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Monthly Archives: September 2009

Chaos in Kampala; ‘Ebimeeza’ burned and three radio stations closed

People running with hands lifted up, blocked road and people stranded in traffic, school children stranded at their schools, burning vehicles, hit and run battles between Baganda youth not excluding the injured and dead etc were all scenes in Kampala.

Thursday 10th to Saturday 12th September 2009 have been days of running battles between the government (police) and Baganda loyalists over the refusal to allow the Kabaka (Buganda’s traditional king) to visit Kayunga, a district said to be having minority Baganda. This did not only bring business to a stand still and force people to stay in their homes but has lead to the closure of three radio stations, arrest of one journalist and burning of Ebimeeza (radio broadcast forums where people meet on weekends to discuss currents issues).

 The Ebimeeza are forums that have given Ugandans the ability to easily and quickly transmit their opinions on public policy or any current issues hence have increased the role of citizens in influencing policy making, (call it citizen Journalism).

While not condoning riots, the closure of media houses and arrest of journalists confirms that journalism freedom is still limited. As much as Uganda may boost or be rated among the 15 countries in Africa with the freest press, liberalized airwaves and open space for discussion in the public, the extent to which this true is limited to whether what is being reported or discussed threatens government’s sovereignty.

Burning of Ebimeeza has implications to the growth of citizen journalism in the country and the continued closure of media houses and arrest of journalist infringes on the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the media to inform or educating the public.

The Need to Integrate Gender in ICT Policy Processes

Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) is a broad concept that encompasses a wide range of ICTs such as computers, mobile phones, radios, CD Roms etc. Uganda’s ICT Policy defines ICTs as technologies that provide an enabling environment for physical infrastructural and services development for generation, transmission, processing, storing and disseminating information in all forms including voice, text, data, graphics and video. The policy has three areas of focus, namely, information as a resource for development, mechanisms for accessing information, and ICT as an industry, including e-business, software development and manufacturing.

In essence, the ICT policy framework defines the operations of ICT related activities and provides broad guidelines for operation in mainly three areas; telecommunication, broadcasting and Internet.  Indeed, a well developed ICT policy would provide significant opportunities for all citizens including poor men and women to access information that is relevant to enhancement of their socioeconomic and political lives.

 

ICTs are widely recognised as key tools that can enable the participation of poor women and men in economic and civic life and help them to move out of poverty. Eighty-seven percent of Uganda’s population lives in rural areas and ICTs have a great role to play in providing rural populations with education and training, job opportunities, access to markets, social services and other information relevant to their economic enhancement and effective participation in political processes.

 Why Engender ICTs?

Gender is a social construct specifying the socially and culturally prescribed roles that men and women are to follow in a given society. Therefore gender determines the social roles, responsibilities and relationships and privileges between men and women in a given society. In this case, gender determines access, utilization and application of ICT among men and women. Much of the benefits and potential of ICTs remains untapped especially for groups experiencing time constraints, social isolation, lack of access to knowledge and productive resources and women in developing countries have been identified among the most affected groups. 

In Uganda, women’s awareness and usage of ICTs is nearly three times less than that of men and their access to ICTs is constrained by;

  • Inadequate technological infrastructure in rural areas
  • Social and cultural bias
  • Low levels of education and skills
  • Lack of disposable income to purchase technology services
  • Limitation of the media.
  • Lack of Gender Disaggregated Data (GDD)

Available evidence indicates that without explicit articulation of gender in policies, gender issues and concerns are not likely to be considered during implementation.  Moreover, policy making in technological fields had been noted to ignore the needs, requirements and aspirations of women unless gender analysis is included. As such, without specific attention and action, there would be no equitable distribution of benefits for men and women, with women often disadvantaged.

Whereas the draft national ICT policy framework recognizes gender mainstreaming as one of its objectives, it is important to understand that gender is a cross cutting issue that should not be addressed in isolation. As such, deliberate efforts should be undertaken to mainstream gender in all the strategies.  It is also important to note that to achieve the desired results, gender concerns should be explicitly addressed in all policy processes including policy elaboration, implementation and evaluation. This calls for the development of gender-monitoring indicators to measure impact from the gender perspective. Gender and development policy makers also need to develop a dialogue with IT policy makers to ensure that the proposed strategies are implemented.

‘e- Agriculture an emerging field to help women fight poverty’

Women remain the main contributors to agricultural production, and in many societies they are responsible for ensuring that food for their families is on the table. Providing women with relevant information on agriculture is a very important strategy to improving productivity and livelihoods.

“e-Agriculture” is an emerging field comprising the enhancement of agriculture and rural development through improved information exchange, communication and learning processes, based on the use of internet and other digital technologies by actors in agriculture locally, regionally and worldwide.

Civil society organisations have embarked on using ICTs to enable women/rural communities to access information on how to improve on the quality of their products, acquire improved seeds and crop varieties, source of inputs, diseases and pests control, soil management and conservation and how to improve their production skills. In Uganda they include among others WOUGNET that has an information centre in Northern Uganda, BROSDI- CELAC project based in Mayuge, CEEWA Uganda – Wires project with beneficiaries in Nakaseke, Buwama and other areas. RANET-Uganda and ARENET are other initiatives that make use ICTs to promote agricultural production.

Radio programmes, use of SMS as well as audiotapes, video tapes and CD-ROMs are used to disseminate/share agricultural related information to farmers. Websites are also increasingly being used to disseminate information on market prices, trade support services, business and entrepreneurship tips, best practices in Agriculture etc.

The Radio and Internet Program (RANET) provides information on weather, water, and climate to rural and remote populations in the form of environmental forecasts, observations, and warnings in the hope of promoting sustainable development and reducing disaster losses. In Uganda the RANET programme is implemented by the meteorological department.

E-Agriculture presents an opportunity of increasing income and reducing poverty among rural communities and women; there is need for more e-agriculture projects to be set up in rural areas given that they depend largely on agriculture.

Can ICTs further marginalize women’s status in society?

It is widely acknowledged that ICT presents unique and timely opportunities for women and girls. It promises better economic prospects, fuller political participation, communication with the outside world, easy access to information, and an enhanced ability to acquire education and skills and to transcend social restrictions. ICT is especially important to poor women because it can provide increased access to resources, the absence of which defines poverty. Hence, ICTs are tools that facilitate access to a variety of development resources.

However, uneven distribution of ICT within societies and across the globe is resulting in a “digital divide” between those who have access to information resources and those who do not. Women’s access to ICTs is relatively low compared to that of men leading to a gender digital divide. In Uganda women’s awareness and usage of ICTs is nearly three times less than that of men (2006 ResearchICT Africa!).

A gendered division of labor is evident in the ICT sector and has resulted in women being mainly end users, taking up low skilled IT jobs, a small percentage of women engaging in maintenance and design of networks, operating systems or software development.

Women’s lower levels of literacy and education relative to men as well as negative attitudes towards girls’ achievement in science and mathematics, largely contribute to the gender dimensions of digital divide. Women’s lower degree of economic security than men and gender-related constraints on their time and mobility also limit their access, use and participation in shaping the course of ICTs compared to their male counterparts.

This calls for deliberate efforts to enable women benefit from ICTs, these include creating awareness about the benefits and opportunities offered by ICTs among women, building women/girls’ capacity in ICT use, setting up projects or initiatives aimed at increasing women’s access and use of ICTs, encouraging girls to take up science and IT courses as well as eliminating gender stereotypes and factors that prevent women taking up ICT opportunities.

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