Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Uganda Human Rights Commission-UHRC has launched a digital complaint filing application eliminating the need for affected persons to physically appear before the commission officials to be heard. The app, which can be downloaded through the google play store on android phones was developed by Datatrack Solutions with funding from the German government through Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit-GIZ.
The application enables users to file complaints, and view the commission history, location of the commission headquarters, and other regional offices for direction. It also offers a provision for a user to follow up on their complaints through the “chat with us” section. It also has frequently asked questions and links to the Commission’s online platforms such as the website, Instagram, and Twitter.
Kamadi Byonabye, the Director of Research Education and Documentation at UHRC says that the idea to develop the app was first construed as a tool to sensitize the public about their rights and how they can be served by the Commission. He however says that the Commission soon realized that it would be prudent to incorporate other functions on the app such that even during sensitization workshops, participants can be helped to file complaints if any.
The application currently doesn’t cater to people with sight and hearing impairments, but Byonabye says that they shall continue upgrading it to make it more usable and relatable to the general public. He says that after filing one’s complaints, they shall be investigated based on a first come first serve basis. Byonabye says the complainant shall receive a response in the shortest time possible, before their cases are scheduled for further action.
According to the Uganda Communications Commission-UCC, while there are over 30 million phones in Uganda, only about 10 million are smartphones and can hence provide access to the application. UCC’s first quarter report for the year 2022 indicated that by the end of March 2022, the total number of active broadband connections stood at 23.5 million down from 23.9 million at the end of December 2021.
The Commission chairperson Mariam Wangadya, has hence asked the government to expand internet connectivity to different parts of the country to increase access and adaption to the application, and also make smartphones and data more accessible to the larger public. Wangadya also asked the government to increase funding to the Commission to publicize the application, but also attend to people’s complaints.
The Commission plans to hold dissemination workshops in different parts of the country to popularize the application to the larger public. However, when more people embrace the digital platform, there is a likelihood that there shall be more complaints that require the attention of the Commission to investigate and hold tribunal sessions.
The Commission has over 200 pending cases. Wangadya who declined to divulge details says that the commission’s funding is so meager that it can barely facilitate their lined-up activities for a year. It should be remembered that UHRC is among government agencies that received funding from the Democratic Governance Facility-DGF whose operations were suspended in 2020, by the time government lifted the suspension, they were closing their funding project and hadn’t indicated that they would start on another phase of funding.
Wangadya says the government should increase funding for the Commission to enable them to perform its constitutional mandate.
The State Minister for ICT and National Guidance, Godfrey Kabyanga Bakulu Kime who officiated at the launch said the development of an application fits into the government program of extending services online and also expanding internet coverage to increase accessibility to the larger public.
Kabbyanga referred to a loan that the government is seeking to install internet infrastructure in different parts of the Country to ensure internet connectivity. Regarding funding to the Commission to popularize the application and also hear cases effectively, Kabbyanga asked the Commission to use the funds at their disposal maximally but also committed to table their complaints on the funding gap to a higher authority.
Gabriel Khauka, the Application developer says that it has been designed to easily use but is hard to corrupt because of the firewall used. He also says that the application can be improved to cater to other members of society who are differently gifted because they have sight and hearing impairments.