Launch of access to information video campaign and toll-free phone hotline in Rwanda

Sobanukirwa was launched to help people in Rwanda get access to information by allowing anyone to post requests for free via a website and to receive email alerts once information is released.

But as our team have carried out training sessions for citizens, government officers, NGOs, civil society groups and journalists across the country, we’ve found that very few people in Rwanda are aware of the existence of the country’s 2013 access to information law and the rights that it gives them.

So to help make sure everyone knows about their right to information in Rwanda, today we are launching an awareness campaign featuring two short videos in English and Kinyarwanda made by Rwandan animators.

The video aims to show how anyone in Rwanda from farmers to mothers to rural families all now have the legal right to ask questions to public and private bodies and to get answers within three days.

And because we know that the majority of Rwandans do not have access to the internet, we have also established 4636, a toll-free phone hotline that anyone can call or text if they have questions.

Our team will then submit those questions online and will call people back when their questions are answered to convey information to them. All you need to do is use this service is to call or text 4636 (‘INFO’ on your phone’s keypad).

We hope that this campaign will help spread awareness about access to information in Rwanda as well as making it even easier for people to ask the questions that they need answers to.

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A call for proactive publishing by organisations in Rwanda

A year ago today, hundreds of public and private organisations in Rwanda should have proactively published a large amount of information online about how they are funded, who they employ, who subsidises their activities and how people can contact them to request more information.

But very few have done so.

The proactive publication of this information was legally mandated in the ministerial orders published in Gazette No 2 of 13/01/2014 and signed by the Minister of Local Government and the Minister of Justice. These ministerial orders clarified aspects of the implementation of Rwanda’s 2013 access to information law.

Article two of Ministerial Order No 006/07.01.13 of 19/12/2013 determining in details the information to be disclosed gave all public and private organs six months to publish the 13 types of information listed in article three of the same order.

These information types included “the budget allocated to each department of the organ”, “the procedure followed managing organs in the decision making process” and “particulars of concessions, permits or authorizations granted by the organ”.

Team Sobanukirwa realise that many public and private organisations have failed to publish this information due to a lack of awareness about the access to information law and the ministerial orders.

This is precisely why we set up the Sobanukirwa website in order to further awareness of these laws in Rwanda.

Sobanukirwa publishes any information requests for all to see and making it very easy for citizens to submit new information requests. We have also met with many interested parties to explain to them what the access to information law says and how their organisations can make use of the law.

Since launching in February 2015, more than 10,000 people have used the Sobanukirwa website and 39 information requests have been publicly submitted via Sobanukirwa. So far six of these requests have been successful revealing information about data laws, health care locations and genocide denial court cases in Rwanda.

This demonstrates how useful improved access to information can be to help people in Rwanda learn more about how organisations work, get data on issues that they care about and discover more about how the country is run.

We call upon all public and private organisations in Rwanda to adhere to the law set out in the access to information ministerial orders and proactively publish all required information to help citizens learn more about their work in the country.

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Learn more about Rwanda’s access to information law

Our team set up the Sobanukirwa website to help people to quickly and easily take advantage of the rights guaranteed to them under Rwanda’s access to information law.

But what are those rights, what does the access to information law say and where can you read the law for yourself if you want to find out more?

What does the access to information law say?

Rwanda’s 2013 access to information law was passed to “enable the public and journalists to access information possessed by public organs and some private bodies”.

This is important to repeat as many people believe the law only applies to journalists but actually the law guarantees these rights for all citizens.

Thanks to the law, you have the right to ask for any information held by organisations covered by the law and the organisations are legally obliged to give you the information for free in the form that you requested.

You can ask for information “verbally, in writing, by telephone, internet or any other means of communication without prejudice to the provisions of [the access to information] law”.

Where can you read the access to information law and ministerial orders for yourself?

All laws passed in Rwanda are gazetted and published by the Prime Minister’s office on their website.

Gazettes often contain more than one law but the Office of the Ombudsman have uploaded a PDF which just contains Rwanda’s access to information law on their website.

The multiple ministerial orders relating to Rwanda’s access to information law were all published in gazette no 2 of 13.01.2014 and can be found as a PDF on the Prime Minister’s website.

If you want to learn more about how Sobanukirwa makes it easy to use this law, you can read our launch blogpost in English or Kinyarwanda. We have also prepared a one-page guide on access to information and Sobanukirwa which anyone can read by clicking on this link.

As always, if you have any further questions about Sobanukirwa and how our website can help you, please email us or send us a message on Facebook or Twitter.

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Access to information, open data and data journalism in Rwanda

For the last two days, members of Team Sobanukirwa have been in Gisenyi talking about access to information, open data and data journalism at an event organised by Rwanda’s National Institute of Statistics.

The event was a great chance to share information and advice with journalists, statisticians, designers and civil servants from a wide range of organisations.

Migisha K. Claude talked about the coming data revolution that governments across the world are signing up to as they discuss the international sustainable development goals (SDGs). He also talked about the work he’ll be doing as the new open government fellow for Rwanda.

Presentation: SDGs & The Data Revolution

Stephen Abbott Pugh explained how the Sobanukirwa website can be used to help anyone in Rwanda get access to information they need to better inform people. He also talked to the assembled journalists about data-driven journalism and how reporters in Rwanda can use international data sources to give more context to their stories.

Presentation: Introducing Sobanukirwa

Please contact our team via email or get in touch on Facebook or Twitter if you want us to discuss any of these topics at future events.

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Three months of Sobanukirwa: some success but more work to do

Three months ago today, we officially launched Sobanukirwa.rw, the first access to information website in Rwanda.

Sobanukirwa helps Rwandan citizens to easily make use of the country’s access to information law which was passed in 2013. The website is free to use and available in English, Kinyarwanda or French.

Since our launch, 29 information requests have been posted on the site with four of them successfully answered by government information officers.

As a result, citizens in Rwanda now know the location of all health centres in the country, how many genocide denial cases have been taken to court in the last two years and how to get the contact details for any information officer in Rwanda. The health centre data has already been reused on healthsites.io, a project to help the public find health centres in any country.

This is good news but we are working hard with official from different organisations to help information officers understand more about Sobanukirwa so that they can help the public get access to all the information that they need.

We also have dozens of users who have set up accounts on Sobanukirwa to track authorities. This means that Sobanukirwa will alert those users by email as soon as any information is requested or released by organisations they are interested in.

If you have any questions about Sobanukirwa and how our website can help you, please email us or send us a message on Facebook or Twitter.

Or you can watch the Rise and Shine Rwanda video below to learn more about Sobanukirwa and the work we are doing:

Ministry of Health location data for Rwanda reused on Healthsites.io

Team Sobanukirwa are very pleased to see the first example of data being reused after being requested through our new access to information website in Rwanda.

In January, researcher Mark Herringer used sobanukirwa.rw to request health care location data for every hospital, health post and rural healthcare clinic in Rwanda from the Ministry of Health.

With help from Nathan Mugume, the information officer at the Ministry of Health, Mark was able to get hold of the information he needed and details of all these health care locations has now been added to healthsites.io.

This website is the brainchild of the Global Healthsites Mapping Project, an “initiative to create an online map of every health facility in the world”.

Thanks to Mark’s request, the health care location details are also available for anyone to download for free from the Sobanukirwa website in case this information is of use to other health-related projects in Rwanda.

We hope to see a lot more examples like this in the future where information requested and released via Sobanukirwa helps others to build useful websites or to help people to be more informed about Rwanda.

Funding from the Indigo Trust

Team Sobanukirwa are very pleased to announce that we have secured funding from the Indigo Trust.

This funding will help our team to continue our work to spread awareness of access to information in Rwanda over the next year through holding public training sessions and setting up an SMS system for citizens to use to send in their queries.

It will also help us to make improvements to sobanukirwa.rw, the free access to information website we’ve co-created with the Open Democracy and Sustainable Development Initiative and in partnership with mySociety International.

The Indigo Trust is a UK based grant making foundation that funds technology-driven projects to bring about social change, largely in African countries.

We’re very excited about working with the Indigo Trust and want to thank them very much for their support.