Women of Uganda Network innovatively empowering women to use ICTs for social change

In the same way some one may just pick a phone and make a call; it’s the same way social services can be provided by leaders to the citizens. Mobile phones help us to share jokes with friends and families, entertain and keep us informed, pay daily utilities and make us more organized but at a cost. For the case of service delivery, If citizens do not engage with leaders to demand for accountability and transparency in public service delivery, poverty levels will increase, more women will be illiterate, in addition to facing all forms of  injustices and political elites will continue suppressing the voices of PWDs, vulnerable women, children infected and affected by HIV and AIDS  because they have very little access to information on performance of their leaders.

WOMEN OF UGANDA NETWORK(WOUGNET) with support from Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) works with m-Omulimisa, a mobile technology company to offer the opportunity to community especially women in eastern Uganda to exercise their power and sovereignty to improve service delivery.

Promoting effective use of ICTs for citizen engagement with leaders to improve accountability and transparency in public service delivery in Uganda under SIDA,ICT4DEMOCRACY in East Africa campaign emanated from this principle that fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals are inherent and not given by the  state because all power belongs to the people who shall exercise their sovereignty in accordance with the 1995 constitution of the republic of Uganda under article 1(1) to use available avenues to demand for accountability from their leaders.

The innovation is highly  effective and reliable, and all you need to do is register on the SMS platform through the message menu by dialing the district name, sub-county name and send the message to 8228.This enables you to send your concern of poor service delivery to WOUGNET SMS platform and get feedback from duty bearers. WOUGNET then instantly forwards the messages to the leaders in order to gather feedback for the information to be disseminated and discussed in different fora, including VSACS meetings, community engagements meetings, district engagement meetings and the radio talk-show to increase access to information and the chances of having the issues addressed.

Among the things that the project has achieved include, a cattle slaughter slab constructed at Magola sub-county, Osia-Kidera bridge at  Rubongi Sub County completed, hygiene and sanitation improved in schools and surrounding communities, a total of forty community boreholes drilled at a costs of one hundred and fifty million shillings, three new latrines at St.Agnes primary school constructed and poor performing schools had their teachers transferred.

Innovatively embracing and applying ICT empowers women, media and other civic groups to use ICTs to effectively access and share information, advocate and raise awareness on service delivery, equality, right to information and freedom to express opinion and engage with leaders through a mix of ICTs and traditional media segments.

Written by Amuku Isaac, WOUGNET

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Digital Security training to ensure data protection and women online safety in Uganda

In order to ensure digital security and online safety, Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) conducts digital security and online safety training for University students in Uganda especially young women. During the commemoration of the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence last year, WOUGNET organized a digital security training at Kampala International University (KIU) in November 2018. In March 2019, trainings were conducted at Makerere University School of Women and Gender Studies and International University of East Africa (IUEA) as part of the activities carried out by WOUGNET to celebrate the International women’s day under the theme; “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change”.

 According to UNESCO (2015) research report on combating online violence against women and girls, the findings indicate that the new muddle of cyber Violence Against Women and Girls could greatly increase. A total of 73 percent of women engaged in the study reported to have been exposed to or experienced some form of online violence. This needs to be addressed if the internet is to remain a safe space for empowering all and achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5 of ensuring gender equality for all women and girls by 2030. According to sections 24 and 25 of the 2011 Computer Misuse Act of Uganda, a person found guilty of committing crimes using any ICT tool is liable of paying a fine not exceeding twenty-four currency points or imprisonment or both.

Awareness creation on the extent of technology related violence in Uganda is led by WOUGNET. As a way of combating online VAWG, the trainings help participants to deeply understand the existing forms of technology related violence against women and girls. This issue according to WOUGNET, is an act of gender-based violence that are committed, or aggravated in part or fully by the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as phones, internet, social media platforms and email.

For more information about the issue, WOUGNET recommends participants to further read some of the existing ICTs laws and policies in Uganda such as the computer misuse act of 2011, data protection and privacy bill 2015, anti-pornography act of 2014 and the penal code act.

The  training empowers  participants   to  be able to identify the various types of social engineering attacks, set up strong passwords and passphrase for their gadgets, back up data and understand a secured way to browse the internet including the basic skills on digital  literacy with more  emphasis on how  students can maximumly  utilize the opportunities created by  internet presence to make some small money while in and out of  the university.

According to Letowon Saitoti, a senior tech support Officer at WOUGNET, a strong password does not depend on how complicated it is but on the nature of characters that one uses and he gave an example of “I am the boy with SWagg?” which was tested to be the best password during the trainings. Majority of students had voted Pa55Word! as the best password but later turned out to be the easiest for hackers to crack after testing 8 passwords shared.

In his closing remarks, Doctor Emeka Akaezuwa the Vice Chancellor of IUEA commended WOUGNET for considering ICT as key priority for economic development in the 21st century and encouraged students to go an extra mile and interface with ICT experts in the field. He also expressed concern for few women being represented in the ICT fraternity and requested participants to encourage more women to join the technology space. He concluded by urging students to utilize the knowledge and skills they have acquired during the training and encouraged WOUGNET to keep up the good initiative being done to change the world.

Written by Amuku Isaac, Information Sharing and Networking (WOUGNET)

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Gender and digitalisation – supporting women in agribusiness

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) can be powerful tools to overcome limited access to information, boosting productivity and facilitating outsourcing, resource sharing and networking. But gender disparities in the use of ICTs across value chain prevent many women from achieving their full potential in the agriculture sector.

Globally, the Internet gender gap is about 25% in developing countries overall, but higher in sub-Saharan Africa (40%), according to the International Telecommunication Union. Further, women are 23% less likely than men to own a mobile phone in Africa (IFC, 2016). Such disparities mean that women have more limited access to the mobile phone enabled services that are helping farmers to stay informed, receive financial support and reach higher-value markets.

For More details on this please follow this link here

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ERIGNU Researchers commit to deepen project visibility and stakeholder engagement

Researchers under the project ‘enhancing rice-green gram productivity in Northern Uganda’ met on the 11th of February 2019 at the Uganda Technology and Management University (UTAMU) in Kampala to take stock of the project, share lessons learned and devise strategies for improvement in the final phase.

The meeting was hosted by Dr. Drake Mirembe of Makerere University under the ICT work package. Among issues discussed centered around the fact that a lot of work has been done on the ground with small holder farmers for instance, demonstration plots and gardens were established, and field trials tested, participatory variety selection of rice and green gram varieties were conducted and trainings on gender and agribusiness for farmers were also done among other activities. The researchers noted that despite several activities that have been implemented, the team need to increase its visibility, document clearly results, and lessons learnt for improvement. Mr. Moses Owiny – the Project Administrator of the ERIGNU stressed the need to conduct a midterm review and evaluation of the project to gain a deeper understanding on the relevance, efficiency and effectiveness of the project in realizing set objectives.

Other researchers stressed the need for dissemination of technologies in the third phase and engagement of stakeholders and wider audience to share lessons and experiences. The Research team is currently working hard on producing journal articles for publications based on project experiences, baseline survey and anecdotal evidence generated. Meanwhile, Dr. Drake Mirembe, the Principal Researcher under the ICT Work Package has been invited for an event in Morocco, to discuss the digitalization of agriculture within the context of ERIGNU Project. Mr. Moses Owiny – the Project Administrator has also been invited in Lagos, Nigeria for the Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum 2019 where he is expected to speak about the concept of inclusion of marginalized groups such as women and how gender sensitive agriculture policy making is crucial for advancement and status of women in the agricultural sector.

The overall Project Coordinator in her message delivered by the Project Administrator highlighted the need for realizing set goals and objectives and encouraged researchers to ensure impact are attained for the benefit of small holder farmers in Northern Uganda.

The ARF funded project is supported by NOW-WOTRO and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The 3-year project implemented by a consortium consisting of Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET), Makerere University, National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) and the SNV Development Organization seeks to improve the productivity of rice and green gram crops for small holder farmers in Northern Uganda.

By

Moses Owiny

Project Administrator - ERIGNU

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Younger Women Continue to Face Increasing Online Threats

Over the years, the internet has become a fundamental tool used in our everyday lives and it maintains a high impact presence in our community as a whole. The internet is used for social networking, communication, booking flights and accommodation, online banking, e-payments, watching online news, marketing, sharing content that matters and carrying out our daily tasks. With the internet life has become much easier; a number of applications such as safe bodasafe bangle e.t.c have been invented to simplify life. At this everyday life, the internet has probably become a staple for many or even most users with access to a connection at home or at work.

However due to the emerging use of technology for development in different fields, most women and girls remain excluded from the benefits of the internet and they face increasing marginalization. Due to the gender gaps in Information communication and Technologies (ICTs) and the internet perpetuated by a number of factors such as lack of women’s empowerment, affordability of ICT services especially broadband connectivity, lack of digital skills as well as women’s safety online. A UNESCO report indicates that three major challenges women face are poverty, violence and lack of access to information.  The digital gender gap has even widen more due to the recent imposed Over The Top (OTT) taxes on Uganda citizen for instance In June 2018, a month before the introduction of the tax by the Ugandan government, the internet penetration rate in Uganda stood at 47.4% (18.5 million internet users) but three months later, it had fallen to 35% (13.5million users) of which the most affected are women and girls. This government move has stifled expression online and for most of the internet users who wanted to continue accessing the internet resorted to using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) which not all VPNs are considered safe and trusted.

According to the Online E-safety Educational Toolkit for young people in Uganda aged 5-20 years designed by Internet Society of Uganda (ISOC) cited that the internet is used for many positive activities. However there are some severe risks also associated with it such as online predatory, cyber bullying and consequences from revealing and sharing a lot of privacy concerns. Children unfortunately encounter these risks during their day to day activities like socializing with friends or during their school research.

A recent study report released by WOUGNET investigating Tech Related Violence against women (such as pornography, cyber stalking and sexual harassment) in perurban areas of Uganda shows that women still remain at a greater risks of not being safe online. Victims are said to respond in various ways such as shying away from the public and in some cases physical violence which will not curve the vice. The study cites that more than half of the remaining respondents (22%) claimed that they are not adequately informed over where to report and 11% said they don’t know even where to report such crimes. Tech crimes continue to increase every day, minute. According to an Article on Technology Facilitated Domestic and Family violence: Women Experiences by Bridget Harris et la drawing interviews undertaken with 55 domestic and family violence survivors in Bribane, Australia  indicated that the frequency and nature of abusive behaviors described by the women suggest that this is a key form of abuse deserving more significant attention.

Young women aged 18-30years are more likely to experience tech related violence. A recent study by Pollicy on Uganda Women Online indicates that women are becoming increasingly vulnerable to cyber violence with growing access to internet across the world, which could in turn detrimentally impede uptake of broadband services by girls and women worldwide.

For instance on the 2ndFebruary,2019 a female programmer was insulted, intimidated and threatened to be killed while forced to fix an error code a male client badly configured database connection and he messed it up. Threats that limit online freedom including privacy and data protection, surveillance on citizens and harassment online threatens the potential of internet as a safe platform for online communications.

WOUGNET which serves as a secretariat of a caucus called Women ICT Advocacy Group (WIAG) continues to advocate for safe, affordable internet access for all and  raise awareness on tech related issues using the various social media platforms, writing policy briefs, analyzing policies, frameworks, reports, e.t.c. spreading key messages using digital flyers, SMS campaigns, holding tweet chats, writing articles and carrying out trainings on online safety tips especially among university students to create a better internet for all.

It is vital for key stakeholders in the internet space to continue supporting non-governmental and governmental agencies assisting victims/survivors of tech crimes and there is need for Uganda to innovate devices that women and girls can use to protect them online for instance Australia have an eSafety Office and eSafetyWomen tool designed by the government to empower and help women to manage technology related risks and abuse to enable them to be confident and safe online.

Young people especially women should continue to access and use the internet safely in order to demand for their rights.

Compiled by Sandra Aceng

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