Recent discussions with people in countries that have received Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM) grants has shown that most people, either in government agencies or in civil society are aware of the great wealth of information about the global fund generally or about their own countryâ€™s programs specifically that can be accessed on the GFATM website.
For example, if people are critical of the composition and performance of their countryâ€™s Central Coordinating Mechanism, they could download a copy of the CCM guidelines. When they complain about lack of civil society participation as grant recipients, they could download GFATM Board decisions that call for inclusion of NGOs as principal recipients. With such information in hand they can advocate with government, donors and the CCM itself to bring about improvements. Ironically, sometimes improvements may have already been made and described on the GFATM website, but people have not accessed the site to learn about the latest developments.
Another common complaint concerns disbursement of funds. NGOs in particular may wonder why they have not received recent installments of grant money. They are likely to blame the GFATM first, although a basic principle of the Fund in timely and efficient distribution of funds. A look at a particular countryâ€™s page on the GFATM website can provide access to the most recent progress reports on each grant wherein one can see the amount of funds pledged, the amount disbursed by the Global Fund and the amount expended by the principal recipient (PR). If a PR is running behind on expending funds received, the Global Fund will not send more. Therefore advocacy again may be needed to ensure accountability on the part of the PR, CCM and even the Local Funds Agency who is supposed to audit expenditure and implementation progress.
Clearly this situation reflects the digital divide. It is not enough for international organizations like the GFATM in professing openness to simply provide open access information on its website. People who need this information often do not have easy access to the internet, or if they do have access, they may have no idea that such a wealth of information exists. The GFATM does not have offices in countries and is therefore in a poor position to communicate about itself to those who need information. Partners like Roll Back Malaria, UNAIDS, and USAID among others, are providing technical assistance to countries for their Global Fund activities. Maybe these international partners can also help educate and link the potential and actual Global Fund partners in country via more accessible print and electronic media to the valuable advocacy resources available online.