Penplusbytes launches mobile app to monitor social protection programmes
A short-changed Mobile App that will aid the public to monitor the implementation of the various social protection programmes as well as serve users with information on public services has been launched in Accra by Penplusbytes, a not-for profit organisation.
The app would also serve to strengthen citizen agency to hold state and corporate actors to account and make economic development work for the poor and vulnerable people in Ghana.
Dr Charity Binka, Board Chair of Penplusbytes, said the mobile app tool falls under its social accountability and economic justice project known as “HERE and Now.”
Speaking at the launch, Dr Binka stated that the Short-changed App forms part of the many interventions by the organisation to promote citizens access to information on various social protection policies rolled out by the Government with the aim of alleviating poverty and encouraging long term human capital development.
“This app, short-changed will provide us with the needed platform for citizens to be informed about the latest development around NHIS, School Feeding Programme etc. and give feedback on how well these policies are implemented.
“We collect the feedback, get them to the policy makers to enable them understand what citizens are saying and also when the problem is solved, the same provides feedback to citizens to build trust and confidence in our governance process.” She said.
She explained that periodically, citizens reports would be collated, validated and policy briefs would be generated to advocate better service delivery in the health and education sectors.
On his part, Mr Jerry Sam, the Executive Director of Penplusbytes, stated that “the short-changed bilingual mobile app, serves as a platform that fosters a culture, where citizens will be equipped with the requisite information to actively participate in the implementation of social protection policies and demand accountability from duty bearers.”
He outlined some of the features of the app as including a page on simplified social protection policies with allocated budgets, a poll section to solicit users’ policy options and a comments section to collate feedback from users on the policies being tracked and proffer recommendations that would inform how policies were implemented.
“And to sustain public interest on the selected policies, there are daily news alerts and updates via media monitoring of the policies, blogging, beneficiary story-telling, and effective media campaigns,” he added.
Aside the app being user friendly, there is also a 24 hours and seven days support service for smooth user experience and helps those having challenges and genuine concerns in anything related to the project.
The short-changed mobile app forms part of a two-year “HERE & Now” Project being implemented in Ghana and Mali by Penplusbytes in partnership with ID-Sahel in Mali with technical and financial support from OSIWA.
The project sought to have an informed citizenry who are empowered to form movements to demand for better public service delivery in health and education within the framework of political and social accountability.
Meanwhile, Mr Felix Amakye, a Research Consultant, has urged Parliament to pass the Social Protection bill into law to enable the consolidation of all such programmes and intervention as well as ensure economic justice.
He said: “It is time to have a consolidated social protection law for a coherent implementation of the programme.”
Mr Amakye said it was time to get the bill that had been in and out of Parliament for a while passed to support the effective implementation of all the social protection programmes and to regulate them.
He mentioned some of the programmes being monitored under the Penplusbytes’ “Here and Now” as the Ghana School Feeding programme, Free Senior High School programme, Capitation Grant, the Leap and Empowerment Against Poverty, the Common Fund Disbursement to Persons with Disabilities, the GetFund, the National Health Insurance Scheme, among others.
Without the law accountability on these social programmes becomes weak and lot of gaps in the implementation, he stated.
Mr Amakye said the law would show the direction and effective mobilisation of resources and their utilisation.
“In a policy implementation that has little legal backing, you can smell the angle of corruption within that framework, which will be extremely difficult to manage. But when you have the law, it tackles issues about procurement, mobilisation of resources, disbursement, and also provides citizens the opportunities to demand real levels of accountability.”
The bill would also help address delays in releases, he added.