In view of the COVID-19 lockdown and the people from diverse professions locked indoors, Freedom Forum utilized the technological platform to organize its programs and keep intact the relevant issues that determine the good governance. It is evident that role of right to information (RTI) had has been more important also in the context of the devolution of political power and financial authorities after the formation of three layers’ government in the country.
With this in the background, FF conducted orientations on RTI Nepal App in different parts of the country via Zoom conference in June.
The RTI Nepal App is a mobile application FF developed two years back to facilitate the use of RTI via technology. Its objective is to make RTI use easier and understandable. Information request filing in line with RTI Act, appeal process, and success stories among other features are clearly mentioned in the App. It frees one from the hassles of going through the book of laws. One can just pick the phone, download the App, learn the process of RTI use and apply it in practice to help ensure accountability and transparency in public offices and make everyone informed. One can easily exercise the fundamental rights of access to information with the help of this application. Aware citizens, media persons, researchers, good governance activists, FoE defenders can use it in a convenient manner.
RTI Nepal is downloadable in android phones. The app is an integrated package comprising principles to practices of RTI – along with news updates and podcasts.
Four orientation programs were held in the month of June among women, students and teacher’s group in two provinces. On June 14, a group of 20 local women from Jorpati, Kathmandu, participated in the orientation held through Zoom online platform. They were keen on the use of application and equally excited to know that they have the right to access to the RTI and can demand information of their interest at public agencies.
Local coordinator for the program Shobha Dahal said that participants were also surprised to know that public agencies are obliged to provide information to normal citizens under RTI Act.
Similarly, in the next program conducted among social studies teachers from public and private schools of eight districts in Gandaki Province on June 20, one of the participants Rupa Ghimire said that the program was very helpful and full of information. “I will share today’s learning among my students as well as in the community”, she added.
In the program held among 22 teachers, Krishna Bahadur Godar also shared that being a social studies teacher the program was very useful to know about RTI and its practices at local level. FF’s general secretary and RTI expert Dharmendra Jha described different levels of information requests. He also answered queries of the participants during the program.
The program was coordinated by FF’s representative in Gandaki Province, Rajan Upadhyay.
The third orientation was held among 19 students of Texas International College in federal capital Kathmandu on June 21. Students of Journalism and Social Works participated in an hour-long virtual orientation.
Local coordinator and Freedom Forum representative in the Kathmandu Valley, Ashok Dahal briefed students about the importance of RTI for the citizens and students. He also shared the process of seeking information from the public bodies using the RTI App developed by FF.
RTI expert Sanjeeb Ghimire shared the variety of issues relating to the RTI.
At the program, participants Samir Dhungel and Birajan Pokhrel shared their struggle from a public body to get the information few years back.
Expert Ghimire also made the students clear about the process and ways of writing RTI application, complaint and appeal and its deadline using the App.
Participating students expressed commitment of using the constitutional right to get the information in the days to come.
The participants were also made familiar with the use of App asking those to download during the program. They were also asked to read the legal provisions, see sample of request forms before seeking information at local level.
The fourth RTI App orientation was held at Babarmahal, Kathmandu, for the lawyers on June 30. The orientation on RTI was provided by RTI expert and senior legal practitioner Rammaya Lamichhane.
The orientation was coordinated by Pramila Kayastha. During the orientation, the participants were provided orientation on RTI principles and practices and use of RTI Nepal App.
During the orientation, some participants shared the hassles they faced while exercising RTI. Most of the participants said although they had known about the RTI principles, they got opportunity to learn about the RTI Nepal App, which they believe, would help facilitate in their profession. The orientation was attended by 20 persons.