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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IWD2021: Recognizing How Women of Uganda Network Has Used ICTs to Enhance the Wellbeing of Women During the Covid -19 Pandemic

It’s this time of the year that Women Rights Organizations look back and take pride in the efforts they have labored to improve the quality of life of women and at the same time challenge the rest of   the world to acknowledge that Women Rights are also Human Rights. March 8th is not only a thrilling day for women all over the world to celebrate their accomplishments, it’s a prominent time for organizations like Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) to commemorate the social, economic, cultural, and political triumphs they have registered in promoting gender equality using ICTs especially in the difficult times of the COVID-19.

Just like any other contagion, the unpredicted outbreak of COVID 19 caught Uganda and other countries around the world by surprise and thus greatly affected the well being of many people especially women and other vulnerable groups. This global crisis and notifiable disease inevitably forced the Ugandan  government to employ stringent measures to contain it and these included lockdown, social, physical distancing  and night curfew which significantly disrupted economic activity. As a result, many people experienced a reduction in their daily incomes due to loss of jobs, reduced flow of remittances, and loss of market for their products. In addition, Ugandans that depend on the government’s free health services due to poverty experienced limited access to health care.

While gender is oftentimes under looked in the face of epidemics, women and girls are most affected and this has the same for the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a technical brief titled “Gendered Dimensions of The Economic Impacts of Covid-19 In Uganda”, it was reported that women and girls are bound to be left out during COVID- 19 responses. The brief further indicated that during the COVID-19 containment, men were the most dominant under the essential workers’ category that was allowed to continue with work during the total lockdown while most women stayed home. All this and more left women in a state of desolation and vulnerability. Uganda’s experience has only been a reflection of other countries elsewhere.  

In order to address the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls, Women’s Rights Organizations worldwide have embraced ICT as a tool to empower women during the COVID-19 crisis. For instance, on the International Day of the Girl  that was celebrated in October 2020, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) collaborated with the Permanent Mission of Bulgaria to host a virtual event on  ”Gender Equality in Science, Technology and Innovation: Driving Sustainable Future during COVID-19  and beyond”. The discussion focused on the progress achieved in empowering women and girls and the hindrances that affect women in accessing ICTs.

It’s against this background that WOUGNET enhanced the use of ICTs to address the plight of women during the distressing time of COVID-19. WOUGNET has been predominant and vibrant in mitigating the effects of COVID-19 by venturing into various mechanisms of ICTs as a tool for controlling the spread of the disease. For example, as a way of addressing the disinformation on COVID-19 that was causing a lot of panic and fear, WOUGNET made use of its SMS platform called “M-Omulimisa” to share information with rural women in remote areas that barely had access to internet platforms and televisions that constantly shared information about the disease. The platform therefore played a vital role in addressing the myth about the disease. For instance, in March, 2020, the daily monitor reported that the late Pastor Augustine Yiga of Revival Church Kawaala  commonly known as “Abizaayo  was arrested for uttering false information that COVID-19 that there was no COVID-19 in Africa.

Furthermore, WOUGNET has also been using radio campaigns in districts like Apac and Agago to create awareness about the rising cases of gender-based violence (both physical and online violence) as a result of the COVID 19 restrictions. This enabled women in these districts to learn more abought their digital rights in the online space and also got information on what to do and where to report in case they fall victim. This in accordance with WOUGNET’s report on domestic violence in the COVID 19 context, it was stated that violence against women and girls had become more persuasive due to the outbreak of COVID-19. This was associated with stringent measures (like curfew and limited movement) enacted by the government which exposed women more to abuse because of spending more hours under one roof with the perpetrators of violence.

In order to respond to the aggressive working conditions like working remotely that arose due to the outbreak of COVID-19 as a way of complying with the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) issued by the Ministry of Health, WOUGNET in partnership with the Women Peace and Humanitarian fund built the capacity of the staff of its 25 member organizations to enable them to adapt to the new working environment. This was achieved by equipping them with various ICT skills like video conferencing tools such as zoom, google meet, google hangout calls to enable them work from home. These initiatives in a long run trickled down to the women beneficiaries through service delivery and thus improving their wellbeing throughout during the lockdown.

WOUGNET has also conducted and published several research studies during the COVID-19 pandemic as a way of creating awareness of the negative experiences of women and advocating for their rights. Furthermore, it used the findings to influence policy decisions on ICT and gender-based violence both on a national and international level. In accordance with this fact, WOUGNET submitted a report to the UN special rapporteur on the violence against women (VAW) in the context of COVID-19.  The report boldly indicated that VAW had increased due to the unforeseen outbreak of COVID-19. WOUGNET further tasked the government, civil society, and development partners, and all stakeholders to enhance the involvement of male allies in the fight against VAW. An article published by WOUGNET clearly illustrated the challenges that women face in accessing the internet during the COVID-19 pandemic. It stated that the gender digital divide increased during the COVID-19 pandemic thus limiting many women from working remotely and also indicated that most women depended on their husbands for data. In this article, WOUGNET advocated for women by tasking the government to scrap off the OTT tax to enhance internet access for women.

In the quest to enhance the wellbeing of women during the upsetting time of COVID-19, WOUGNET chose to challenge the hindrances of COVID-19, by embracing the sense of agency to use ICTs during the COVID-19 pandemic where ICTs have become very crucial.

As we continue to celebrate this amazing month for women, WOUGNET commends all Women's Rights Organizations, private sectors, and government institutions that have played a critical role in using ICTs to address the plight of women amidst the unprecedented face of COVID-19. We, therefore, #ChooseToChallenge policymakers and all stakeholders to integrate gender in all policies, laws, and measures geared at addressing the impact of COVID-19 and future pandemics.

If we are to #BuildBackBetter from the impact of COVID-19, an enabling environment should be created for women to participate fully in the decision-making processes regarding ICT for development. This is because they understand better the challenges, they have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic where ICTs and the internet have become a meaningfully indispensable part of life.

Written by, Nampiima Maria Goretti

Program Assistant Volunteer, Information Sharing, and Networking.

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Gendered impact of COVID -19 on businesses: The case of women in the informal sector in Uganda

While the impact of COVID-19 outbreak on businesses varies depending on the industry, there's one group that has been hit particularly hard in the world; women-owned small-scale businesses.

A recent survey carried out by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce indicates how businesses have been impacted by the pandemic. For instance, the number of female-owned the business has fallen from 60% in January to 47% in July 2020 and male-owned business from 67% to 62% during the same period of time. This means females fell by 13 points and males by 5 points.  According to International Tarde Centre, more than 90% of women entrepreneurs reported a decrease in sales during the pandemic and have less than three months of cash flow to survive compared to 52% of men-led companies.

Such figures imply that women entrepreneurs were most affected by the stay-at-home orders issued early in the pandemic. After the closure of ‘’non-essential’ businesses (owned by most women), women were left with no option but to stay home and concentrate on their families. Due to the increased domestic responsibilities like homeschooling, child care, and household chores, they would not get time to do other works which could earn them a living. To add to that,  research conducted by the Facebook survey/inc.com, found out that31% of women had spent more time on domestic tasks since the pandemic started, compared to 26% of men. This affected their ability to focus on work thus a decrease in their growth.

As a result, women-led businesses were disproportionately hurt by the stifling effects of shutdowns, and more likely to close than those run by men. 

In Uganda, it is reported that 34.8% of businesses are owned by women which makes East Africa the top-performing country in Africa in terms of women entrepreneurship. It is also a country with the highest percentage of female entrepreneurs with 90.5 percent of women borrowing and saving money to start-up small profitable businesses with as little as what their pocket can afford. These small profitable businesses include; Salons, Fast food restaurant, Selling Clean Water, Tomato farming, Poultry farming, second-hand clothes, hawking, Photocopying, and Printing services.

It was unfortunate that on 30th March 2020, the president of Uganda, his excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni imposed a lockdown due to the pandemic that hit the world. This included the closure of non-essential businesses (owned by most women) apart from that selling foodstuff who were allowed to operate.

From that day, this has affected business people especially women since they carry the highest percentage of entrepreneurism in the country. It has been hard for men to regain their businesses, but harder for women because of unavoidable circumstances such as; businesses slowing down, some closing, and others have been forced to change businesses.

Joyce Atuhaire, the director of operations Agro Tourism Association said, “the pandemic affected women differently, some have lost businesses, others started new ones especially those dealing with perishable products due to lack of market.

 

The following were also various ways how women entrepreneurs were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic:

·         Most female entrepreneurs feel that increased family care demands have reduced their ability to focus their attention on their businesses, hurting their ability to generate income. For instance, women employees, especially during required home-based work were more inclined to resign due to increasing childcare needs.

·         The restrictions in the movement have led to more incidences of intimate partner and family violence, hurting the productivity of firms as they struggle to deal with its mental and economic impact on their work and employees.

·         In addition, companies do not know how to address the mental health and well-being of employees during the pandemic. More than one-third of women-owned businesses have expressed increased anxiety due to the uncertainty of COVID 19 and concerns on how to support the health and wellbeing of employees.

Together, these factors could affect women’s opportunities to cope with the crisis and widen differences in health and capital when the pandemic fades. Restrictions in the movement have increased family violence thus affecting both the physical and mental health of family members especially women. These differences affect the performance and focus of women at work(business) and slow down the economic recovery.

Deepening economic gaps caused by the COVID-19 pandemic between men and women will jeopardize a fast return from a recession through huge gaps in productivity. The pervasive inequality could further widen due to the impact of the current crisis. However, there are some solutions to that. These include;

·         Support home-based work, care options, and flexible work schedules. Recruit, retain, and promote women during and after the crisis to prevent loss of talent.

·         Enable women entrepreneurs access to working capital and insurance products  to help stabilize their businesses.

·         Ensure the safety of employees and suppliers by addressing violence and   harassment at the company level.

·         Invest in digital infrastructure to boost home-based work opportunities and mobile internet access, where women scientifically lag behind men. Innovative solutions should be developed and simplified digital solutions to adapt their business models to be more inclusive during the pandemic because the pandemic has revealed digital connectivity is a critical element for business continuity.

 

Since female-owned businesses are most affected, they are more likely to face a big challenge in future investment plans compared to their counterparts (males). However, with the above solutions especially digital connectivity (can help them to work from home, sell their products easily, and it is time-saving) can enable them to continue with their work.

Investing in women's economic empowerment sets a direct path towards gender equality, internet access, and use due to affordability of ICT tools, poverty eradication, inclusive economic growth and sustainable development. Women make enormous contributions to economies by participating in businesses, and agriculture, as entrepreneurs, employees, or by doing unpaid care work at home.

 

Photo: Picture from the African Women in the Informal Sector- Bing images


Compiled by;

Babirye Roseline, program officer Gender and ICT policy Advocacy

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