Tune in to radio to take the pulse on peace and justice in Uganda

BY Paula Hidalgo-Sanchis | October 14, 2016|Comments 0

As world leaders committed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) young Ugandans in the Northern town of Lira celebrated. They celebrated the launch of the SDGs and especially of Goal #16: to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. An important goal for youth in Lira, as the North of the country now knows peace after decades of civil war.
Victor Ochen, the first Ugandan nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize was part of these celebrations. And in this video he shares his enthusiasm about the SDGs and urges the UN to take this opportunity to really listen to the people.  

The 17 Goals were formulated by the very countries who committed to their achievement. People all around the world provided input on areas they want to improve in their lives. But now that the goals are launched, will the world continue to listen to the people, as governments and international agencies strive to makes them a reality?

Talk radio as data to understand issues facing Ugandans

An innovative application by Pulse Lab Kampala, a lab within the UN Global Pulse network, shows one way in which this can be done. By transforming what people say on radio in Uganda  into text, the application uses big data analytics to reveal a detailed picture of the priorities of Ugandans allowing people’s voices to be incorporated into the monitoring and achievement of the SDGs.

Projects already conducted by the other Pulse Labs in Jakarta and New York prove how this can be done by analyzing social media. But while social media use is not widespread in Uganda, radio reaches all parts of the country and is the main platform for discussion.  

Radio  has much greater geographic and demographic penetration than any telecommunication-based service. Uganda has 122 national, regional and local radio stations where people call into shows and discuss what is happening in their communities, be it farming, health or governance issues. Socially relevant radio dramas have also found great popularity in a variety of languages. And a lot of programming is focused on youth, culture and how people feel about peace, justice and national institutions. This reinforces even more the value of analyzing radio content to support the achievement of Goal #16.

Transforming waves into text – a first for Ugandan languages

Pulse Lab Kampala, has developed a tool that makes public radio broadcasts machine-readable through the use of speech recognition technology and translation tools. This application transforms public radio content into text allowing users to search for specific topics of interest. The tool works for ‘Ugandan English’, Luganda and Acholi, which are widely spoken in Uganda.

The development of this innovative tool has been possible as part of the UNDAF innovation facility and thanks to the Embassy of Sweden in Uganda and the work of our partners at Makerere University of Uganda and Stellenbosch University of South Africa.

Sentiment analysis provides insights on citizens’ opinions on the topics analyzed. Big data analytics can support policy makers to gain real-time understanding of citizens’ concerns related to the SDGs. Better understanding of public sentiments can also support bridging the gap between policy and implementation of development programmes.

The radio tool is complex and can support development programmes in many ways. The best way to illustrate this is by giving you a chance to listen to some of the output:

SDG16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

“An mere amito ngat mo ma pe okwano en aye otel wiwa…”
Translation from Acholi: We want to get a person who has not gone to school to be our leader. They are humble, they have stopped in the lower classes so they don’t cheat the people. The ones who have gone to university only come and stamp on the people.

“Wawinyo ni line mac ongolo wa ki kwene…”
Translation from Acholi: Our MP promised us power, but the electricity lines have passed somewhere else. We elected you as our MP to do such a job, so that you bring us power just as other regions are getting.

Translation from Acholi: Our LC3 chairman wants to be re-elected, but he’s there drinking with the doctors… you go to the clinic and there are no doctors there, they are in the bar with the LC3.

Pulse Lab Kampala is now conducting several pilots to prove how people’s voices can be used to inform development programmes. The Lab is in active consultations with the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office in Uganda, and the entire UN Country Team, on how the radio application can support the real-time monitoring and evaluation of programmes.

Pilot studies are ongoing to better understand how the application can support local governance processes. And the Lab is brainstorming with civil society organisations on how this new tool can support real-time monitoring of behavioral change campaigns on radio.

All these are new ways for the Government and international agencies to find ways to continue to incorporate the people’s voices into programmes and projects resulting in the achievement of Goal #16.

If you want to know more about this initiative and the radio content analysis tool and its functionalities visit us!!

 

Authors


Paula Hidalgo-Sanchis Paula is the Manager of Pulse Lab Kampala, Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Uganda. You can follow Pulse Lab Kampala on Twitter.

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