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Internet for Social Change

A4T_LIMURU26

For people to benefit from the Internet, it must be not only available and affordable. It also must be relevant to their lives and they must have the skills and confidence to use it” The Economist.

According to the Inclusive Internet Mapping Progress 2017 done by The Economist Intelligence Unit, Kenya ranks 51 out of 75 countries, supported by a strong Relevance score. The indexing commissioned by internet giant Facebook, is assessing internet exclusivity across four pillars of Connectivity, Availability, Affordability, Relevance, readiness and an analysis of policy, culture and gender gaps. Kenya outperforms most African countries with a rank of 7th out of 26, but it falls behind many other lower-middle-income nations (16th out of 24).

Graphic display of Kenya’s ranking: Source the Economist

It is rousing that Kenya has been featured in this study, despite the low score. The relevance of this to us is not so that we can compare our performance with our East African neighbors, but it should make us feel ashamed and find ways of improving. We must concur that there are few studies done about the state of internet connectivity and other aspects, in order to identify and address the gaps so as to achieve an inclusive internet in Kenya. Notably, such studies help inform numerous interventions led by non-state actors that rely on the state of internet connectivity to implement part or in whole projects in uplifting the lives of Kenyans.

Such a project is the one being implemented by PAWA 254 in collaboration with Transparency International Kenya, called Action for Transparency. Action for transparency, or abbreviated as A4T, is an ambitious project that seeks to empower citizens and civil servants to act on corruption experienced in their daily lives. The A4T project partly has developed a set of secure tools like a mobile phone App, where an individual using a mobile phone with Internet access, is able to check the amount of government money given to a public primary school or health center and the amount actually spent by the institution. The App provides the capability of reporting anonymously, an institution or individuals who are involved in corruption.

 

A4T mobile App in use: Source Pawa254

To be able to achieve this development, the A4T project relied on a baseline survey that aimed at collecting data that would help inform the design and implementation of the project. In the survey, media was named by the respondents in Embakasi as the main source of information about corruption. This coupled with the high access to mobile phones specifically smart phones means the citizens of Embakasi have great opportunity to access information on governance and accountability through  media and Information Communication Technology. The project which was designed by Swedish based Fojo Media Institute with funding from The Swedish Embassy, has also been implemented in Uganda and Zambia.

Inevitably, no such project like A4T, that aims to address a social concern for Kenyans especially those living below the poverty line, can be implemented without massive investment into surveys for data collection. The internet sphere is fast changing, there is no singularity of data explaining the reach access and use of internet. Nevertheless, it is with deep research that we are able to reveal the challenges affecting optimal use of this technology, principally for positive social change. We do require, consistent, accessible and segmented data, that could help inform social change interventions.

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) have been playing a pivotal role in carrying out quarterly sector statistics for the communication industry. To this extent, there is relevant data on the use of mobile phones, internet subscriptions among other things. Growth and drops in internet use is captured in these reports, but there is little data/information about users and the use of these internet services. Making it tasking for players who would want to understand such statistics and put them in a different use, other than for commercial purposes, as you would be purported to think of the CAK statistics.

While major multinationals are concentrating on providing access to cheap internet (mainly for profit), there are other players represented by local grassroots organizations, Non-governmental and civil society movements (Like PAWA254 & TI-Kenya) that need data for knowledge and learning of the availability, affordability and ability of everyday use of the internet and other technologies, in order to design and implement projects that are relevant to their communities, for positive social change. Governments therefore need not just to be seen to be working to enhance information for wealthy private sector, but also to enable the non-state actors deliver appropriate services to help improve the lives of citizens.

 

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AccountabilityEducationHealth

about the launch – Embakasi

Borgstam

On the 16th day of May 2015, the residents of Embakasi Constituency, Nairobi, welcomed Pawa Initiative along with its partners, Fojo Media Institute, and Transparency International Kenya (TIK), to Kariobangi North Social Grounds for the launch of the Action for Transparency (A4T) project. The launch was the culmination of about 2 months of preliminary activities, which, among other things, involved the set-up of the Kenya A4T office in Kariobangi North and a number of outreach visits to neighbourhoods in Embakasi. Guests in attendance were the Uganda & Zambia A4T delegation and Swedish Embassy representatives together with the Swedish Ambassador, Johan Borgstam, who was the guest of honour.

Brian Inganga, photos
Brian Inganga, photos

The Action for Transparency (A4T) project is a social accountability project in public health and education making its debut in Kenya after a 3 year run in Uganda and Zambia. The project commenced in Kenya in March 2015 during which the A4T team began outreach visits in a number of neighbourhoods in Embakasi; Kwa Mola (Molem), Dandora, Kware, Karsan, Kariobangi North and South. These outreach visits were done in order to map the social resources in the area as well as scout for creative potential in the area.

The project seeks to engage the residents to hold themselves and their government accountable to the delivery of services in the areas of public health and education.

Three primary approaches would be employed by the project to facilitate this; the use of mobile phone tools such as a smart phone app that maps out resources in these 2 key sectors of public services in a way that allows any user to obtain the relevant information and report anonymously as well when need be. Coupled with this would be an SMS short-code and toll free line easily accessible to those who own basic feature phones. Lastly, on the technical front, would be the online platforms – a website and social media connections – where the community can further engage in open discussions, information sharing, and reporting that is pertinent to the project objectives.

Brian Inganga, photos
Brian Inganga, photos

The tools for reporting would then be made accessible to residents of Embakasi through a series of trainings, which form the second facet of the project. Residents will also be trained on how to escalate corruption related issues from the grassroots to relevant authorities and various forms of community organizing and action, calling for the provision of the very same services in public health and education.

The last facet of the project would involve public awareness campaigns on social accountability, more specifically, galvanizing the work of creatives in the area who use their work to address social issues. This will be done in collaboration with existing groups and individuals involved in similar work facilitated through a grants program.

Given the very visual nature of the project, Pawa Initiative was enlisted as a partner having its core strength in creative work evidenced by the fiery launch that had many artists performing in between the programmed speeches. Among others, artist who performed were Octave Band, Sirikal, Daniel Onyango, Japolo, Kpack & Eidala with the last performance being graciously executed by the popular SARABI band whose drum beats reversed the rain back to the sky. A live graffiti installation also run concurrently in the background as the event went on again reemphasizing the very important role of art in social change work. The effects of the launch were immediate with many in attendance asking when the app for reporting would be ready and others asking how they could get involved.

Brian Inganga, photos
Brian Inganga, photos

The launch was the beginning of a relationship between the people of Embakasi and the A4T team that would lead to harmonized service delivery from the government to its people. Nothing summed up the event more than the words from the Swedish Ambassador, who, during his speech, reminded the residents of the area to hold themselves and the A4T team accountable as much as they hoped to hold the government accountable. Governments, afterall, are the people.

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AccountabilityEducationHealth

Action for Transparency Launched in Kenya

A4T Launch 2015

During an event full of music and enthusiasm Action for Transparency (A4T) was launched in Kenya. Now the work begins to ensure that public funds really reach the health centres and schools in the wider Embakasi district in Nairobi – putting the power of change in the hands of the citizens.

“We are here today because the fight against corruption is a fight for a better future for all Kenyans. Corruption kills Kenyan mothers every day, corruption kills Kenyan policemen. Development will not happen in Kenya unless the battle against corruption is won,” said the Swedish Ambassador and guest of honour, Johan Borgstam.

The transparency and accountability programme A4T is run by the Pawa Initiative and Transparency International Kenya, (TIK). It is managed by Fojo Media Institute and funded by the Embassy of Sweden.

The launch was held at the Kariobangi North Social Grounds in Embakasi, close to the newly opened A4T office in the area. Pawa Initiative, TIK and the staff at the A4T office will work with public awareness and training of journalists, activists, community leaders and civil servants. Data about how much money government have distributed to schools and health centres will be retrieved, and community members will be engaged to take active part in monitoring their schools and health centres – to check how much different units really have received.

Samuel Kimeu, Executive Director of TIK, reminded the audience of the whistleblower policy principles:

“Every person in the public and the private sector has a responsibility to report suspected wrongdoing.”

Suspected mismanagement can be reported through a smart phone app. It will also be possible to report via sms text messages and a toll free phone number. Journalists will receive training in how to use the A4T platform so that they can produce articles about corruption

Artists from Kariobangi entertained, including the Octave Band, Sirikali and Daniel Onyago. The event ended with the popular band Sarabi, which will play at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark this summer. A4T is already up and running in Uganda and Zambia, and representatives from the teams in those countries attended the launch in Kenya.

Photos: Brian Inganga
Photos: Brian Inganga

On a wall next to the stage a beautiful graffiti painting was created by several artists, depicting functioning schools and health centres that receive the funding they are entitled to.

When the then head of Pawa254, Boniface Mwangi, entered, he started by asking the children to come close to the stage – which they happily did, cheering as they rushed forward. Then he told the audience why the fight against corruption is so important:

“The future of our children will be defined by the choices we make today. Do something to make Kenya better – have courage.”

Text: Anki Wood, Project Manager, Fojo

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Accountability

Fight corruption with a single click

A4T app

Action for Transparency is a pioneering project that fights corruption and mismanagement of government funds by putting the power to change in the hands of citizens.

Using a mobile phone with Internet access, anyone is able to check the amount of government money pledged to each school and health clinic – and the amount actually spent. If you don’t have a smartphone, the same application can be used from any computer (actionfortransparency.org).

ZA education Pic GPESarah Beeching 2
Doughlas Buule, teacher, was forced to buy chalk for education for his own money. Picture: GPE/Sarah Beeching

Do you want to check how much money the government is supposed to spend on your children’s school? Download the app – or go to the website – and click on your school to see the sum officially budgeted for it as well as other useful information.

You may find that the amount pledged for your school does not match with reality. For instance, is there only one teacher even though the Government says it is funding five? Are there no schoolbooks even though the government has budgeted for one book for each pupil?

Armed with this information, you can report any suspected corruption straight into your mobile phone. Your report will be published immediately on the Action for Transparency website and on Facebook. Related projects and reports will be and possibly featured on the Transparency International’s website. If you don’t have access to the Internet, it is also possible to report using sms or calling a hotline number.

ZA Hospital Pic Albert González 2
Many hospitals do not have the resources to provide patients with proper treatment. Picture: Albert González

The app, websites connected to it and the Facebook site will also provide a digital space for informed debates about corruption and misuse of tax payers’ money. The debates are open to everyone who wants to contribute including human rights activists, citizens, politicians, journalists and civil servants.

Thousands of journalists, civil society activists and civil servants are being trained to access, assess and communicate information on government budgeting, primarily using online sources to improve understanding of government budgeting processes. How much is intended for schools and health clinics? And how can the system be improved, providing more resources to schools and health clinics? And how can suspected corruption be tracked?

Using the app, Facebook and the virtual network created in the project, the trained journalists, civil society activists and community leaders join in a public awareness campaign. The aim is to fight corruption and mismanagement of public funds for schools and health clinics and to ensure that tax payers’ money reaches the people it is intended for: the teachers, school children, doctors, nurses and their patients.

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