The significance of Digital inclusion to Economic development

According to an article by R Bahrini 2019, it’s very apparent that access to a meaningful internet and technology has played an immense role in promoting and enhancing the social and economic growth of developing countries and has further facilitated their inclusion into the global economy. Access to the internet and Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) has not only allowed people to communicate from a distance, but it has also transformed the value chains of different economies and has enormously reduced the cost of production. Internet access proved more to be an indispensable tool to development and a basic need when the world was brought to its knees by the unpredicted outbreak of COVID- 19 pandemic that had a damaging impact on every economic activity. The internet facilitated the continuity of work for different companies, ministries and organizations through online conferencing platforms as the global community was advised by the World Health Organization to avoid crowds as a strategy to combat the pandemic. Supplementary to that, access to the internet-enabled students all over the globe to use digital tools such as laptops and smartphones, to pursue their academics remotely amidst the life-threatening epidemic. Despite the milestone in technological advancement and the registered benefits of the internet in developing countries like Uganda, women and girls are continuously deprived when it comes to accessing and using the internet and digital tools compared to their male counterparts thus widening the gender digital divide. According to a study that was conducted by the World Wide Web Foundation in 2020, Uganda was pointed out as one of the African countries with the largest gender digital divide in Africa with 43% of the men more likely to use the internet than women in Uganda. These findings indicate that the growing gender digital divide in Uganda incapacitated the attainment of the UN Sustainable Development Goal number 9 which called upon member states to work towards attaining universal internet access by 2020.  This has curtailed the maximum benefits that Uganda can potentially arrive at as a result of equal access to the internet and technology for both women/girls and men/boys.

It is therefore of great importance for all stakeholders in Uganda to work hand in hand to close the gender digital divide if Uganda is to fully benefit from the immense benefits that the internet and ICTs can render to its economy. This is crucial because policy-making, engagement, and implementation require a definite center of attention and direction. According to M Owiny (2020), closing the gender digital divide requires the engagement of key policymakers in the policy-making processes so as to build consensus and tap into the diverse body of evidence to back up arguments, different perspectives, and statements.

How CSOs are  Contributing to the Closure of the Gender Digital Divide

As a champion of women’s rights online, Women of Uganda Network (WOUGET) acknowledges that gender-sensitive ICT policies are the basis of any attempt to close the gender digital divide. Over the years, WOUGNET has successfully influenced the formulation and effective implementation of gender-sensitive ICT policies and has achieved this through research, creation of content such as policy briefs, and policy advocacy on issues like e-governance among others.  WOUGNET also serves as the secretariat for the Women ICT Advocacy Group (WIAG), a coalition that advocates for gender inclusion in ICT policies and programs.  The organization deems that policy advocacy towards bridging the gender digital divide in Uganda can only flourish if civil society organizations work in cooperation with government entities/institutions through continuous dialogues and implementation of initiatives to arrive at windows of closing the gender digital divide This is why the World Wide Web Foundation, WOUGNET and the Centre for MultilateralMulti-lateral Affairs (CfMA) decided to develop a civil society position paper on promoting smart policy options in closing the gender digital divide in Uganda with specific recommendations each stakeholder (CSOs and policymakers) should take to close the gender digital divide in Uganda.

As guided by the World Wide Web Foundation, WOUGNET further recognizes that for a gender-responsive policy to be achieved, the policymakers need to be guided by the R.E.A.C.T policy framework. The framework ensures that ICT policies do not exclude women but rather create a more accessible and empowering internet for both women and men; R.E.A.C.T literally translates to Rights, Education, Access, Content, and Targets. The framework suggests that it’s imperative for policymakers to put into consideration the five principles (Rights, Education, Access, Content, and Targets) of the framework when formulating ICT policies so as to respond to the connectivity needs of women and girls.

In the quest to close the gender digital divide in Uganda, WOUGNET in partnership with the CfMA conducted an Online Policy Round Table Discussion on the 28th of July 2021. The policy roundtable discussion was conducted under the current project titled “Promoting Smart Policy Options in Closing the Gender Digital Divide in Uganda '' with support from the World Wide Web Foundation. The primary goal of this discussion was to engage policymakers to understand the R.E.A.C.T framework and discuss policy advocacy issues related to the R.E.A.C.T framework and gender digital divide in Uganda so as to identify strategies for bridging the gap together.

 

The policymakers that participated in the discussion included representatives from government ministries and agencies such as the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development, Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Education and Sports, Ministry of ICT and National Guidance, National Information Technology Authority Uganda(NITA-U), Uganda Communications Communication (UCC) and Uganda Telecommunications Limited. The discussion was also attended by a few civil society organizations (CSOs) that play an equal role in promoting women’s rights online. These included; Access Plus, Barefoot law Uganda, Policy Uganda, FIDA Uganda, and Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC). The issues discussed included; simplified understanding of the R.E.A.C.T framework to the policymakers, and steps that can be undertaken by policymakers to CSOs to specific policy initiatives and specific policy proposals to ensure that women have access to the internet. This was guided by WOUGNET and the CfMA creating specific questions in regards to R.E.A.C.T frameworks to enable further understanding of the frameworks to allow policymakers and the few CSOs present to discuss the decision-making processes and strategies that can be considered to enhance everyone’s rights online. They also brainstormed about steps that can be undertaken to ensure that education is used as a tool to equip women and girls with the skills they need to utilize the ICTs and the internet effectively. The dialogue registered immense benefits such as identifying priority areas that need immediate action in the great effort to close the gender digital divide. These included and were not limited to mindset change in communities, investment in STEM by all stakeholders, engagement of cultural and religious leaders in the struggle to end close the gender digital divide. They also proposed continued partnerships between CSOs and government entities in formulating gender-sensitive ICT policies. Participants also acknowledged the need to engage the beneficiaries of the different ICT innovations or policies especially those at the grassroots so as to fully understand their challenges in regard to access to the internet and digital technologies. While individual access may not be attained in the short run some participants suggested devising strategies of embracing shared ICT tools, especially in communities to speed up the penetration of the internet and technological advancements.

The CSOs present in the discussion commended WOUGNET for spearheading a coalition of CSOs to combine efforts to advocate for gender-sensitive ICT policies. Government agencies also pledged to work hand in hand with the CSOs to close the gender digital divide and mentioned programs such as the National Development Plan 3 that CSOs can tap in to rally efforts toward closing the gender digital divide.

Conclusion

If gender-sensitive ICT policies are made a priority by the state, Uganda will be in a position to achieve the Digital Uganda Vision 2040. The digital vision seeks to empower all Ugandan citizens including women to reach the goals of universal inclusion, economic progress, and poverty eradication through digital innovation combining initiatives across various sectors. This will ultimately enable women in Uganda to connect, learn, use, and experience a revamp in their productivity and as well benefit from various opportunities online.

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Gender Gaps in Agricultural Productivity in Uganda: The Causes and Solutions

The agricultural sector remains critical to the local and regional economies across Uganda. Being the basis for food security and an important source of employment, particular for women. Yet, studies consistently find that female farmers have lower rates of agricultural productivity than male farmers.

Based on original research conducted by UN women in  countries like Ethiopia, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, and United Republic of Tanzania, it shows that gender gaps in agricultural productivity do not arise because women are less efficient farmers but because they experience inequitable access to agricultural inputs, including family labor, high-yield crops, pesticides, and fertilizers. Equalizing women’s access to agricultural inputs, including time-saving equipment, and increasing the return to these inputs is critical to close gender gaps in agricultural productivity.

A joint investigation by the United Nations and World Bank in 2015, indicates that Ugandan female farmers face poor production conditions compared to their male counter parts and neither do they make the same production choices. As a result, they may not have identical levels of agricultural productivity. This shows that male farmers have higher productivity than female farmers because they grow higher-value crops and employ better technologies. In addition to that, social norms — often reinforced by gender-based violence— assign women the responsibility of taking care of household duties like looking after children. That being the case, it results to “time poverty” where most women have relatively limited time to devote to their own agricultural activities thus affecting the quality and quantity of their agricultural production.

Furthermore, the limited equal participation of women in decision making has also negatively affected their productivity in agriculture. Often times women have to ask permission from their husbands before they attend to their agricultural duties which limits their commitment to agriculture hence crippling their productivity. Women’s lack of access and control over land which is the most significant resource in agriculture has also affected their productivity in agriculture. Studies from allAfrica indicate that only seven percent of women own land in Uganda, in most circumstances, women feel it’s risky to invest on a land they don’t own with fear that it could be taken away from her at any time. These challenges are often not faced by men, therefore addressing these constraints would have enormous potential benefits not only for women but the agricultural sector in general and for society at large. Below are some of the recommendations that can be adopted to address these.

As an organization that puts the development of women at the center of its service, Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) has made efforts to enhance the productivity of women in agriculture. In 2017, WOUGNET together with other partners implemented a three-year project titled ‘’ Enhancing rice- Green Gram productivity in three different districts of northern Uganda which included Apac, Kole and Lira district, with support from Applied Research Fund. The aim of the project was to increase food productivity for income generation and food security, and empowering farmers especially women to have easy access to quality seeds. The project linked farmers to markets through establishing farmer groups, building their capacity in negotiation skills so that they are able to negotiate prices with their fellow farmers. This has improved the livelihoods of women farmers, for example, it has increased food productivity, food security and market of their produces.

Gender Policy Advocacy needs to play a great role if women are to achieve increased agricultural productivity.  In most policy dialogues, the discussions are often times dominated by men thus leaving behind the ideologies of women unattended to. So, it’s important to get women onto the decision-making table by supporting the work of apex organizations that obligated to represent the voices of women. This can be achieved by building the capacity of women in the agricultural sector on how to advocate for fellow women in the sector, how to use evidence-based research for lobbying, how to contribute to policy discussions. It doesn’t happen overnight, however with time, an empowered female advocate can confidently speak out on a policy round table and say that “I represent 500,000 women smallholder farmers”, or “I represent most of the women doing cross-border trade in East Africa” and these are their challenges.

More to that, policies designed to alter the terms and conditions under which women operate their agricultural activities should address the underlying forces that affect their productivity. This is because the inputs and product markets may have a limited impact on their agricultural productivity compared to underlying forces such as; access to land, equalizing women’s access to key agricultural resources especially land will automatically create access to agricultural inputs including and not limited to time-saving equipment and fertilizers. This is simply because access to land enables them to have access to financial resources like loans from microfinance institutions that support small and medium income farmers using their land as collateral. In a long run, this will increase the female farmers’ productivity hence closing the gender gaps in agricultural productivity

Agnes Quisumbing, a senior researcher at International Food Policy Research Institute encourages a joint ownership of key assets between male and female household members. She emphasized that closing the gap between men’s and women’s ownership and control of assets may lead to better development outcomes. In addition, Ruth Meinzen-Dick( senior researcher IFPRI) evaluated women’s productivity basing on their access to social capital especially group memberships and participation in social networks. From her assessment, she acknowledged that social capital serves as an entry point for so many agricultural development programs and in other sectors,” Women will therefore have a say on valuable resources if they participate in these groups and this will eventually improve their production.

Conclusively, giving women the same access as men to agricultural resources could increase production on women's farms. Women in both rural and urban areas need the same access to land, technology, financial services, education and markets as men if they are to realize their full potential. Its accordingly important to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women by ensuring that access to resources is more equal, ensuring that agricultural policies and programs are gender sensitive, and further making efforts for women's voices to be heard in decision-making at all levels. Women must be seen as equal partners in sustainable development because this will boost agricultural production, which will in return improve the livelihood of women and also reduce the number of hungry people.

Written by;

Babirye Roseline, Program Assistant, Gender and ICT policy Advocacy

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Identifying Theft on the Internet

The internet is a global network of billions of computers and other electronic devices. With the Internet, it's possible to access almost any information, communicate with anyone else in the world, and do much more.

The history of the internet has gradually evolved from 1967 and the internet according to Howard et al, (2002) has become a daily necessity. In Uganda the first Internet Service Providers (ISPs) came    around 1995. The internet was based on dial-up services, where users got access to emails and newsgroups only. Initially, it was limited to universities and large groups, including corporate organisations. Soon, however, even individuals started acquiring commercial internet. In early 1996, the government prepared a national Telecommunications Policy that set out, among other things, 

In 1997, the Second National Operator Licence was awarded to Mobile Telephones Network (MTN) of South Africa. In the same year, 1997, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) was inaugurated as the sector regulator.
Over the years, Uganda in 2018 had 18.149 million Internet users, or 45.9% of the population which made them 52nd in the world, this is up from 2.5 million users in 2008 that ranked us 64th in the world.
According to UCC, the ICT sector has over UGX. 14.2 Trillion in direct sector revenues over the last five years and this is projected to grow to UGX 18 Trillion in the next five years. The Sector has experienced about 8% Year on Year revenue growth rate in the last five years and an estimated UGX 2.57 Trillion in sector taxes in the previous five years. ICT tax revenue projections for the next five years are projected at UGX 3.2 Trillion In 2006, ten years after the creation of the Commission, the government created the Ministry of ICT. It merged three sectors; Information, Communications and Regulation of telecommunications technology.

The internet is still evolving ,and not just its infrastructure ,but how we use it and where we use it are also continuously changing and this has also come up with reasons behind theft on the internet that is Cybercriminals/ Thieves on the internet space are creating viruses and Trojans that steal account information and key files of various program products and resources from infected computers, for the benefit of the thief and use your information for illicit  or illegal activities. Once your personal information is received by the hacker who placed spyware on your computer, they can now Steal money and open credit cards and bank accounts in your name as well sell it to other parties who will use it for illegal purposes

In recent years, there has also been a constant increase in the number of Trojans that steal personal information from network games for unauthorised use or resale of a legitimate user’s login and password details and this was because originally, many of these Trojans were written by young people that couldn’t afford to pay for Internet services:            `

Cybercrimes are now a global problem that affects lots of spheres of human life.

The police all over the world has to study how to deal with this type of crimes, every new gadget and software product becomes the target for cyber criminals sooner or later, so their manufacturers do everything that is possible to be one step ahead.

Almost everything we see in our daily life may need some of a cyber security. Even when we are totally offline, there are cameras around us and lots of digital devices that could be turned on us if not the security specialists who protect them from intervention and enhance this protection every day.
How to stay safe
Spyware used for online identity theft can be the most harmful and difficult to remove of any type of malware, a few things that can help you improve your level of online identity theft security are :
·         Continually check the accuracy of personal accounts and deal with any discrepancies immediately
·         Avoid questionable websites
·         Practice safe email protocol for instance Don't open messages from unknown senders as well Immediately delete messages you suspect to be spam
·         Only download software from sites you trust. Carefully evaluate free software and file-sharing applications before downloading them.
·         Get the latest Windows patches
·         Use public computers with extreme caution
·         Use antivirus protection and a firewall
The best identity theft protection begins by avoiding spyware infection in the first place. Virus protection products guard against spyware entering your computer and prevent it from exposing your personal data and slowing your computer through damage to your files and programs. A good antispyware program searches every place on your PC where spyware can hide and removes every trace to boost your PC performance and keep you safe from intrusion. While free antispyware downloads are available, they just can’t keep up with the continuous onslaught of new spyware strains. Previously undetected forms of spyware can often do the most damage to your computer, so it’s critical to have up-to-the-minute online identity theft protection.
How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
The more you're able to protect yourself from identity theft, the less likely you are to be victimized. These proactive measures are centered around keeping your personal data safe from prying eyes, and creating a stronger barrier between yourself and identity thieves:

Be mindful of your passwords. Create strong passwords, and be sure not to use the same password more than once. Secure password managers like 1Password and Bit warden are solid options that can help you keep track of them. In addition to keeping strong passwords, opt for two-factor authentication whenever possible and always password-protect your devices.

Never share personal information over the phone. Legitimate institutions—including banks, the IRS and the Social Security Administration—will never call you and demand that you share things like your Social Security number or bank account number. Scammers, on the other hand, will.

 

 

 

 

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Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) at RightsCon 2021

RightsCon is the world’s leading summit on human rights in the digital age brought to you by Access Now. This year (2021), the 10th Anniversary of RightsCon is happening from Monday, June 7 to Friday, June 11, 2021, bringing together business leaders, human rights defenders, government representatives, technologists, and journalists from around the world to tackle the most pressing issues at the intersection of human rights and technology. 

Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) sees RightsCon as a networking and collaboration space to discuss the pressing issues, needs, and current trends of Women’s Rights Online. Over the years, WOUGNET has hosted several panels, strategy sessions and many others at RightsCon to discuss the gender digital divide, Gender and ICT policy issues in Uganda, Open Data for women and other vulnerable groups, online gender-based violence and strategies such as digital safety and security for human rights defenders in the digital age, service delivery, digital economy, digital innovations for women, internet shutdowns, surveillance and disinformation and etc.

 At this year’s edition, WOUGNET will discuss the effects of COVID-19 on our daily lives, and highlight the fundamental role of the internet in ensuring continuity in both daily activities and emergency response to ensure that women and girls in Uganda are well-connected. We will specifically discuss strategies to counter online gender-based violence against women and children; Open Data for women and Persons with disabilities, the human impact of internet shutdowns and why it maters; and the state of internet freedom with provision on the analysis and recommendations.

Find more information about RightsCon and the program for this year here: https://www.rightscon.org/ or agenda here: https://rightscon.summit.tc/t/2021/events/agenda

 

Sessions co-organized by WOUGNET

Open data and human rights for women and persons with disabilities

Host Institutions: Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) | Digital Literacy Initiative (DLI)

Time: 11:15am - 12:15pm/ Jun 8, 2021 

Open data is described as data that is free to use, reuse and can be redistributed. The Open Data movement in the area of access to public and other information is very significant in the East African Region States namely (Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan). It is widely acknowledged that Women and Persons with Disabilities face social exclusion due to digital division and digital exclusion on account of their disability, gender, class, location and privilege, yet several international Human Rights conventions such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Sustainable Development Goals. In Uganda, Access to Information Act 2005, Uganda Constitution 1995 and Persons with Disabilities Act 2019 all recognize that access to communication technologies are not only human rights but sources of empowerment and social integration for persons with disabilities. This session reveals the Open Data and Human Rights aspect across the East Africa region, the existing legal frameworks on Open Data and the gaps with these legal frameworks, challenges faced by the Women and Persons with disabilities, the role of Civil Society organizations, Governments and other stakeholders in ensuring Women and Persons with disabilities access open data. 

Amplifying the human impact of internet shutdowns: why it matters

Host institutions: Access Now | Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET)

Time: Jun. 11, 2021 |4:45pm - 5:45pm 

As the effects of COVID-19 on our daily lives lengthen, stakeholders continue to highlight the fundamental role of the internet in ensuring continuity in both daily activities and emergency response, and press for safeguards to ensure that people across the globe are well-connected. Sadly, some governments are actively hindering these efforts by implementing repressive measures such as internet shutdowns, and digital identity programs to draw back these efforts, further widening the digital divide. Internet shutdowns are disruptors of people’s lives worldwide. The negative impact of internet shutdowns or lack of internet access during the global COVID-19 pandemic is magnifying. Diverse aspects of people’s lives are affected whenever governments decide to arbitrarily cut access to the internet and social media platforms. Although the impact of these disruptions affect everyone, the effect hits hardest on people in already under-served and at-risk communities such as women and girls, persons with disability, ethnic minority groups, refugees, among others. Internet shutdowns widens the existing digital divide among these affected groups. Although, a substantial gap persists between women and men and girls and boys in regards to internet access and use. Thus, the need to give women and girls and other marginalized groups a platform to raise awareness about how internet shutdowns affect them.

This session seeks to highlight the threats and challenges these marginalized groups are faced with when kill switches occur. The session which will be in the form of a panel discussion will provide the speakers a platform to tell the human impact of internet shutdowns as they struggle to be connected online and the strategies, they resort to in order to stay informed. Speakers will be drawn from groups that work with identified minority groups or communities around the globe to tell their own story. Participants will be invited to share their experiences.

Digital security and data privacy to tackle OGBV and safeguard women’s and children’s rights online in Uganda

Host Institutions: Digital Human Rights Lab | Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET)

Time: Jun 10, 2021/11:45am-12:45pm EAT 

This session will bring together representatives from private and public institutions that play a key role in implementing or advocating for data privacy and the protection of women, girl’s and children's online safety. We intend to have a nuanced and interactive discussion on this topic. Speakers will share perspectives and experiences from digital security and data privacy of women and children. WOUGNET will discuss their report to UN Special Rapporteur on domestic violence in the context of COVID-19 to UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women (VAW), and #SayNoToOGBVUG campaign policy brief on Online Gender-Based Violence: An assessment of women’s safety in the digital space. Plan International will share experiences from the #FreeToBeOnline Campaign. Unwanted Witnesses will discuss their experiences working on data privacy and the legal frameworks. Encrypt Uganda will share their experience working with children’s online safety and school staff to ensure their knowledge on online safety. Based on these initial inputs, the stakeholders invited will be guided through a strategy session by the facilitators.

Their interaction is key to the development of a common strategy which is made up of 4 steps using common strategy-building tools:

1. Scenario analysis including SWOT matrix to determine their current position.

2. SMART objectives to specify their vision for digital security of women and children

3. Smaller teams address one objective each developing organizational strategies, communication tools, and educational tools.

4. Final feedback to lay down the common strategy and its KPIs.

The facilitators summarise the final strategy in a roadmap document. This will enable the stakeholders to develop common strategies to address the spread, types, and impact of online abuse of women and children. We shall explore how these actors can contribute significantly in bringing online safety to marginalized groups and at-risk populations especially women, and children.

Sessions where WOUGNET staff will be Speaking

Prepare, prevent, resist: a guide for internet shutdown advocacy strategy and resilience

Host institution: Internews

Time: Jun. 11, 2021 | 8:30pm - 9:30pm EAT 

Over the past year, Internews' OPTIMA team has worked with the KeepitOn community to determine civil society needs around combatting internet shutdowns. As identified in OPTIMA’s internet shutdown advocacy community needs assessment, which surveyed 142 civil society actors, organizations need resources to better assess risks and capacities to better prepare for potential shutdowns, engage in long-term strategic planning and advocacy around shutdowns, build vital skills and expertise, and involve new actors in anti-shutdown coalitions. In response, Internews has collaboratively collected and built a selection of curated resources to help CSOs better prepare and plan for potential shutdowns. This guide includes a ‘risk quiz’ to determine the likelihood of a shutdown and likely shutdown technical methods, a civil society capacity assessment, internet shutdown response case studies, and resources and tutorials produced by OPTIMA and Keepiton network organizations to build capacity for network measurement, VPN use and circumvention strategies, multi stakeholder outreach and engagement, and legal approaches. Through this session, Internews will invite participants to interact with the online resources, invite collaborators to present select case studies and research produced for the guide, and seek further community feedback and input on how the guide can be expanded upon, localized, and translated for communities experiencing or at risk of experiencing shutdowns.

Internet freedom in Africa: analysis and recommendations

Host institution: Independent

Time: 2:15pm - 3:15pm EAT

The general idea is to tell the story of internet freedom in different countries from different aspects. The panelists are from Uganda, Nigeria and Sudan. For Sudan, the panelist will talk about the first Shutdown case caused by national exams and tell the followers its impact. For Uganda, the panelists will talk about the digital rights violations before, during and after the elections with more emphasis drawn into how the digital rights of women are being infringed. Panelists will also look at the threatened voices from the emerging sectors such as the creative arts that are being silenced because one of them (Bobi Wine) decided to run against the president's 35-year-old rule in the last election, also touch the effect of the shutdown on their livelihoods considering that they are relying on the internet since COVID-19 led to the closure of live performances. For Nigeria, the panelists will tell the story of the digital rights violation during the #EndSars campaign. There's a lawyer who will discuss why the African legal and enforcement framework fails to prevent internet shutdowns and weakens digital rights. At the end of the session, the panelists will answer the followers' questions and provide their recommendations.

Join us in these sessions to contribute knowledge, skills and showcase strategies in promoting women’s rights online.  Follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@wougnet); and Instagram: (@wougnet1) to get more updates. 

Related Resources on the Topics

1. Not ‘revenge porn’: Non-consensual intimate imagery in Uganda https://wougnet.org/website/news/newsingle/49

2. TECHNOLOGY RELATED VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: Investigating Tech related Violence Against Women in Peri-Urban Areas of Uganda https://wougnet.org/assets/portal/wougnetwebsite/publications/2020-10-01/report-vaw_1.pdf

3. Understanding Online Gender-Based Violence https://wougnet.org/website/publications/publicationsingle/26

4. Online Gender-Based Violence An assessment of women’s safety in the digital space. https://wougnet.org/website/publications/publicationsingle/30

5. Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) Submission on domestic violence in the context of COVID-19 to UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women (VAW) https://wougnet.org/assets/portal/wougnetwebsite/publications/2020-11-16/report.pdf

6. Open Data for Women and Persons with Disabilities https://digitalhumanrightslab.org/blog/open-data-for-women-and-persons-with-disabilities/

7. Online GBV - why it's still crucial to raise awareness https://digitalhumanrightslab.org/blog/why-its-still-important-to-create-awareness-about-ogbv/

8. Non-Consensual Intimate Images: Can ICT help? https://digitalhumanrightslab.org/blog/non-consensual-intimate-imagery-how-can-digital-security-help/

9. Cutting internet access when people need it the most: stories from Uganda https://www.accessnow.org/internet-shutdown-stories-from-uganda/

10. Internet Shutdowns: An Evaluation of Women’s Online Expression and Participation in Uganda https://medium.com/global-network-initiative-collection/internet-shutdowns-an-evaluation-of-womens-online-expression-and-participation-in-uganda-8a4cac7bc479

11. Will Uganda shut down the internet as opposition heats up for 2021 elections? https://globalvoices.org/2019/11/25/will-uganda-shut-down-the-internet-as-opposition-heats-up-for-2021-elections/

12. Taxing dissent: Uganda’s social media dilemma https://globalvoices.org/2019/12/12/taxing-dissent-ugandas-social-media-dilemma/

13. Market mayhem in Uganda as COVID-19 measures upend women’s lives https://globalvoices.org/2020/03/28/market-mayhem-in-uganda-as-covid-19-measures-upend-womens-lives/

14. Examining the Impact of Internet Shutdowns on Women’s Online Expression and Participation in Uganda https://medium.com/global-network-initiative-collection/examining-the-impact-of-internet-shutdowns-on-womens-online-expression-and-participation-in-uganda-500f15e6e25d

15. The Role of social media: An enabler in Voicing Women’s concerns in the Digital Age https://wougnet.org/website/blog/blogsingle/26

16. Freedom of Opinion and Expression Online is a Human Right even with Disinformation in the Digital Age https://wougnet.org/website/blog/blogsingle/27 

Written by Sandra Aceng,

Program Manager, Information Sharing and Networking

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The Usage of Digital Tools for Connecting and Empowering Girls and Women

There are several efforts being made towards improving gender equality. Today, basic Information and Communication Technology (ICT) knowledge is one of the most desired skills on the labor market. According to research carried out by European parliament, ICT is a growing sector that creates 120,000 new jobs every year. Women made up 16.7% of the nearly 8.2 million employed as ICT specialists in 2016. This implies that digital, mobile technologies and the internet have enormous potential for women’s empowerment, providing women with opportunities not to only generate income but also to find and share information, access educational and health services, interact, collaborate, network, and have their voices heard.

Due to the relevance of ICT in the labor market today, different organizations have come up to ensure that women are empowered to use ICTs, this is done through digital literacy trainings, provision of digital ICT tools like computers and internet enabled smart phones among other ways.  For example,  Web Foundation  findings indicated that in 2010, a Swedish engineering student called Malin Cronqvist initiated the Help to Help,  project after encountering barriers that limit the development of women in Tanzania during her volunteer work in Tanzania. The project was meant to provide females (especially in universities) with Information and Technology practical skills required, to reduce poverty by increasing access to education (awareness of gender inequalities amongst the women) and employment opportunities. This knowledge enabled women get employment, some were successful self-employed and encouraged more interest in tech skills amongst young women. This strived to improve gender equality.

 A survey from IT news Africa.com show that 19% of women use internet in Uganda, compared with men 27%. These figures indicate that men use internet more than women. This is due to several barriers such as lack of access to technology and digital literacy training, limited autonomy and inadequate infrastructure (often coupled with the high costs of connectivity). These barriers prevent many women from fully benefiting from the use of digital, mobile technologies and the Internet. For instance, 46% of women said they don’t use the internet because they don’t know-how to use it. Other factors/barriers include the cost of mobile data, the lack of a suitable device, digitization that comes with dangers and risks that include cybercrimes such as identity theft, online bullying which sometimes culminate into rape, kidnap or even murder. All these factors push women offline thus increase in gender digital divide.

There are several strategies that can be embraced by government and other stakeholders like Civil Society Organizations to facilitate the process of closing the gender digital gap. For instance, Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) carries out different activities to support and empower women using ICT. WOUGNET advocates for gender responsive ICT policies, offers digital literacy trainings, provides digital tools like mobile phones and computers, and mobile applications. Through WOUGNET’s partnership with  M-omulimisa; an existing SMS platform which is used on mobile phones by community monitors commonly known as Voluntary Social Accountability Committees (VSACS) and duty bearers(leaders) to improve service delivery in areas of agriculture, health, education and infrastructure  in Northern and Eastern parts of Uganda. This has empowered the local people in the communities’ especially women to have voice in society in regards to effective service delivery and further influence policy by demanding for accountability through the platform.

With support from Women Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF), WOUGNET is currently implementing the Civil Society in Uganda Digital Support Programme (CUSDS). The project is equipping its 25 women led member organizations with computers, airtime and internet bundles/ internet connectivity. WOUGNET has further   conducted digital literacy trainings, generated relevant content to sustain women and girls’ interest in internet spaces and creating online networks. All these efforts have played a crucial role in empowering women to continue working remotely during the COVID-19 crisis, thus, bridging the gender digital gap.

To empower more women, the government of Uganda needs to develop and implement strategies that promote the access and usage of ICTs by women. There is a need to implement interventions that remove roadblocks to access and usage of ICTs by women such as narrowing the digital divide between urban and people living the rural areas by availing ICTs to the underserved communities and promoting the digital literacy of women so that more marginalized groups such as women can use ICTs.

The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) needs to work and engage with Civil Society Organizations such as the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) to better integrate gender into its digital policies. These policies will reduce cyber-crimes such as identity theft, online bullying, data breaches, sexual harassments, online gender base violence, among others. Through this collaboration, policymakers will help to transform their agencies’ approach to gender and deliver policies that are designed to meet the specific needs that women have online.

Written by;

Babirye Roseline, Program Officer, Gender and ICT policy Advocacy

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