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While local governments enjoy a strategic advantage of being closest to the people and are therefore best placed to bring about good local governance, they are still lacking the abilities to reach out to the people in their communities in an appropriate way. Social Media can be a helpful tool to effectively communicate, engage, and deliver relevant information to the masses.
CEMCOD and KAS recognize this power of social media to refine government, to open potentially promising channels of communication and to offer citizens direct access to their government and to public officials. Therefore they have developed a series of workshops all over the country in order to bring better information from local governments to citizens. To learn to use of Social Media as a tool to effectively communicate, engage, and deliver relevant information to the masses was the main goal of the workshop “Effective Use of Social Media by Local Government Leaders for Civic Engagement in Uganda”.
With participants from the districts of Lira, Apac, Dokolo, Alebtong and Kole, the three day workshop was aimed to make the use of social media more accessible for local government officials. Through presentations and practicable sessions they understood how to use for example Skype, twitter, blogs and diverse other platforms for social media to reach out to as many people of the local communities as possible. The participants were highly engaged and some who were previously rather critical towards platforms like Facebook afterwards understood the benefits of them very well. The facilitator Maureen was able to make the technical things easy to understand and the participants were very grateful to have her showing them the right way. One participant said after the workshop “Before I didn’t had enough knowledge to use social media platforms but know with this training I have learned that platforms like twitter can best be used to share information online”.
The participants also learned to be careful with the information they post on social media. Property rights, privacy issues and the fact that you can be blamed for what you put on social media were discussed during this session.
On the last day a public dialogue on the issues of the previous days brought on board other stakeholders and provided a great platform for free speech. It created a connection between Local Governments, Civil Society and Media for citizen engagement and flow of information. Especially internet security issues and possibilities to improve the communication system of were discussed by the participants and the panel. The remaining lack of internet access for some rural areas is one of the issues that needs to be addressed as well as the high actuality of official web presence of local and national governments were the main topics throughout this discussion.
One participant said “As long as we don’t have internet access in every village, the information will not reach all the important people. Government should try to improve this to improve governance” and another one claimed that government is not interested in giving the citizens the relevant information. As one said, that websites of government and other institutions were rarely up to date, one local government leader promised to open up new channels of social media to both provide information and communicate with citizens in the future. Besides this, the participants of the workshop were presenting their new knowledge and thanked CEMCOD, KAS and Maureen for the chance to learn about Social Media.