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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UCC Study Reveals Low Access and Usage of Information & Communication Technologies (ICTs) by Persons with Disabilities (PWDs)

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

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