Rethinking the Uganda Digital Vision from women rights perspective

On the 20th July 2017, the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance hosted an ICT sector stakeholders consultative workshop themed “Uganda Digital Vision”. As the Minister put it very well in his closing remarks, it was a day that would go down in digital history. Also in his closing remarks, he pointed out that this vision should make sense in terms of its ability to address present challenges. One of the greatest challenges we face as a nation is gender inequality in every facet of our society. Take the consultative processes in the composition of our laws, sector policies, implementation strategies and even anything pertaining to the employment structures in the public and private sector as examples. There is not enough representation of women in critical sector legal framework designs, whether in consultative processes at the drafting stages or at implementation stages. And this is where we often miss the point, how can we make laws that are not by women but speak for them? How can we create a digital vision Uganda which does not clearly bring out the need to empower women? Women are a majority population but only in numbers, they are a minority in processes that give life to the country’s existence including all stages of its legal frameworks. 

Women make up a large chunk of contributors to the informal trade sector, a large percentage of employees in the Agricultural sector and have been greatly affected by our poor health system, poor education system, bad cultural practice that limit their progress like child marriage, limited access to credit and financial services and the list is endless. All 17 sectors in this country have laws that are designed to enable an environment for citizen development and yet women still lag behind in many of them. The underlying issue is majorly the structure/ nature of our society which is patriarchal and therefore assumes that what is good for everyone is good for women. The other major issue is the legal frameworks many of which have huge gender gaps. Will this digital vision really represent all? Or will it follow the status quo of “made for some and not for all.”

Women are unique beings and have unique challenges and experiences all dependent on many factors including their social economic standing in society and a host of other factors but majorly because they are women. It is particularly for this reason that they need unique solutions to the challenges they face and inclusion in legal framework design processes like these consultations is a start. While the Uganda Digital Vision is a huge “lion’s meal”, women need to know and see clearly their share of this “lion’s meal”. They need e-sector specific e-initiatives and e-solutions to their unique e-challenges and none e-challenges. They need the Uganda Digital Vision to present their needs and represent them as a unique population with unique needs, as large contributors to the country’s economy, as large contributors to innovation and as a population that cannot be left behind. They need this vision to recognize the unique role of women in all sectors and to represent all women because they are not homogenous. This vision needs to bring out e-structural frameworks that comprise and work for women and that include consulting with and informing them of their “Lion’s share”

When we talk about digital inclusion and not leaving any one behind or connecting to the last mile, at every stage depending on whatever phrase one chooses to use, women must be included. Leaving them out means; the country misses out on opportunities to progress economically, socially and politically. It means Uganda misses out on innovative e- sector solutions tailored for women by women who are often times if not directly affected by activities in all 17 sectors. It also means a large chunk of the population will lack capacity in use and application of evolving technologies and e-tools which would result in a host of sector setbacks for the country.  The more we exclude women in any digital initiatives or developments especially components of guiding works like the Digital Vision Uganda, the greater our challenges will continue to be as a nation. Consultation should not end at sector Ministries; it needs to extend to the majority stakeholders who are the citizens and specifically women at every societal level. This should be able to sufficiently inform the vision on their needs, how those needs should be presented, and what e-sector solutions can work for them, after all, we are all for digital inclusion. 

Susan Atim,

Program Assistant, Information Sharing and Networking 

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