Sri Lanka’s new Right to Information (RTI) still lacks innovative approaches to raising awareness and taking RTI to the grassroots, argues digital activist Sanjana Hattotuwa in his latest Sunday column (The Island, 26 Feb 2017).
He calls for old and new communication methods to be leverages in imaginative ways, so that more citizens can be inspired to demand information held with government.
“Realising the potential of RTI in 2017 requires twinning it with last mile technologies citizens already have, notably the mobile phone,” he says. “Much of the implementation of the law, even with proposed digitisation of government records, relies on paper based transactions. Awareness raising to date has followed tried and tested models of workshops, training of trainers, lectures, roundtables, panel discussions, various websites to promote and monitor the implementation of RTI, frequently asked questions, short guides, posters and booklets.”
He adds: “Clearly, a concert of approaches embracing the reach of mainstream print and electronic media is needed. But where discussions fall short are ways through which to harness the reach and influence of social media, instant messaging and SMS.”
As another opportunity, he cites the trilingual 1919 hotline and related website, run by the Government Information Centre which predates RTI legislation.
“I proposed last year a way in which the website and hotline service could be revamped to support and strengthen RTI implementation. This kind of platform can serve as an intermediary or as a concierge service, providing citizens with both the information they need to make use of RTI and thereafter, on demand, providing them with the means through which to lodge RTI requests. These requests could be tracked, monitored and delivered through the same platform, not unlike the RTI portal in Uganda called ‘Ask Your Gov’ or India’s ‘Your RTI’ platform. This idea, proposed as part of the Open Government Partnership process, was apparently approved by Cabinet and is slated to, again on paper, come online by the end of the year in some avatar.”
Read full column: Technology and the Right to Information