By: Neil Sibanda – FOYOPACT Fellow Number of Local Government officials: 20 Districts: 5 (Masaka, Rakai, Lwengo, Lyantonde, Kyotera) Dates: 19-22 February 2018 Venue: Mariaflo Hotel Masaka Trainer: Sylvia Nankya – Media Trainer and Democracy & Peace Advocate The beginning of the training was marked by the brief explanation of what CEMCOD is and what work it does. A brief explanation of the training which was to be undertaken was also given. Expectations of the participants with the guidance of Prossy Kawala the CEMCOD Director for media initiatives were set and objectives of the training communicated. Sylvia Nankya the lead trainer then took over with an introductory session that saw participants introduces to Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 and the differences that lie between the two. Participants were also introduced to the internet and the uses it has in their line of work. Social media were then put in the context of local government officials and the local government itself. Thus the training on effective use of social media in promoting governance, transparency and accountability took center stage. Participants were involved in the activity where they all had to open some accounts on twitter and Facebook. They also got time to learn how to share information on Google Drive as a way of enhancing their performance. The issue of online security came up and the trainer took the participants through the topic of Digital security with the aid of one of the participants who was doing a practical demonstration as Sylvia, the trainer was going through the theory. One thing to note is the level of participation of the trainees; they were concentrating on the topics that were being covered. While there have always been misconceptions that Social media is a reserve for young people, and therefore non attractive to elderly and "more serious" the participants we had were all grown up, but the way they engaged in the training and the willingness to learn they showed and the participation they had in the training made it clear that they were learning and much interested in the opportunities that social media presents. They were challenged to open official social media pages for their different local governments and some participants had their pages created and they were willing to share information and engage the public through their new pages. Posting quality content that would engage the community and attract them to participate in initiatives the local Governments undertake was emphasised. What we achieved was to make the participants conversant with social media and their uses in making their work easier and more effective. We managed to motivate and sensitize them to the need of taping into the available platforms for effective engagement with the public. The 3 day training was concluded by a public dialogue that brought together over 60 participants from the media, civil society, government and academic institutions, to further discuss the potential of social media in enhancing flow of information and accountability between citizens and their leaders. Ezekiel Ssekweyama a journalist with Daily Monitor moderated the discussion, with 4 panelists of the day who icluded– Juliet N Mayanja - ACAO , Masaka DLG, Shifa Kateregga – ED Human Rights Defenders, Masaka, Donnas Ojok – ProgramOfficer, KAS and to steer the conversation. Maurice Matovu, a panelist challenged officials from Masaka local government and the surrounding districts , in regard to how often they updated the public on their work. He said people were using social media to collect data, but our governmet leaders were not tapping into this great opportunity The leaders were urged to change the negative attitudes and use socialmedia as a golden opportunity for civic engagements- Local government leaders must adopt by creating highly engaging social content to rally civil support through online platforms , panelist Shifa Kateregga the Executive Director Human Rights Defenders Masaka said, adding that maintaining the social media discourse remains critical in Local Government matters and policies need to be put in place to realise the effective use of Social Media in Community Development" With the increase in Internet use and social media platforms, Local Government leaders can use these platforms to engage citizens and it will increase participation by communities While a number of oportunities presented by social media were explored by the discussants, the conversatin also dug into cyber and online security issues with participants cautioning themselves on the different behaviours online as well as the existance of hackers whose intentions among others could jeopadise their experience on social media. As one participant put it, Social media is good but while some users may abuse the tools, local governments need to use it to improve governance. Speaking on behalf of the trainees, Jjuko Joseph, also the Deputy Chairman for Lyantonde district said the social media training by CEMCOD had come in handy and pledged that since they now had the skills, they would use social media effectively for better service delivery. In a nutshell, the training was a success and having the Local Government officials conversant with social media platforms and their use was realized. As the trends in social media usage are on an uphill increase among citizens, there is an evident need to place emphasis on the link between Social Media, service delivery and Development. About Niel Sibanda Neil Sibanda is a community engagement attaché with Plumtree Development Trust (PDT). He is currently working with Centre for Media Literacy and Community Development (CEMCOD), as a FOYOPACT fellow and will stay in Uganda for 3 months. Prior to joining PDT as a volunteer, he worked as a citizen reporter covering Plumtree town. Although he has no media background, he has contributed immensely in terms of strengthening local journalism in his home town of Plumtree. It is through this experience that he has been able to hone his skills in community organizing, a task which he currently does for PDT. Sibanda holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Zimbabwe. During his spare time, Sibanda enjoys blogging.