KAMPALA – As Uganda joins the rest of the world to commemorate International Women’s Day – IWD on March 8, a number of Civil Society Organisations – CSOs have decried limited access to internet and affordability of the digital world for many women and girls.
These say that access and affordability of the internet and other digital technologies is critical in achieving gender inclusion but there are many structural inequalities such as in income, education and employment opportunities which all increase barriers to access and use technology.
Addressing press at Eureka Hotel Ntinda on Tuesday, the CSOs including, Uganda Women’s Network – UWONET, Forum for Women in Democracy – FOWODE, Women of Uganda Network, BarefootLaw, and Akina Mama Wa Afrika noted that Uganda has one of the lowest internet penetration rates (29.1%) in Africa which is largely attributed to the high data prices.
“As a result, millions of women and girls are either forced to depend on their husbands to access the internet or remain offline.”
This year’s International Women’s Day which will be celebrated under the theme “Digital: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality,” is focused on recognizing and celebrating the women and girls who are championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education.
The CSO leaders say that despite the country’s existing laws and policies on ICT such as the National Information Technology Authority Uganda Act (2009), Data Protection and Privacy Act (2019), National Information and Communications Technology Policy (2014), access to technology and ICT is still a big challenge for women and girls in Uganda.
They appreciated judiciary’s efforts to undertake some major steps to migrate from paper-based filing system to Electronic Count Case Management Information System (ECCMIS), but say that there is low adoption of ICT by most of its officers preferring to use the old system in the delivery of justice which creates a double burden for women who already struggle to access justice because they are poorer with a lower social status.
On the hand, CSOs note that although technology has improved diagnosis response and treatment in every way from accuracy, to speed to accessibility there by reducing maternal mortality, it is still not affordable to all women in Uganda, hence remains for the few privileged who can afford.
“For example the Women’s Hospital in Mulago has the latest technology but is not affordable by ordinary Ugandan women.”
“Important to note is that despite the availability of technology and ICTs, many of the women in Uganda have a low income compared to men and therefore cannot afford to own a computer and because of their domestic roles they are unable to spend time or visit internet cafes. This limits their access to online platforms hence the information gap. Moreover, women are less likely to know the language for communication, reading, and computer skills needed to surf the web since only 72% of Ugandan women are literate according to the UBOS 2022,” they said.
“Although there has been progress registered in access and usability of ICT in Uganda, the digital divide is still wide in comparison between men and women,” they added.
The leaders also blamed lack of gender responsive policies in the ICT sector which has resulted to human rights and safety concerns such as cyber bullying, online harassment and cyberstalking against women and girls.
“Despite the passing of the Privacy and Data Protection Act to protect the rights of online users, there is still a massive presence of online sexy contents, pornography or contents objectifying women and the consumption of such materials that further acts of violence against women.”
“Beyond online harassment and cyberstalking by non-state actors, Uganda’s legal environment is unfriendly as it provides for surveillance and lawful interception and monitoring of communications in the course of telecommunications, postal or any other related services or systems,” they added.
The leaders want the Government to strengthen its role and invest enough resources towards making ICT services nearer to all Ugandans and more especially women who majority have for long been left out as a way to reduce the digital divide
They say the Government should make broadband internet accessible and affordable to all Ugandans in the urban and rural areas.
Government has to reduce taxes on technology, innovation and ICT equipment such that they become affordable to average Ugandan women. Our call is specific to technology related to smart and clean agriculture, reduction of unpaid care and domestic work. business equipment among others
Government and other actors should invest in skilling women and girls to enhance access and use of technology and ICT
The Ministry of ICT and National Guidance should ensure that ICT policy frameworks have women’s unique perspectives and views integrated in order to produce a robust law that is gender-sensitive in order to reduce the digital divide
The Uganda Communications Commission should work with telecommunication service providers to improve access and affordability by lowering the cost associated with internet data and other digital technologies for women and girls in order to enhance affordability. 7 Government to invest more resources on the Electronic Court Case Management Information System (ECCMIS), to enhance speedy access to justice for women and girls,
The Ministry of ICT, and NITA-U should populate and expedite the implementation of the Data Protection Policy by passing the required regulations and setting up relevant offices.
The media should strive to inform, educate and mobilize the public to respect and promote women rights online.
The media should also improve on their professionalism in reporting about cases of online violence against women. 11. Civil society organizations should seek to build stronger multi-stakeholder coalitions to advance and promote women’s rights online.
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