Volunteer Overseas

Bridging the digital divide in Uganda – K G Rajamohan

I was placed as a VSO volunteer in 2010 in the Democratic Republic of Uganda for Governance & Participation program which is one of the major global areas focused by VSO.  Let me share here how lives of the Ugandan citizens are getting changed by their active participation in governance in policy matters, especially for their socio economical progress.

The task assigned…

VSO has taken up a bold step by introducing volunteers to associate closely with government to initiate transparency in governance by involving citizens to take part in policy decisions.

To achieve this global impact, Information and Communication technology (ICT) has been taken as a tool for  social auditing and social accountability.

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As a VSO volunteer, I remember in August 2010 when I was placed as Information System Adviser in the E-Society Resource Centre at Kasese managed by Rwenzori Consortium [RWECO], Kasese District Local Government and Rwenzori Information Centers Network – Fort Portal, the center was functioning like other common Internet cafés and it was only called as a “resource center”. My job responsibility was as an advisory to take up the challenge of framing Strategic Plans with expected outcome of bringing transformation at the center. To bring change from being a mere internet café to a resource cum training center which would act as a hub, networking the Government, Civil Society Organizations and people. This center had to be run with high technological intervention by using IT and ICT facilities by active participation of the Government, Civil Society Organizations, and people to be commissioning successfully within time frame of nine months [tentatively by April 2011].

After that, with full perseverance and determination I got on to the job, did intensive planning and managed successful execution of strategic plans, with the support of the Local government and RICNET team.  The e-Society Resource Center was commissioned successfully on 20th April 2011, which started functioning as a Regional Hub for Knowledge Management System and also acted as a full-fledged resource cum training center catering to needs of Kasese district. This transformation from mere internet café to resource based information center fulfilled all my wishes and my dream came true.

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The Impact…..

This model has brought change in the mind set of the Local Government Authorities to involve people in discussion on all policy matters and also confirms that sharing skills and knowledge could bring real change in the life style of the people to have active participation in governance.

The Progress continues…

In a nut shell, the E-Society Resource Center in Kasese is the first model in Uganda. Kasese stands as the first district which introduced this tripartite combination of Government with public and private partnership with the civil society to show the world that a healthy and transparent administrative system can be possible with the advent of IT & ICT intervention. The center invites the attention of the Community Support Organizations [CSOs] to go hand in hand with the Government to find solutions for their social problems. The center answers the issue of inadequate access to timely and relevant information, a key aspect that limits citizen’s effective participation in planning and monitoring processes in the district. It is aimed at bringing the society of Kasese into purview of electronic usage for poverty alleviation to improve their social, economical, health, cultural and educational status. This project bridges the digital divide.

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Lasting fulfillment…

As a VSO volunteer, I had wonderful self-learning period that developed my mind set with global understanding. In fact, I enjoyed my year long stay in Kasese because I found very healthy professional working environment and also living environment for which I must thank RICNET management. On my last day before departure in a farewell meeting, I appealed to all development partners working with RIC-NET and to RIC-NET as well, to keep the fire burning. I am extremely happy to share even today, in  March 2014 acting as an online advisory member for the e-Society resource center and also sharing my views in Kasese district e-Society d-group.

[Reference: http://www.ricnet.info/www.ricnet.co.ug and http://www.rwenzoripeoplevoice.org / Article publication: RICNET News Letter: RIC-NET News – A Quarterly up-date from Rwenzori Information Centers Network – RICNET’s Sept 2011 Issue (page 2).]

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