On behalf of the people of Northern Uganda His Grace Archbishop John Baptist Odama, was pleased to accept the Breaking Borders Award for BOSCO. He noted that Northern Uganda is recovering from the over 22 years of war and relentless cultural scouring. Children have grown up almost without hope, seemingly without a future, confronted with the threat of enlistment into child soldiery or sexual slavery, and with the certainty of growing up without the minimal conditions necessary for inheriting the richness of their culture and promise of their land.
His Grace John Baptist Odama lamented that in the midst of the affliction, the people of Northern Uganda have been plagued by a further suffering, a deep isolation from the rest of humanity, a situation captured by Jan Egland when he described it as “the world’s worst forgotten humanitarian crisis.” And yet even now that the circumstances have become better known to the world, the danger remains that the people of Northern Uganda may take their place on the conveyer belt of sad international news items, an endless litany of need eliciting expressions of concern lasting as long as the day’s headlines.
In the face of all these forms of poverty the true significance of Information and Communications Technologies is revealed by BOSCOUganda. More than an infrastructure to promote economic development, ICT4D can amplify the voices of the oppressed and magnify the efforts of others who would stand together with them against dehumanizing forces. Emerging ICT4D technologies are vascularising new and richer forms of human community. These communities are characterized by greater levels of freedom for every individual, where each member is empowered to bring wisdom, love and initiative to bear on their circumstances, working together with like-minded collaborators from anywhere locally, nationally and globally.
Living in camps due to the LRA war and isolation put Northern Uganda more than two decades behind the rest of the world in the use of ICT. But for the past four years, BOSCO– Battery Operated Systems for Community Outreach is speedily connecting people of Northern Uganda up with the global community. BOSCO deploys information, communications and collaboration technologies to strengthen communities in rural schools, community centres, health clinics, human rights organizations, and even local government offices. In today’s world, ICT should be enjoyed and used by all.
BOSCOUganda requested community sites to come up with livelihood projects according to their needs to be supported through the Breaking Boarders Award. Different communities presented their livelihood concepts based on their needs and viability and these concepts were then critically reviewed by the BOSCOUganda Project Coordinator, basically to check what monitoring mechanisms the community will use and why and also how sustainable is the project. Three community sites presented their livelihood projects and were considered, these livelihood projects included: Animal Farming – (Pigs rearing), Chicken Farming, (Broilers) and Beans Farming for Coo-pe, Pagak and Pabo community sites respectively.
After careful feasibility study and evaluation of activities, BOSCOUganda decided to share the Breaking Boarders Award with the communities according to their needs. Communities are success stories for BOSCOUganda and therefore signing an MOU is done to reenforce communities responsibility and sustainability.
BOSCOUganda being a Faith Based Organization under the Catholic Archdiocese of Gulu is committed to promoting community development through holistic approach and ICT4D plays a key role in facilitating rural development.
Involving Community Local Leaders is an important aspect for development in Ugandan context following the National Development Plan (NDP) unveiled in 2010 by the government of Uganda – so Community Local Leaders at Parish and sub-county level represent government and report all developments initiatives which enters their areas for coordination purposes. BOSCOUganda therefore, involve Community Leaders at all stages in the process of implementing any activity, this also strengthen and draws leaders closer to their people.
Generally, community development is the process of helping a community strengthen itself and develop towards its full potential. A number of different approaches to community development can be recognized, such as community economic development, community capacity building, participatory development approach, etc. When implementing programs and community development initiatives, participatory development is a major tool in making community development projects successful. BOSCOUganda does insertion into community through participatory approach since it encourages all members of the community regardless of their age or sex to participate in a process which allows them to express their needs and to decide their own future with a view to their empowerment and sustainability. This approach believes that local needs and vulnerabilities often have local roots. Through engaging the local members of a community in a development project, it would be easier to understand what the actual issues are on the ground, and what the real local priorities really are. A participatory approach being used by BOSCOUganda, basically motivates community members to take on the challenge of solving their own local issues through participation in ICT4D, rather than through centralization of leadership. An openness to work in a participatory way requires being willing to make tough choices and trade-offs and the ability to work with people, affirming their input as one goes along.
When BOSCOUganda implement ICT4D project using participatory approach, BOSCOUganda is aiming at legitimacy, credibility and accountability. When the members of the community are involved in the decision making process, they develop a sense of ownership towards the project at hand. The sense of local ownership that develops from the participatory process generates legitimacy, which when combined with credibility create a strong social capital that allows any development project to be carried through.
Implementing ICT4D in rural areas of Northern Uganda is required a participatory approach and involvement of all Stakeholders (Community, Development Agencies, Local Government, Youth, Churches and Central Government).
Accountability has been playing a central role in all BOSCOUganda projects in ensuring the maintenance of solid relations between the different stakeholders involved in a development project. However, BOSCOUganda consider more the downward accountability which is to the contrary “associated with relationships that face down the aid chain” (from NGO to local beneficiaries). While it is important to build a strong upward accountability, the participatory approach is mainly directly associated with the downward accountability. The latter makes BOSCOUganda accountable to her beneficiaries and encourages for an involvement of the community in order to strengthen both BOSCOUganda as an organization and the community’s commitment to the local development.
Of course, in order for these mechanisms to be successful to the implementation of a participatory approach, there needs to be a cultural, socio-economic and political will to attain local development.