By PATRICK JARAMOGI
KAMPALA-SHIFTMEDIA– Public knowledge regarding the procurement and deployment of Digital Tracking Solutions (DTS) in Africa is still low a new study has revealed.
Dubbed ‘Sunlight in Digital Technology” the study was conducted in Nigeria, Uganda, and Liberia in collaboration with the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC).
Omidyar Network helped in the conceptualization and implementation of the study.
The study sought to ascertain the procurement and deployment of digital technology in Africa. The researchers investigated the procurement and deployment of DTS in Uganda, Liberia, and Nigeria.
The team in the three countries also investigated what digital technologies are being procured by these Africans, their purposes, and how the procurements are conducted.
The study release comes at a time when the Government of Uganda has been dragged to the court regarding the presidential directive to have all vehicles and motorcycles fitted with digital tracking systems.
The suit among others notes that safeguards to individual security and privacy are being intruded.
Apart from Nigeria, citizens in Uganda and Liberia were not aware of the digital technology solutions purchased by their governments.
70% of Ugandans were not aware that the biometric artificial intelligence and facial recognition technologies (used in elections), was purchased by their governments.
Uganda has so far been shrouded in controversies regarding the procurement and deployment of Biometric Voter Identification machines used the Electoral Commission, the procurement and installation of the Ugx400b CCTVs across leading cities in Uganda, and the new proposal to install digital vehicle trackers whose tender was awarded the Russian firm M/S Joint Stock Global Security, a firm under receivership.
Nneka Odenigbo, one of the researchers said it is important that CSOs up their game regarding prioritization of public awareness regarding the importance of DTSs and their risks and mitigation measures.
The meeting held via zoom due to Covid 19 pandemic noted that in most cases, the DTS was rather used to track down opposition politicians instead of surveilling of criminals whose purpose it was intended.
The study also established that the data collected using the procured DTS was abused by some sections of government.
Hatwib Mugasa the National Information Technology Authority-Uganda (NITA-U) Executive Director said the country has sufficient laws in place to avert misuse of the DTS.
He cited the Computer Miss use Act, the Privacy Act among others as some of the laws to oversee government digital platforms and set IT standards.
His remarks come amidst the study findings that there are no special laws to guide the procurement of DTS in all the countries.
General procurement laws are being used to guide the processes of their procurement. In Uganda, some laws have been amended and others enacted to support/justify procurements for DTS.
There are also human rights concerns on the use of Digital technology systems that capture personal indentation data. Whereas investment in DTS continues to grow, many questions regarding how they guarantee citizens’ safety continue to linger.
Gilbert Sendugwa the Executive Director AFIC said most of the procurement details of DTS are not in the public domain, despite their funding being drawn largely from public funds.
The study noted that Public procurement in Africa is characterized by low information disclosure, lack of transparency, inflated pricing, inefficiency, and poor use of competitive bidding in procurement processes. Besides, institutional preparedness to procure and deploy DTS.
The study recommended that the respective governments of Liberia, Nigeria, and Uganda publish DTS procurement data, in open formats on procurement portals to promote transparency and accountability in the procurement of DTS.