ICTs have the potential to significantly increase the socio-economic livelihood of communities in Uganda including persons with disabilities (PWDs). However, there is a growing outcry from the public and key stakeholders that PWDs are increasingly becoming isolated from accessing and using ICTs.
Basing on the recent study commissioned by the UCC on access and usage of ICT by PWDs, it showed that only 5% of the PWDs participants knew about assistive technologies and 69.40% owned a mobile phone, 70.10% owned radio, only 12% of PWDs used computers where majority were accessing it from schools and 43% used computers at least once a week. Majority of the PWDs respondents were using feature phones and the most used network on SIM cards was MTN. Only 15% mentioned that they were able to access the internet and 25% didn’t know about the internet. 10% of PWDs used social media using mobile phones for networking whilst more male PWDs (6.2%) accessed it than their female counterparts (4%). Some respondents also mentioned that they don’t watch television because they can’t afford and there is no electricity. Some study respondents also said that they do not listen to the radio because of the nature of the disability they have although majority were not aware of assistive technologies and to some that accessed it was in schools. 55% used mobile money and 45% didn’t.
Drawing findings from the study, it showed poverty as one of the major factors limiting access and use of ICTs by PWDs coupled with the recent imposed Over the Top (OTT) and Mobile money taxes which has cut Ugandan internet users by five million, penetration down from 47% to 35% in three months. This has had great impact on the lives of PWDs especially in access to information considering the fact that majority are unemployed because of the stigma against them for instance with reference to institutions, 38% of PWDs mentioned that their major source of funding were donors accounting for the institutions, 29% from government while benefactors and church organizations accounted for 5% and 4% respectively.
According to the study, there is still a huge gap in access and use of ICTs by PWDs majorly caused by high prices of ICT assistive technologies in relation to their incomes, ignorance and limited educational opportunities, lack of affirmative action and waiver of policies on PWDs, awareness of location to access the devices, no suitable technologies for PWDs, lack of awareness and information on ICT for PWDs.
Stakeholders drawn from different Public Institutions; Development partners, PWD organizations, Private sector, academia and civil society organizations raised numeral concerns during the questions and answers session. These included; less involvement of PWDs in startups and most applications are being imported from outside Uganda, disaggregate PWD in categories based on their specific needs, electoral commission should provide voting machines without PWDs being assisted, have ATM machines and innovate traffic lights that favor PWDs.
The Director Corporate Affairs- UCC, Mr.Fred Otunu speaking at the dissemination workshop which took place at the Communication House in Bugolobi on the 29th January 2019, informed the audience that issues of sensitization shall be solved. He added that the commission will include PWDs and the media in its periodic consumer and digital literacy awareness at the village level to promote further and enhancive ICTs awareness. He also mentioned that the commission will support innovation on ICT to promote access to PWDs, provide computers in schools and have assistive technologies and support training of sign languages although the commission need support from CSOs, academia.etc to carry out the recommendations to be included in the research report.
Mr. Geoffrey Mutabazi the Executive Director-UCC while giving opening remarks during the workshop mentioned that the study was conducted to promote development and transform the life of consumers, promote inclusion in the ICT sector and also inform the interventions of all stakeholders in promoting access and usage of ICTs by PWDs. He informed the meeting that access and use of ICT by PWDs is still below the national standards and called upon all stakeholders to ensure technology usage is increased in Uganda.
In a nutshell, UCC and other stakeholders should promote projects that economically empower the PWDs in order to reduce on the poverty level so as to promote increased access and usage of ICT among them.
Compiled by: Sandra Aceng