Uganda: Participation of Women in the Internet governance discourses critical to development
Women are essential to decisions on internet governance because of the way that women’s issues translate to the online world. Women’s freedom and security are uniquely affected by Policy decisions regarding cyber security. Besides, women bring new voices and experiences to the discussions on internet governance. Pro-actively supporting women’s participation in civil society’s networks, technical committees and decision making spaces is crucial to the internet governance discourse.
WOUGNET over the years has supported and promoted the use of information and communication technologies as tools to share information and address issues of development collectively. While access to internet in most parts of the country is still a challenge, there is also growing fears among women and citizens of the opportunities as well as risks that online platforms presents. Some of these fears of associated risks greatly limit access and utilization by especially women and girls.
WOUGNET developed a policy brief in December 2013 on cyber infrastructure in Uganda as an important opportunity to highlight the need for greater and active involvement of women in the digital space. The briefing paper explored the need for advancing a gender sensitive approach to ICT Policy in Uganda and identified contexts in which women in Uganda seems to be living on the wrong side of the digital divide.
The paper also looks at ICT Policy making processes, laws and regulations in Uganda as a step through which greater women participation and involvement can contribute to tackling the various barriers that limits access and utilization of ICTs in the digital space. WOUGNET has therefore held Cyber security verses internet freedom consultative meetings in Uganda and has furthered her interest in these areas by actively participating and engaging in the recently concluded Stockholm Internet Forum (SIF14). We are also in the process of partnering with several stakeholders to discuss the issues of digital security and safety for women and girls in Uganda.
Why women and girls?
Women have their own unique set of interests and needs regarding their engagement with the Internet. This digital space offers women a forum where they can express themselves, communicate with others, find new information, expand businesses, and countless other opportunities. Women’s economic empowerment is a key driver of sustainable development, which is often achieved through gender-specific policy perspectives. In order for the Internet to be a democratic platform for online communication, it is imperative that as it develops, women are kept in mind.
Gaining equality in the realm of ICT would have effective implications for a country’s economic and technological development. For instance, according to Research illuminating gender discrimination in employment could boost productivity 40% and, if women’s employment rates became equal to men’s, GDP could rise by 14% by 2020. Opportunities for economic development such as this demonstrate the importance of an engendered policy.
As noted in a Globescan survey, women stated that they would use Internet on their mobile phones if it were available and accessible However, women as group are specifically and distinctively prevented from accessing mobile broadband, due to impediment of inferior Internet infrastructure. There are also several factors and barriers limiting effective access and utilization of ICTs and ICT based services by women and girls
Our goal is to highlight key constraints affecting both urban and rural women and girls in the digital space and to advocate for greater participation of women in ICT policy decision making processes and internet governance discourses.
Moses Owiny – WOUGNET