Warning: Trying to access array offset on value of type bool in /usr/www/users/urnnet/a/story.php on line 43 Rights Activists Task Gov't on Access to Information, the Cost of Internet :: Uganda Radionetwork
Charity Kyomujjuziri from the Africa Freedom of Information Centre while addressing the press at Uganda Media Center underscored the need for government to translate key national documents and make them available to all citizens.
As the World marks the International Day of Universal Access to Information, the continued publication of official content in English and the high cost of the internet remains a big hindrance to the enjoyment of the right by several Ugandans. Key documents including the Constitution, Acts of Parliament, policies, rules and regulations, and calls for bids among others are written and published in the official language, English, making them a preserve of those who can read and comprehend the English language.
Charity Kyomujjuziri from the Africa Freedom of Information Centre while addressing the press at Uganda Media Center underscored the need for government to translate key national documents and make them available to all citizens. She noted that while the government has made available a lot of information online, it should be made accessible to more Ugandans depending on their unique challenges including the inability to read and comprehend the English language.
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Access to information is key to the promotion of good governance, transparency, accountability, and the development of a democratic state. Article 41 of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda provides for the Right of access to information "Every citizen has a right of access to information in the possession of the State or any other organ or agency of the State except where the release of the information is likely to prejudice the security or sovereignty of the State or interfere with the right to the privacy of any other person" reads section one (1) of the same article. The Parliament also enacted the Access to Information Act 2005 to effect the above provision of the supreme law.
However, a recent report by the Anti-Corruption Coalition exposed gaps in the implementation of the laws which included the denial of information by the information officers and the use of laws on secrecy to deny access to citizens seeking information. The denial manifests in different ways such as officials refusing to provide the information when asked, issuing it to a few people, and publishing it in formats or a language not comprehendible by many people among other ways.
Henry Muguzi, the Executive Director of the Alliance for Finance Monitoring in a recent interview with URN opined that government deliberately keeps citizens in the dark using different tactics. Muguzi makes reference to the failure of the government to translate the Constitution, which is the supreme law, into local languages for people to know their rights and responsibilities. Muguzi thinks that citizens who lack such basic knowledge can rarely hold their government accountable, which serves in the interests of those holding office for their own satisfaction.
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State Minister for ICT and National Guidance Godfrey Kabyabbanga, while sharing his International Day for Universal Access to Information message at the government-owned Uganda Media Center reiterated the government's commitment to grant access to information. He said apart from having information officers at the different government offices, they have trained civil servants on the right to access information.
Kabyabbanga also said that the government has extended the internet through the National Backbone Infrastructure to ensure connectivity to the different parts of the country. According to Datareportal, as of 2022, it was estimated that around 29.1% of the population in Uganda had internet access.
He also mentioned that the government has over the years reduced the cost internet in the country, making it easy for citizens to access information digitally.
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The government reduced the cost of the internet from 1200 US dollars in 2013 to 300 US dollars in 2013. In 207, the cost was reduced further to 190 US dollars per Mbps, later to 70 dollars, and now standing at 35 dollars per Mbps. However, Charity Kyomujjuziri said that the cost is still high and should be reduced further to allow for more digital and online transactions and access by more people.
She also asked the government to provide education to people of older age who didn't have exposure to the new digital platforms during their prime time of learning and working such that they can benefit from the digital and online information-sharing platforms.
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The International Day of Universal Access to Information marked every 28 September was first declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on 17 November 2015.
The UN General Assembly also adopted 28 September 2019 as the International Day for Universal Access to Information to promote access to information. This year's commemorations are under the theme "The importance of the online space for access to information."
In her statement to mark the day, Irene Khan, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression said that without universal and meaningful connectivity for all, the right to information is an empty promise for billions of people around the world. “The Internet is not equally available or accessible to all and that is deepening existing inequalities and creating new inequities along lines of gender, geography, ethnicity, income, and digital literacy, increasing the vulnerabilities of those most marginalized in society" reads the statement in part.
Khan hence called upon states to strengthen their efforts to close the digital divide and remove all barriers to the right to information saying that the right to information is ‘the oxygen’ without which neither democracy nor development can flourish.