Conor Huynh | March 19, 2021
Accountability and transparency within the government are of significant concern in Uganda. Community members lack platforms to rate their interaction with public services, and thus, there is a critical need for innovative and independent accountability mechanisms. Without feedback, government offices lack data to make necessary service improvements where needed.
SEMA – Swahili for ‘Speak! What’s up!?’ aims to improve transparency and accountability of public services in Uganda and East Africa at large, to make citizen feedback central to how governments evaluate and improve their service delivery.
Through feedback devices, a toll-free telephone line (USSD code), and in-person interviews, SEMA can work closer to their goal of improving transparency and accountability of public services in East Africa by creating user-centered citizen feedback tools. By presenting this data in actionable, easy-to-understand ways to local and national governments, SEMA fosters better quality public services that can improve millions of people’s lives.
Since its start, SEMA has collected feedback from more than 91,000 citizens in Kampala and Mukono. From measurements conducted in January 2020, average citizen satisfaction consistently improved at 67% of public offices, and waiting times were reduced in 80% of public offices where they were operating. However, there is still a need to get more citizens to use SEMA’s feedback tools and a desire to have more government institutions buy into SEMA’s work.
SEMA’s goal in presenting to the LabStorm community was to tackle the challenge of increasing feedback tool usage in the public sector and effectively closing the feedback loop by communicating those results back to the public. This is what LabStorm attendees had to say:
- Engaging with individuals and institutions is essential in creating awareness. To drive feedback tool usage, citizens need to know that the tools exist, and networks can help drive that awareness. LabStorm attendees agreed that SEMA could grow feedback tool usage and normalize feedback practices by building crucial relationships with service providers and their customers.
- Prioritize direct communication with citizens about the changes being made in public institutions using their feedback. It’s not enough to just collect feedback; closing the feedback loop involves systematically informing constituents that their feedback led to meaningful change. Closing the loop encourages confidence to continue providing feedback and fuels the cycle of improving the service quality.
- There is a need to define product and value propositions to the market clearly. Feedback is not yet normalized as an industry practice. To boost buy-in, it is necessary to highlight the value of feedback collection and clarify what the feedback loop encompasses.
This LabStorm highlighted the importance of engaging with the communities we seek to serve. Using tools that create easy ways to share feedback and close the feedback loop illustrates how feedback improves lives and empowers communities to hold their government accountable.
LabStorms are collaborative problem-solving sessions designed to help organizations tackle feedback-related challenges. Presenters leave the experience with honest, actionable feedback and suggestions to improve their feedback processes and tools. To learn more about participating in a virtual LabStorm, please visit feedbacklabs.org/labstorms. If you are interested in presenting at a future LabStorm, please email [email protected].