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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Kyegegwa and Kyenjojo Districts sign MOUs as commitment for social Accountability project


RIC-NET signed Memorandums of understandings this morning with  Kyegegwa and Kyenjojo  Local Government leaders.
This comes after several round table meetings and presentations to the Technical Planning Committees (TPC) of the benefits the Districts are planned to gain by embracing the e-society and online platforms. The  e-society resource centre and online platforms are  to supporting the“Enhancing Civic Competence for social accountability” project that is being piloted in 25 Districts in the five regions of Uganda under the Citizens Election Watch-IT (CEW-IT) consortium.This EU/HIVOS funded project implemented is implimented by RWECO members (RIC-NET, Ride Africa, KALI, GHRD) in Rwenzori region and the ICT key partner RIC-NET was mandated to implement the e-society components. RIC-NET agreed to the design and develop District websites and E-libraries; provide five computers, Photocopier and Fly box for internet connectivity to each District. This equipment will form the e-society resource centre that will enable easy information sharing and access to the entire community.

In Kyegegwa, the MOU was signed by  the District Chief Administration Officer, the District Chair Person Hon. B  Norman and witnessed by Mr.Kuteesa the District planner .  RIC-NET Executive Director  M John Silco and ICT Officer Mr. Yosia Baluku represented RWECO/RIC-NET.

C.A.O Kyegegwa and RIC-NET ED append signatures on the MOU
 In his remarks the ED RIC-NET informed the Districts leaders that ICT equipments will be delivered early next year 2013 and so they need to be citing a free room that could accommodate the e-society resource room. The main component for this year is to have the Districts websites and e-libraries up and running before December 2012

In his remarks the LC5 chairperson Kyegegwa District Hon.Birungi Norman thanked RIC-NET for all efforts to see that ICT is being spearheaded in local governments. He also requested that the lower local governments be included on the District website.
 The CAO of the same District was so grateful for the support from CSOs towards ICT development in the District.
In Kyenjojo,  the MOU was signed by Mr. Martin Jacan Gwokto the Deputy CAO and witnessed by Mr.Kamara the District Information Officer. Mr. Martin was so grateful about the initiative and promised the District committment to impilmentation of the e-society platform  for better information sharing and service delivery tracking.
Deputy CAO and DIO Kyenjojo & ED RIC-NET signing the MOU
RIC-NET promised the present the District website designs for approval next week in order  the Districts officals harmonize their requirements and acceptance thereafter be uploaded and run online.
Kyegegwa will be hosted at www.kyegegwa.go.ug while Kyenjojo will be hosted at www.kyenjojo.go.ug. The electronic library will be a component on the websites that will allow districts to upload public documents that can be accessed by anybody anywhere in the universe.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Community libraries increased accesss to information


RIC-NET joined the rest of the members of Uganda community Libraries Association in celebrating the Book Week from the 15th to 20th October. The event took place at Busongora Rural community library located in Kasese District. This library serves both the farmers in the community as well as the students and other community members.

The main objectives was to create understanding on the value of reading to the pupils and students in Kasese, to create a linkage between the tradition teaching method with the modern, To derive a picture of the type of library required by the users- community, pupils and students. The participating schools included; Kasese Secondary, Kasese High, Kasese Moslem, Light of Hope Secondary[between S1-S3], Kasese Primary, Base camp Primary, Mother care and Rock primary[pupils between P.3-P6] other were RICNET, RWECO and BRIC staffs, DIO, DEO, Secretary for education and sports Kasese district local government represented by Mr.Tsembere Venesio the area district councilor. 
The activities included; Story telling by the elders to students and pupils. Art and drawing competition, Debate, Book reading and Quiz competitions among the participating schools involving the secondary and the primary learners.
During the silent reading and later sharing of the books, the pupils the participant realized that reading is important because; there is an increase in knowledge and awareness, pupils learn good behaviors, increase their ability to speak and write, has increased their ability to speak in public and their views heard, increase their literacy rate, get meaningful advice from certain books, able to understand program from the government and their rights as children of Uganda.
They also realized community issues that need actions from the community and their leaders are easily shared and understand especially; better farming methods, community literacy programs, family planning methods should be implemented to reduce on population explosion. Laws, ordninaces and by-laws should be put in place to regulate on drug abuse, children rights should be respected. One pupils from Mother Care Preparatory School Degaulle in P.4 amused the house when he mentioned that “the government is to blame for reduce the cost of Alcohol especially those that cost as less 500; Buveera”. He was supported by another Komukebya Sharon from Base camp Primary who said that these drugs are easily accessible everywhere in the villages. These views were later accepted and the District councilor accepted to table them in the council

The event also draw participants to an understand between formal and informal education. In informal education, the teachers were mainly uncles, Anti and grandparents where knowledge was passed in form of proverbs, stories, sayings, songs that were meant to increase behavior change,sence of belonging to the community, hard work and good character among the young ones as well as increasing the sense of belonging to the community. The fire place was the class room. In the formal education, teacher and schools have replaced the role of elders to pass knowledge. The story telling that formed part of this event draw the pupils the life back with the grandparents. Mr. Kyaminyawande Augustine an elder from the community helped the pupils to understand that informal education had value and those values should be taken even today.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Training of District leaders in Website and E-library utilization successful

Enhance their civic competence and strengthen social accountability through information sharing. RIC-NET as mandated  in the proposal to design online platforms (websites and E-libraries) for districts and also train District leaders in the utilization of these platforms conducted a two days training of these leaders.
The training that attracted District Information officers, District planners and Chief Administrative officers from all the Rwenzori region districts was conducted at St. Josephs’ Virika conference hall from 17th -18th October 2012.
In his welcoming remarks, the Executive Director thanked the leaders for having honored the invitation and realized the importance of their participation. He also told them to embrace these tools and show more commitment and that also UCC and NITA-Uganda had funds to support districts in as far as ICT is concerned. He challenged district leaders to show concern and contact UCC for this support.

In his first session the ICTO RIC-NET introduced and explained the project objectives to the participants and told them what RIC-NET is mandated to do and provide to the districts which among others included trainings.
He further led the participants in an introduction to web browsing and explained a number of terms that users have always miss interpreted and used interchangeably. This attracted attention from members and they also participated in asking a number of questions that led more understanding of the terms and ICT. He also led them through some other social media later and introduced them to skype one of the easiest and quick means of communication and information sharing. Most of the participants signed up and saw how it worked and got excited about this new tool to them. They appreciated and pledged to use this tool even when in their offices.
In the second session the ED RIC-NET also gave more information about ICT and information sharing in trying to curb the information gap. He took the participants through blogging where most of the members signed up and created personal blogs. This was necessary because the current technology of websites uses almost the same method for updating and since the districts’ staff will be updating their websites, it was mandatory for that introduction. The session was so interesting and day one was concluded by a skype conference that everyone enjoyed and realized that there was no need to move from office to office to conduct small discussions and share files but rather to use this technology to save time.

Day two started with a recap of day one that was led by the ICTO. A number of issues covered in day one were highlighted commented upon.
The ICTO started the first session by introducing the participants to content management systems (CMS) a dynamic technology that is being used to develop their websites. He explained to them that the most CMS applications are joomla and word press that do not need a lot of ICT knowledge to members if they are to basically update the sites with data. He gave more details about joomla and permissions that can be granted to users at different levels including managers, Authors, editors among others and what each of those categories are supposed to do. He further logged in to one of the sites to demonstrate how the district leaders will be logging in to their sites and update them. “We are impressed by this training and we would like that you give us the passwords and we do a hands on updating with you” said District planner Kyegegwa. The ICTO explained that it would be possible only after being done with the designs and that since designing was still on they would not get the login details but will receive them as soon as their sites are done and receive more hands on trainings.
Later in the afternoon the ICTO introduced the District leaders to the concept of the E-library where he said it would be part of their websites where the district would upload all public documents like District Development Plan, District budgets among others. He also demonstrated and showing them a sample Electronic library and how they will be uploading files which he emphasized must be converted to pdf formats before being uploaded. He also informed the participants that RIC-NET procured a hosting server and therefore has started webhosting in addition to the activities it runs.
He later finalized with showcasing the already designs of the districts at the following sub domains;
http://kamwenge.rwenzoriweb.com                                                                
He said that kabarole and kasese were already online but being redesigned using the modern technologies and bundibugyo was also already online hosted at www.bundibugyo.go.ug and that the training was an entry point to Ntoroko.
In the way forward after the training members suggested that;
Ø  M.O.U for kyegegwa be signed as soon as possible
Ø  Kamwenge launch be organized soon
Ø  Kyenjojo MOU be harmonized and signed
Ø  More trainings be conducted
Ø  Ntoroko be considered and looked at if possible before end of year especially for a meeting with leaders.
Ø  Information be collected for those sites and sharing the links with other district leaders they think they can give input.

In his concluding remarks the ICTO thanked the members for participation and emphasized that they should embrace ICT since it’s the way to go in this rapidly growing world and that this would even ease their work since they would have enough references for information access.also reminded districts that had received E-society centers to utilize them and make use of the staff deployed there to get more skills and hands on trainings. He told them to always respond in case they are again called upon for any other training and departure was at 3:00pm.

And so we deserved it

RWECO staff on 16th October 2012 received training in the application of the (ICT) and PRMT monitoring tools. The training that was conducted at Verina gardens in kasese attracted all RWECO member organizations KALI, GHFRD, Ride Africa, RWECO CU and RIC-NET as the lead training organization.


Among the key items trained in were the use of online platforms like blogging among others and the use of smart phones in social accountability monitoring.

In his presentation the ED RIC-NET emphasized on the use of these platforms and took members through them.

 He also put more emphasis on the way partners capture photos and said one needs to compose what exactly he needs before shooting a photo.









Emma Oluka also trained in the use of smart phones and the application of the social accountability tool “my panel”. It is an application based on market research. He showed members how they would use it when carrying out survey. The tool focuses on health, Education and water. It has a number of questions that the surveyor has to fill in and then submit to the system (huduma) http://citizensvoice.ug./
Members were also trained on how they would connect to any wireless networks on their smart phones, configuring those capturing good photos with those phones among others.

Among other things trained were installation of a number of applications on the android smart phones like skype, bible, my panel and many more others depending on what you want to use them for.



Friday, October 19, 2012

RIC-NET CONTRIBUTES TO UGANDA’S 50 YEARS OF EXISTENCE

Free at last, was the sigh of every Ugandan 50 years back, and down the road we have come to witness the joy of self rule and being instruments of our own development.
Today individuals, CSOs, Government and private sector are all happy to know that they are part of the development/achievements that were celebrated at the 50th Independence Anniversary. 

In the same vein Rwenzori Information Centers Network (RIC-NET) a Community owned Information Network in the Rwenzori region is glad to mention how it has spear- head the use of ICTs in information sourcing, sharing and dissemination in the Rwenzori region and boosted agriculture during these 50 years of independence, www.ricnet.co.ug.

Having piloted E-society Resource Centers in the region, first in Kasese District in 2010 and later Kabarole in 2011, and now Bundibugyo and Kamwenge Districts in 2012; it is evident that the information gap between the District Local Governments and the community has been bridged, while the computer literacy and the use of different on-line platforms and social media has been enhanced amongst the civil servants and the community at large.
This has been made possible through the development of the different on-line platforms developed for the districts to share information; websites; www.kasese.go.ug www.kabarole.go.ug, www.bundibugyo.go.ug , www.kamwenge.go.ug and  blogs, e-libraries, Skype accounts among others and through the free computer trainings offered at these centers by the RIC-NET staff.

Related to the above is piloting the use of ICT and CINEDUC in the teaching and learning of English in secondary and Primary Teachers Colleges in Kasese and Kabarole Districts.  The purpose of this project is to address the traditional teaching methods of chalk and talk with ICT enhanced methods that that use photo digital stories, power point and video aimed at increasing efficiency in the learning-teaching process.  

Rwenzori region is a food basket in Uganda though challenged by various agricultural problems like crop pests and diseases, poor infrastructure, lack of available market information and markets as well as unpredictable weather patterns. In response to this, RIC-NET developed a “Healthy plants for healthy people” project run by 16 trained plant doctors. These are charged with supporting farmers with plant diagnosis and treatment through “plant Clinics” conducted on market days in the market places. This has reduced crop pests and diseases, enhanced crop productivity and also increased farmers’ household incomes.
Strengthening Citizens’ participation in Social accountability/monitoring District Local Governments’ service delivery has reduced misuse of public funds and discouraged shoddy work on public projects. 

Great thanks go to the Government of Uganda for the cooperation and enabling environment, and to the RIC-NET funders and partners; HIVOs, EU, Connect for Change, Plant Wise Uganda, CABI UK and EIFL for their financial and technical support. 

Congratulations Uganda, Happy 50th Independence. For God and My Country!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Local govts need more money for computers


http://www.observer.ug/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=21487:local-govts-need-more-money-for-computers&catid=53:interview&Itemid=67

Rwenzori Information centres Network (Ric-Net) is a consortium of five NGOs that form RWECO [Rwenzori consortium for civic competence].
The NGOs have received funding and tasked Ric-Net to set up seven internet centres [e-societies] in the seven districts of Kasese, Kabarole, Bundibugyo, Kyejonjo, Kamwenge, Ntoroko and Kyegegwa of Rwenzori sub-region.
These e-societies host the districts’ websites, train different categories of people in ICT. Wilber Muhwezi spoke to Ric-Net’s executive director, JOHN M. SILCO, after the official opening of the Bundibugyo e-society.

When did you get this idea of free internet access in the Rwenzori sub-region?
I and my colleagues conceived this sometime back but started implementation in 2005 with the first eight rural information centres at counties and 35 centres at sub-counties. In 2009, we set up the Kasese e-society while in 2010 we constructed the Kabarole one.
In 2012, we have set up two more – Kamwenge and Bundibugyo. Next February, we shall set up the remaining three and close the project in 2014.

Who funds this project?
We are funded by a Dutch NGO, HIVOS and the European Union. The project will cost us 250,000 Euros (Shs 750m).

Whom do you target to benefit from these e-societies?
We target a number of categories of people in the sub-region who include core district staffs, elected leaders, civil society members and youths in and out of schools. These people come and access internet, train in ICT, district electronic library, district websites that we have constructed and even host websites, among others.

When do you expect to complete the remaining e-societies?
The remaining three e-societies will be complete by February next year and the five-year project will close in 2014.

To what extent is lack of internet and ICT a problem here?
Lack of ICT is a very big problem in Rwenzori region. For example, at districts where our e-societies have been located, our research shows that 50% of the staff is computer illiterate.
Our research adds that the 50% ICT literate district staff access a computer once or twice a week. And for the public, there is a long way to go but with such initiatives we shall make some reasonable headway.

What percentage of people in Rwenzori sub-region accesses internet daily?
It is just 5%. These are university students, few employed people and those from the small rich class.

What percentage of the people of Rwenzori sub-region [that access internet] will you attain when all the seven e-societies are operational?
We are targeting to achieve 95% internet access to staff of the seven district local governments. These should be able to access internet daily. We are aiming at making about 600,000 people access our online web platforms through 6030 short code using their mobile phones.  

What should the government do to improve internet access to the public?
Government should emphasize funding to local governments on ICT issues to enable them build more capacity to the district staff and even extend deeper to lower local governments.
The Uganda Communications Commission should extend a hand in setting up rural communication centres to all the health centres at all levels and even sub-counties. The government should also scrap all the taxes levied to ICT-related items in order to make them affordable to the public. It should also copy Rwanda’s policy of providing laptops to students. [A lap top per-child]

How will the centres function after your project ends?
The districts will generate some income from the photocopies, scanners and printers we provide to these e-societies to keep the centre running. Also the money the district would have spent on training staff on ICT would be saved to keep the centres running. Still, we have advised the district to include ICT in their work plans and budgets.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

RIC-NET PARTICIPANTS IN THE 5th ANNUAL CIVIL SOCIETY FAIR


The 5th  Annual Civil Society Fair in  Rwenzori region  was recently held in Bundibugyo District  at Booma grounds  next to Bundibugyo District headquarters under the theme;”strengthening  peace and unity  for sustainable regional development”. The civil society fair was attended by network organizations under NGO Forum and other participants from the private sector who had come to exhibit their products.
The main purpose of the Civil Society Fair was to share information across all network organizations through interactions and open discussions. Issues concerning food security and Uganda at 50 years were discussed during the civil society meeting.  It was agreed that every house hold in Bundibugyo district should create a store of food locally called Enguli” for food storage so as to be able to keep food for a long period of time. It is on this day 27th September 2012, that enguli was launched by the guest of hounour Mr. Alex Ruhunda a sign of boosting food security in the region. Hon. Alex explained that when food is stored for longer period of time  hunger is reduced.
picture of Enguli after construction

In addition to this, particpants acknowledged that, when the family has no food, there is no peace and development because quarrels amongst the husband, wife and children will arise from time to time thus causing instability in the family and consequent under or no development will be realized at the end of the day in the region.
Another issue discussed was Uganda at 50 years; presenting on this, the  Chair Person LCV Bundibugyo District Mr. .Tibamanya Jolly noted that, Uganda has moved a step ahead compared to the past years. An example quoted was the new technologies like use of cars, availability of personal phones and Net works, and improvement done in infrastructure. He said today one takes only a few hours to reach Bundibugyo District yet it used to take like a whole month because of poor roads.  He added that internet and computer training services have been brought closer to the people and so communication has been made easy, giving the E-society at Bundibugyo Local Government as an example Also modern technologies of agricultural farming were introduced through NAADS programme and the culture of saving has been adapted  through rural financial service programmes of “Boona Bagagawale” as efforts of the government to promote peace and unity for sustainable regional development.
farmers accessing information.

During the Civil Society Fair, Rwenzori Information Centers Network exhibited it’s services/products and received over 100 people at its stall. 70% of these were farmers looking for agricultural information especially on plant diseases of Cocoa, coffee and banana growing. The information was availed to them both verbally and in hard copies of several documentaries as shown in the pictures below On 28thSeptember2012, the Secretary Uganda Communication Commission Eng. Godfrey Mutabazi Launched “Bundibugyo E-society center” as the Chief Guest. Eng. Godfrey also officiated over the closure of Civil Society Fair. Speaking at the Fair, Eng. Godfrey noted that, every person on this planet has the potential to develop him self and to contribute towards regional development since we were all created in the image God. We have the power to create things are that can lead us to earn money he remarked. 

He also noted that for access to information is powerand yet most people are not developing due to lack of information, knowledge and skills.  It is necessary that everyone gets involved in accessing information to realize faster development. Eng. Godfrey, thanked the organizers of the Fair for the great work and RIC-NET for extending IT services closer to the people in Bundibugyo, saying that, it would help in accelerating information sharing and consequent development in the District.
Eng. Godfrey launching the center.

Conclusively, participants made two key recommendations from the two days’ discussions; food security and information sharing components are key in strengthening peace and unity for sustainable development!


The Rwenzori CSOs Fair kicked off in high gears


The 5th edition of the Rwenzori region CSOs fair kicked off on 25th september 2012  in high gears as the central organising committe members travelled to Bundibugyo District to join the District local government  organisers at the source.

with a lot of excitement the members  engaged in the preparatory meetings, confirming accomodation,  ensuring tents are raised, among others. with the  RDC  officiating  as the chief Guest on 26th september the eve of the fair, participants were treated to a candle light ceremony as a rememberance of the souls lost due to HIV/AIDs and a call to the participants that  the fight against HIV/AIDs still continious. Bundibugyo association of women living with Aids ( BAWILA) too mobilised members that testified about living positively with HIV/AIDs and encouraged the public to test as well as live sexually responsible lives. to crown it all the public enjoyed the bull roasting as they feasted on hot, spiced  and roasted beef for the evenning, what a welcome that  brightened the  interraction between  local citizens and participants from outside the District.The rest of the CSO fair  days were equally colorful as the Rwenzori region witnessed the launch of the regional development framework by the Hon.Alex Ruhunda, CSOs painting of the padeatric ward in Bundibugyo hospital, debates that had maximum participation of the District leaders,notable among them a  key note address by retired Bishop ZAC Niringye as he remarked that uganda's problem is not corruption but corrupt leaders who embezzle  public funds  leading to poor service delivery, the local citizens were challenged to eliminate such individuals.at the Apex of the fair, Rwenzori information centres Network (RIC-NET)  had the Bundibugyo E-Society  centre launched the by the Board chairperson of Uganda communications commission (UCC), Eng, Godfrey Mutabazi thus bringing the three days event to a sucessful closure.