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2012 Social Media as a Tool for Citizen Feedback

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More often than not, “we” criticize the “system” for being corrupt; yet it is simply a reflection of what we make of it. For example, what would happen if “we” decided never to collect bribes from users in our health service system? Or if we implemented and respected the rule of ‘first come, first served’ instead of paying or collecting bribes for faster service delivery? What would happen when it is brought to our knowledge that there are irregular practices operating within our health centers?

These questions are for everyone, particularly for authorities in health centers. These kinds of questions are being answered by winners of the Cameroon 2011 Development Marketplace competition. Nowadays, advances in ICT tools and social media channels provide us with various ways to monitor and expose corrupt practices. When I first visited the website of I Paid a Bribe by the Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, I was amazed by the innovation, frightened by testimonies, and thankful to those who had the courage to report irregular practices. My next move while browsing the website was to check if Cameroon was amongst those countries participating on this platform. Unfortunately not!

You can imagine my impressions when a civil society organization named FISS-MST/SIDA proposed using social media (Facebook & Twitter) to ensure transparency in service delivery to people living with HIV/AIDS during the Cameroon 2011 Development Marketplace competition. I felt it was a great initiative in our context, though apprehensive of the way this project might be received by the community: “Would victims and witnesses be bold enough to report cases of corruption in the open? Will they not be afraid of reprisal?” I asked myself. To my pleasant surprise, this was not the case!

Only three months after its creation, the social media platform (Fiss Promosante) put in place by FISS-MST/SIDA makes its case. Below are some testimonials I read from the site:

Image« Même en pleine semaine camerounaise de lutte contre le SIDA, j'ai vu de mes propres yeux ce matin des femmes enceintes payer les frais de dépistage du VIH à l’hôpital de district de Biyem Assi alors que nous tous nous savons que c'est gratuit »

English translation : « Even in the middle of Cameroon’s fight against AIDS, I saw with my own eyes this morning pregnant women pay for HIV testing at the district hospital Biyem Assi even though we all know it is free»

« J'ai accompagné une amie là bas [l'hôpital central] la semaine passé pour qu'elle prenne ses ARVs, il y'a une infirmière qui nous approche et nous dis qu'il y'a rupture, mais qu'elle connait qui peut nous vendre sa part. Mon amie m'a dis que ce n'est pas la première fois que ça se passe là bas »

English translation : « I accompanied a friend over there [to the central hospital] during the past week for him to take his ARVs, and there was a nurse there who approached us and told us that there was a break, but she knows that we can sell his share. My friend says it is not the first time it's happening over there. »

Yes, these testimonies are real and bring to the open irregular practices that operate in our health centers. Testimonies posted on this network call on all of us to act in order to break the spell of corruption and participate in the development of our nation.

If you are afraid of reprisal towards reporters of acts of corruption, Zenü Network, another winner of the Cameroon 2011 Development Marketplace, will soon provide us with the solution. Indeed, Zenü Network proposed to design a mechanism to protect whistleblowers of acts of corruption. Although the pilot initiative takes place within the school environment, it would be interesting to see if the mechanism designed can be adapted and implemented within a health environment. So, stay tuned!

Follow Victorie on Twitter: @WBCameroon

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