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“Access to information is key to development”
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“Access to information is key to development”

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Ronald Tukachungurwa picAccess to information is a human right, argues Ronald Tukachungurwa, 24, a Correspondent from Kampala in Uganda, but it is also a means of solving problems and encouraging development.

‘’Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.’’ – Kofi Annan

I always believe that information is a tool for empowering society. Therefore, every person should have a right to access information, provided it is the rightful information and not misleading or leading to evil tendencies.

While it is evident that in Europe and the Americas information is of great significance and the masses are more exposed to information than their counterparts in Africa and Asia,[1] only a few African states have adopted the Right to Information as a human right in national legislation[2]. My point is that a well-informed person and society has all the capacity for self-liberation from any situation, because he or she is aware of the prevailing circumstances and can think of viable solutions to problems.[3] The access to information is also evident in the importance of research; as the countries engaged in most research lead to most innovations and development.

But what about the average rural person in Africa or Asia who cannot access any information? Most of these persons do not have their ideas heard, neither are they informed of the key events around the world. Despite the numerous efforts by various stakeholders to promote the spirit of information, a lot of challenges – including remote areas, levels of illiteracy, and poverty, among others – hinder this.

Walking by Charing Cross rail station in central London, I picked up a newspaper everyday at no cost, because the papers are meant for free public consumption. This contrasts with newspapers  that cost about 0.60 USD in Uganda[4].  It made me realise the fundamental need to access information when I returned to Africa. Similarly, free wireless (Wi-Fi) internet connections were everywhere in London, unlike in Africa.

Until 2012, it was agreed among the East African states to have all households pay for the access to television services. The above mentioned are the key components enabling a common person to access information on what is happening around the world. With the high poverty rate in Africa, how do you expect a person living on less than 1USD per day to pay for all these services?

I commend the various organisations that strive to empower populations with information, including the Commonwealth, for this is one way of empowering people to develop themselves and their societies.  Public access media such as BBC radio and Al-Jazeera TV make it possible even for the rural person to be informed of global issues, despite one’s remote location. Similarly, the increase in internet access and usage has exposed many people to information, despite the hurdles undermining access to information. A well-informed person has the capacity to reason and present logical solutions or arguments to any problem or argument at hand.

I thank the Commonwealth through YourCommonwealth for enabling the youth to share their thoughts with the world. These not only inform but also inspire leaders to think and act on their society’s challenges. I chose to write articles and journals for dedicated organisations that seek to foster access to information to the public. The journey may not be smooth, but it shall surely come to an end if we all make an effort towards making the world a better place. As one community, personal and society development can be achieved if we have access to the right information.[5]

[1]See Africa Freedom of Information Centre: INFORMATION IN AFRICA  Report 2014: available at http://www.ifex.org/africa/2014/11/28/state%20of%20rti%202014%20final%20report.pdf%20interactive.pdf

[2] South Africa, Angola, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Niger and Rwanda.  Mozambique

[3] UNDP Access to Information Practice Note. Available at http://www.undp.org/content/dam/aplaws/publication/en/publications/democratic-governance/dg-publications-for-website/access-to-information-practice-note/A2I_PN_English.pdf

[4]A newspaper costs 2,000Uganda Shillings, an equivalents of 0.60 US Dollar while all television services have to be paid for, just like the access to internet services.

[5] Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights]

photo credit: The eXtended Web and the Personal Learning Environment (Kop, 2010) via photopin (license)

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About me: I am a Ugandan lawyer, currently volunteering at the International Law Institute in Kampala. I am also the Ugandan Resident Director at the Africa Law Times, an online legal journal that promotes writings about events in Africa. In 2014, I was Uganda’s representative at the Commonwealth Moot Court Competition in London.

I am passionate about research writing, democracy and human rights, international law, criminal and humanitarian law, and I intend to become an international lawyer and policymaker.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response.
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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