SEMA is a citizen-centred social enterprise headquartered in Kampala, Uganda. The organisation aims to improve public services by providing a platform where citizens can share their latest experience with a public institution anonymously, efficiently, and free of charge. Throughout the COVID-19outbreak, SEMA has installed feedback devices and ran online and mobile surveying tools to gather feedback from citizens about their experiences at police stations and health centres. These tools include an IoT feedback device, a USSD code, a toll-free line, telephone, WhatsApp, and in-person surveys. SEMA’s goal is listening to citizens as users of the public institutions and translating their needs into recommendations for improved service delivery.
In alignment with SDG 16.6, SEMA supports the government in developing practical, accountable, and transparent institutions at all levels and tracking this SDG indicator by measuring citizens' satisfaction with their previous experience at a public office. SEMA currently operates in partnership with the Government of Uganda at various public institutions, including police stations, health centres, and municipalities.
1. Project Background
In 2018, I4C-Africa Hub hosted the Social Innovation Challenge (SIC) under three thematic areas: transparency, accountability, and Natural Resources Management. I4C-Africa Hub was looking for five organizations using innovation to bring about social impact in their communities across Africa’s sub-regions (East, South, North, and West, and Central Africa). The SIC also aimed to encourage these organizations to work together and develop innovative ways to bring about change through research, community activities, new technologies, apps, and training tools aligning with the thematic areas.
SEMA participated in the SIC by identifying and sharing knowledge on innovative solutions, tools, and responses from civil society organizations to a social issue (citizens experiences with public institutions) addressing the SIC’s three key thematic areas. Additionally, solutions addressed issues that:
- had a negative social impact
- affected a large number of people across the region
- affected marginalized groups of people; and
- were either technology, research, or advocacy-related and policy-relevant.
The organisation was one of the winners of the 2018 Social Innovation Challenge and received a USD10,000 grant to facilitate scaling up their citizens engagement platform.
Currently, SEMA offers citizens a platform to share their last experience with a public institution in an anonymous, simple and freeway. According to the Afro barometer 2021 report, more than three-quarters (77percent) of the Ugandans believe that citizens who report corruption to the authority risk retaliation or other negative consequences.
With the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) Secretariat, SEMA identified which outcome they need to address.
The pilot project was launched with official letters from JLOS and Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) to implement across eight offices in Uganda. The pilot project scrutinized municipality offices, police stations, courts, business registration offices, and public offices that ordinary citizens of Uganda use daily.
2. How the platform works
Citizens provide SEMA with data on their latest public services experience through a series of tools designed for broad and in-depth commentary by pressing a button on any of SEMA's LoT feedback devices. The feedback terminal collects satisfaction ratings and offers the user an opportunity to talk to a SEMA Volunteer posted at the exit of these eight offices. As face-to-face interviews provide an extra layer of depth, they uncover stories that drive public service improvements. There is also the option of a USSD code that citizens can dial from anywhere and give feedback on the delivery of public services by leaving a message. SEMA assists with data-to-action strategies to ensure citizens' voices are heard and decision-makers improve their services by evaluating employee conduct. The data collected by SEMA informs the strategy as their needs are turned into recommendations for better service delivery.
3. Successes and Achievements
There is proven impact, and scale-up readiness as part of the I4C-Africa Hub We Account projects,. SEMA continuously gathered citizen feedback at ten public offices around Kampala, leading to over 10.000 citizen feedback points gathered between January and June 2019. This feedback system led to citizens feeling their voice mattered in evaluating public services and to public offices knowing where and how to improve. As a result, all public offices where SEMA gathered feedback had lowered their waiting times. Approximately 50% of the offices made concrete improvements to their service delivery, ranging from installing navigation signs and waiting room areas to shuffling staff that take bribes at the front-end service desks. As part of data-to-action strategies, SEMA delivered over 30 citizen feedback reports to offices between January and June 2019. Team members requested commitments by office managers (officers in charge) and determined what changes were achieved. In addition, SEMA organized various stakeholder meetings to discuss the citizen feedback outcomes with policymakers. During the annual Dialogue Dinner, SEMA gathered over 25 high-level policymakers to discuss how we can move from data to improved service delivery in Uganda. The CSO and public sector community received this event with much enthusiasm.
Some quotes coming from the offices on their improvements:
• "The town clerk was happy that there were no complaints about property rates. He was also happy that his discussion with staff about corruption resulted in no new reports. He, therefore, vowed to ensure that no corruption appears in the reports again by facilitating zero corruption service delivery" (reaction to February reports at KCCA Nakwa Division offices)
• "The DPC was pleased with the report and discussed it with the Officer in Charge since they were in the same office. SEMA reports have helped them improve, as reflected in the progress graph. Despite being the worst performing station, they can see the progression and appreciate the value the data is adding to their office/station." (Reaction to May report at Jinja Rd Police station).
4. Scaling plan
Based on the first explorations of the SDG16 receptiveness in other countries and ongoing discussions with SEMA partners, there were two concrete leads that SEMA was developing for a pilot outside of Uganda. The two countries that were identified were Kenya and Rwanda.
II.Scale-Up in Kenya
At the I4C AH Innovation Week in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2019, first conversations were held between SEMA, TI-Kenya, and Hivos in Kenya. They were interested in supporting a SEMA pilot or feasibility study by making local connections to the public sector (in-kind support only). New funds needed to be sought to perform a feasibility study in Kenya. SEMA was looking at a minimum 15,000 EUR to do this.
I4C AH supported SEMA to begin this pilot, committing 9,000 EUR for an exploratory phase. An additional smaller grant of USD 5,000 was expected to support this pilot from a different donor. Together, these grants created a 4-month runway for SEMA to conduct initial research on the feasibility of the pilot. SEMA sought additional funding to pay for the pilot that would result from this feasibility period.
III.Kenya Scale-Up Activities Implementation
The following are the activities implemented under the Scale-up in Kenya
- Recruited a local agent and volunteers in Kenya to support local partnership development and pilot.
- Conducted a feasibility study on the ground
- Received approval from government partners to run a pilot with five public offices, with the prospect of a funded partnership.
5. Achievement/Outcomes of the Scale-Up
SEMA expanded into Kenya and recruited a local Operations Manager to support local partnership development and the piloting phase.
a. First conversations with the potential government included:
Four meetings with Government partners (3 with Kisumu County, 1 with Kajiado County). Three of these meetings were "Pitch/Introduction" meetings, and one (with Kisumu) was a logistics/MoU discussion. From these meetings, SEMA observed an increase in the government's level of operations and goodwill. The key observation from these meetings was that County leadership seems highly interested in the SEMA feedback system and has identified the benefit as not mutually exclusive to anyone or a few sectors. The interest is very much driven by developmental goals and the need for more active citizen participation to meet them.
b. Feasibility Study Conducted on the Ground
The Feasibility Study Report was prepared to evaluate the viability of SEMAs citizen feedback system in Kenyan public offices. The evaluation was facilitated by engagement and correspondence with country governments' heads of departments and executive committee members. The study focussed on Five Counties, namely Kisumu, Isiolo, Makueni, Coastal Block, Kajiado, Nyeri, and Laikipia. The following are the outcomes of the feasibility study from Five (5) Counties:
Showed a keen interest and shared both verbal and written endorsements of the SEMA pilot. Conversations around MoU signing to conduct a pilot in six of their public offices have begun.
- Positive Feedback: County has failed to meet the threshold requirement for public participation with other platforms geared towards citizen participation. The Director of Public Participation said they had recently proposed a similar citizen feedback concept as SEMAs' to propel public feedback mechanisms, so the team's timing couldn't have been better.
- Potential Issues raised: County shared concerns about schedule feasibility for the pilot given current COVID-19 regulation and limited foot traffic in public offices.
There are ongoing conversations and collaborations with the Kenyan School of Government (KSG). KSG has a close working relationship with Isiolo County.
- Positive Feedback: KSG has offered support to initiate in-person discussions with Isiolo County leadership.
- Potential issues raised: KSG is not comfortable starting Isiolo County engagements immediately due to COVID-19 regulations. They have requested SEMA to plan their engagement strategy accordingly.
County analysis has been done, and introductory conversations are currently ongoing.
i. The County outlined citizen feedback as a strategic focus area and utilized Google forms to
collect citizen feedback.
Coastal Bloc (County Governments of Kilifi, Lamu, Tana River, Mombasa, Kwale, Taita Taveta): Initial contact has been made. SEMA is following up on the next steps/formal meeting to pitch the SEMA feedback system.
County analysis has been done, and the point of contact identified. The initial contact is to follow soon.
i. The County is keen on embracing ICTs to help improve public service delivery and have formed public-private partnerships to facilitate the same.
Additional Funding Partners
It is important to note that the core funding objective of the pilot was to obtain a paid service contract with a government entity. Therefore, SEMA considered all government entities contacted as potential funding partners.
In addition to discussions with government entities, SEMA submitted two applications for funding for continued Kenya operations.
- A Foreign Embassy in Kenya focused on justice system reform and innovation was approached with an application for approximately USD 30,000 to fund the implementation of a second pilot. SEMA still awaits results from this application.
- An International Consortium of technical firms invited the SEMA team to apply for USD 50,000 in funding and technical support to develop a tool for at-distance feedback collection. SEMA awaits results from this application as well.