Learner’s Submission: Social Media in Uganda

“Governments that desire to perform are opening their gates wide for Social Media as a tool for knowledge and information gathering. This in turn serves as a basis for relevant policy and administrative responses.

The Government of Uganda is quickly embracing and taking advantage of new age technology and associated social media; Facebook, Twitter & interactive websites. In recent years, it is of no surprise, that almost all government agencies and departments have a social media public profile, such as Facebook and Twitter accounts. Government not only taps the voices and concerns of the public, but also passes across its news and updates on public activities and programs.

Individual Public Servants and Political Leaders have also resorted to Facebook (personal profile accounts) as a short cut to keeping an eye and ear on their constituencies. Radio and Television are also largely used for public communication, but remain largely costly, and not convenient to many.

A leading example is the Uganda Revenue Authority, which has taken a leading role in adopting interactive Internet services in the delivery of its services. Uganda Revenue Authority has been praised for its closeness to the people, and efficient service and response, due to Internet based services. For example, one is able to complete full registration for tax identification, without needing to go to the Revenue Authority.

The Technology earthquake: new age challenges need new channels of communication. Governments are learning to come to the people, instead of waiting for people to come to them. Government needs information and knowledge, and these best come from the people.

The Digital Divide between public sector and private sector, and lack of E-Governance approaches might be making their final breath as social media and use of modern technology takes over government. Take for instance; the Uganda Police’s Public Order Management strategies rely on Facebook updates; on popular events necessitating security alertness. Changing times need responsive governments, and responsive governments listen to their people. People are speaking everywhere, but peoples’ voices are today louder on social media platforms than anywhere else.

What governments seem to have learnt of late is that “if social media can cause earthquake for regime change (the case of Egypt for example), then same social media can be better put to use for strategic engagement with the people.

In terms of political mobilization and voter attraction, political party “foot soldiers” (extra committed volunteers) are using their personal Facebook and tweeter accounts to influence and convince their friends, relatives and colleagues to vote for their party and favourate candidates. Political party and special event Face book pages are seen to dominate public debate during the course of preparations for a major political event, in order to capture the attention of the general public.

To sum it up, government in Uganda, like others elsewhere in the world, is learning all and forgetting nothing in keeping an eye on its people, through use of social media.

A watchman that sleeps far from the gate never knows when the Master entered, and loses his job the following morning.” – Ivan Atuyambe – Passau, Germany

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