Savana Signatures, an ICT for development (ICT4D) organization operating in Ghana has launched a mobile-based governance project that seeks to provide an opportunity for women, youth, people living with HIV/AIDS and disability to participate in local governance in Tamale.
The aim of the project is to contribute to enhanced rule of law, democracy and to promote transparent and accountability while encouraging citizen participation in planning, budgeting and decision making.
The project known as Mobile for Social Inclusive Governance (MSIG) was launched in partnership with Making All Voices Count, an organization promoting enhanced governance globally. The project provides effective communication channel for the beneficiaries to participate in governance at the local levels through a mobile phone.
The pilot phase of MSIG was launched in March 2014 for four assemblies namely; Tamale Metropolis, Yendi, Wa and Savelugu Municipalities and by December 2014, 2064 persons were reached and effectively participated in decision making exceeding the project target by 864.
The overwhelmed participation of women, youth, people living with HIV/AIDS and disability during the pilot phase however informed Savana Signatures to roll out the project in five districts including Central Gonja, Sagnarigu, Tolon, Kumbungu, and Gushegu districts extensively to deepens people’s participation in local governance, enhance human rights and democracy, transparent and accountability and to check bribery, corruption and misuse of resources among other things in the Northern Region.
Addressing the beneficiary District Assemblies during an orientation and launch of phase II of MSIG, Muhammed Yakubu, the programme manager explained that MSIG is aimed to increase the participation of youth, women, PLHIV and PWDs in local project planning and budgeting for improved provision of public goods and services at the district levels.
The project is intended to directly and indirectly benefit 4,500 people. Besides this, 20 assembly women and men would be engaged for leadership mobilization purposes while four staff of each beneficiary assembly would receive training on planning and budgeting to enable them plan and design a mobile-based surveys to reach marginalized groups in the project.
Yakubu indicated that given the massive penetration of mobile networks, messages sent to mobile phones provide a revolutionary channel for sharing information in real-time. He said over the years, MSIG target groups are unable to effectively participate in local governance as a result of their vulnerability and lack of access and that MSIG provides a pathway for them to participate in local governance.
The Executive Director of Savana Signatures, John Stephen Agbenyo said MSIG provides opportunity for District Assemblies to use a mobile based platform to facilitate communication with their citizens. MSIG has a platform known as “citizens Dash-Board that enables citizen to provide feedback or suggestions that feed into policy planning and decision making of the assembly irrespective of their location, he indicated. It is also a platform for citizens to directly report corrupt local authority officials.
The Assemblies per the local government law allocate 5% of the common fund to the activities of Persons living with disability. There is also a consideration for people living with disabilities to participate in decision making process of the assemblies. MSIG however makes it easy for the assembly to identify and involve these groups of people remotely in planning and decision making process.
The Director said MSIG platform is cost effective and would reduce time, energy and resources use to planning and organizing community meetings or durbar for the purposes of collating views and suggestions of the people to plan and make decisions at the local level.
“MSIG also makes it easier for marginalized groups to access relevant information without having to rely on the assembly members or local government authorities”, he said.
Some participants during the orientation workshop mentioned bad road network, distant, language diversity and illiteracy as challenges facing the assemblies in terms of information dissemination.
MSIG will be carrying out mobile surveys packaged in local dialects (voice) for effective citizenship engagement to seek the opinion of marginalized groups about development activities while the citizens use the Citizenship Request Dashboard (CRD) to voluntarily submit their opinions about development activities to district assemblies by simply dialing a code that would be made available to each beneficiary district soon.