE budget champions argue that there is no risk because the government is supporting them, as one explained here, “How do you for example threaten me? I cannot be threatened because it is the wish of government. Whatever we are doing is what the government wants” Interview 17 Favourable sub-national level monitoring is encouraged by the ruling party who want to take a tough stance on corruption but who are not threatened by a favourable NGO. From this we can see it is important not to treat CSOs homogeneously as there are different degrees of surveillance, dependent the stance towards the ruling party. One of the riskiest uses of data is to take legal action. INGO the Hub for Investigative Media (HIM) take open budget data to its “logical conclusion” (Interview 14) by taking ministries to court over missing information.

“you can sue government. You take them to court, and government they lose most of these cases because they are just playing around. For me that’s the message I send, if you don’t give me what I want, I take you to court.” Interview 14 However, legal action is not a route many CSOs can take because of weak legal structures which are easily compromised. Most CSOs use subtler methods such as demanding hard copy information and relying on community pressure to campaign locally while trying to remain nonpartisan.

6.2.3 Citizens self-censorship This section will analyse how the political context impacts CSOs selfcensorship. It was found that all CSOs self-censor with no exceptions when it comes to discussing the two aspects of the budget: defence and military. Few CSOs in Uganda actively pursue this data because of physical threats as one journalist explains, “defence and state house they take a huge chunk of money. State house is office of the president. So lots of money is channeled through that and then we cannot see where they spend on.... sometimes we get reports and then you got some information and it's not easy to just present it. Yeah, for defence you get threatened.” Interview 11


The Ugandan ruling party has a selective distinction between budget data and data which is deemed a security risk. This has created tensions by encourages some CSOs while silencing others. For example, the Black Monday movement used hard accountability such as naming and shaming and monitoring of local services however but since March 2015 many journalists noticed that there have not been any publications. Members were allegedly arrested in order to close the publication down (Interview 11). In contrast, the MoF minister was more than willing to provide his personal contact number to ACODE monitors (Observation 2). The tensions around advocacy can also be seen in the way ordinary citizens do not want to hear political criticism. During an interview in a public space with a radio talk show host a local woman nearby was so offended by the respondent’s views on state level corruption that this researcher was accused of being a foreign spy here to stir up opposition resistance (Interview 20). It would appear that citizens are not only censored by top down pressure but also from peer pressure too, as one CSO explains, “Some people are so ignorant, they say those things of government I don’t want, and they will arrest me. There are some people like that, some people will fear to use the information definitely” Interview 14 Fear of speaking the truth for being branded opposition has made people cowardly and only those supported by external funds are able to take legal action demonstrating how legal structures are failing national CSOs. The tension is felt in wider society as well. Popular in Uganda are public debates or “Ekimezas,” open forums held at district level where the public gets a chance to question local leaders. During one such forum in Mbale,

before the towns-people spoke there was a call from citizens to disperse the local police presence on the streets for fear of reprimand later showing a mistrust for authority figures (Observation 3). Figure 11 shows a local man demanding answers about public service spending during an Ekimeeza in Mbale. In the run up to the elections in Uganda is would seem political tensions are high which is limiting freedom of speech and the scope of surveillance which civil society can undertake using the budget information as the ruling party attempts to control the evidence based accountability and includes surveillance with the purpose of criticising budget management. The attempts by the BM movement to exact sanctions and their subsequent silencing limits civil society groups to “soft” accountability for fear of reprimand in the pre-election climate.

Figure 11 - Citizen at Mbale Ekimeza


6.3 Conclusion Sub question three asked how open budget data has impacted on governments accountability to public services. Open data is creating cultural changes which are both strengthening social accountability at the local level but also increasing anonymity at the national level but overall open data has not yet lead to national level improvements to public services. Instead CSO advocacy needs to be turned into a call for information justice by matching budget inputs with qualified outcomes in order to increase awareness of the failures in local planning and create data which the media can reflect upon. At the sub-national level, increased debate and local service responsiveness has improved among citizens and local officials, demonstrating a local government shift in focus towards citizens’ demands and creating a more sophisticated political climate. However, with decentralisation CSOs have to tackle local as well as national level corruption which they cannot do alone. Contradictions in the data show that accountability is not evenly spread across the country which demonstrates poor information asymmetry. This thesis argues that information alone cannot challenge uneven power relations in Uganda, demonstrated by the way advocacy impacts are limited to the local level. If the implications of limiting citizen’s criticisms are not understood by the ruling party, then responsibility for public services will not be spread equally across governance structures. Sub question four asks what impact the political context has on CSO advocacy practices. The web portal has concurrently made M&E work safer because of top down government approval while also creating political divides by simplifying the political debate.

With a growing opposition movement in Uganda’s upcoming election civil society groups have found the ability to demand improved service has decreased, as can demonstrated by the strength of the secrecy act. Most CSO have had to take a politically neutral line in order to overcome political tensions. In addition, the ruling party discourse hinges on the success of the economy which has had the impact of making any criticism simultaneously charged as anti-patriotic and anti-growth. Any unwanted attention on sensitive data has resulted in threats to individuals, creating a climate of self-censorship and limiting civil society advocacy to data on the web portal, which has been shown to be limited. Those who are interested in hard advocacy can only do so with external donor funding due to the weak legal structures in the country.

7. Conclusion This report shows how civil society groups are using budget data for advocacy, that is by improving monitoring and evaluation (M&E) practices, however these efforts are limited to the local level. To some extent surveillance has made government officials more responsive to local criticism. It has emphasised the importance of social accountability as an advocacy tool and more specifically how monitoring and evaluation is reasoned to increase individual agency through bottom up surveillance. More can be done by increasing the use of budget data in existing structural institutions while issues of technological determinism need to be overcome the focus group data demonstrated. While openness is closely related to concepts of transparency and accountability, data can inherently exclude certain socio-economic groups and perpetuate unequal growth, a problem which cannot be overcome with more data. As such, data policies


are never external to the political structures which create them so legal and political structures are important contexts to open data. In Uganda CSOs should work with the institutional structures which respond best to their advocacy aims and the amount of citizen – government interaction should be increased. The strength of open data lies in its ability to increase evidence based advocacy and specially to emphasise growing inequality. In Uganda authoritarian control is expressed through the control of outcomes, by diverting local government responsibilities towards the aims of the ruling party instead of increasing local governments responsibility to citizens. In light of this, NGOs should use data to break down the structural control with closed data while CBOs should not forget that the media, and especially data journalism, can help to improve their outreach. CSOs in Uganda want to see increased internally reflexivity on party leaderships behaviour and want to build capacity at the national level around the use of budget data but because of the digital divide transparency through open data is not reaching enough new audiences while open criticism is lacking. Together these explain why transparency does not lead to accountability while hard accountability has been limited and the legal system is failing CSOs who want to take open data further.

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Annex one – Overview of respondents

2 ACODE budget champion Training 3 Ekimeza/public debate

SetaMukona Mbale

In-depth semi-structured interviews

4 Radio show


interview Description # 1 NGO



Middle/Fem ale Middle/Male






9 ex-government 10 NGO/CBO 11 Media

Middle/Fem ale Middle/Fem ale Middle/Fem ale Middle/Fem ale Old/Male Middle/Male Middle/Male





14 INGO/media


15 16 17 19 20 21


Middle/Male Young/Male Middle/Male Middle/Male Middle/Male Old/Male

24 Media


6 NGO 7 Media 8 Media


Locatio n Kampal a Kampal a Kampal a Kampal a Kampal a Kampal a Kampal a Kampal a Mbale Nebbi Kampal a Kampal a Kampal a Kampal a Mbale Mbale Mbale Mbale Mbale Kampal a Kampal a Kampal a

Observations Observatio Description n# 1 DI interactive map website


Location Kampala

Participatory method Participatory method Description Focus group timeline Community Uplift and Welfare Development (CUWEDA)

Location Nebbi

Data for development in africa a research report jan2016  
Data for development in africa a research report jan2016  

The debate on whether open data can be used for effective advocacy has many conflicting viewpoints. Different scholars see both an empowerin...