Government urged to enhance access to information through virtual platforms

By Tafadzwa Mukome

In a fast growing digital era some government ministries’ in Zimbabwe are lagging behind in the provision of critical information on virtual platforms. The anomalies were observed in a survey conducted by the Matebeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) on government digital civic engagement and social accountability contact platforms during the Covid 19 pandemic in Zimbabwe.

Findings from the survey led to the MIHR urging government to enhance access to information through virtual platforms with updated website content and updated social media accounts.

MIHR coordinator Khumbulani Maphosa , said that access to information, civic engagement and transparency are enhanced when the public knows the leadership of public entities and the means to directly contact them in order to seek information and report any malpractices observed.

” They are critical issues to human rights protection and promotion and one of them is access to information . People need to be able to access information and be able to access their leaders or their authorities easily if they have to enjoy and protect their rights. Secondly should people be able to hold their leaders at every level accountable through access to information on these platforms” , said Maphosa.

The call comes months after the launch of the Freedom of Information Act which was signed into law last year repealing the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) .

Section 62 on access to information in the Constitution boldly declares that:

(1) Every Zimbabwean citizen or permanent resident, including juristic persons and the Zimbabwean media, has the right of access to any information held by the State or by any institution or agency of government at every level, in so far as the information is required in the interests of public accountability.

The survey found out that 18 of the 21 government Ministries have websites.

” The websites are easily accessible on google and some were listed in the government web portal. Of the 18 Ministries whose websites were accessed, some of the ministries had incomplete websites and some were under construction. Furthermore, most of the websites are not linked to social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.”

The survey further sought to establish the number of Ministries’ websites who listed the Ministry organogram and national and provincial contacts details .

” Thirteen of the 21 Ministries listed their leadership however, only 3 Ministries, the Ministry of Information Communication Technology and Courier Services, Ministry of Health and Child Care and Ministry and Ministry of National Housing and Social Amenities listed the direct contacts of the Permanent Secretary and the Director ” , reads the survey.

MIHR implored all government ministries to fully utilize new digital media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp to provide citizens with current information and to receive communication from the public considering that these media platforms are the most used by citizens and provide easier and cheaper communication channels. It also recommended the ministries to ensure new digital media contacts should be public contact details and be linked to the ministries websites.

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