Why the 16 days of activism against GBV should focus on Online Violence

While speaking to a peer last week about online spaces, she had this to say “I am no longer interested in online
activities because I get threatened especially on twitter and I now feel so insecure”. It was not the first time
I was hearing such remarks especially from female colleagues. Once again I had been reminded about the realities of gender-based violence, but in different spaces; Online. The power dimensions online mirror the existing power structures in the real world where Power online, can represent power structures offline in patriarchal societies. Read more

Held Hostage by your phone? Learn some Phone Etiquette

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog about
email etiquette and the readership was wide. I also received a couple of private
messages thanking me for sharing what seemed obvious yet many continued to
abuse their emails.  I have since
realized the need to write another on phone etiquette and why, despite the
advancement in telephony, many of us continue to be blinded by these gadgets
and loose respect for those who offer their time to be with and around us.

Read more

The Fake Facebook Comments

A story is told of a young man. Let’s
call him Otim. Otim was to travel to the US for the very fast time and, out of
excitement, updated his Facebook status. Sure, many of us do the same, only
that our Otim here updated his status two weeks ahead of his trip. The comments
were almost instant, with many congratulating him, some asking what he was
going to do in the US and others asked which state it was that he was going to.
Social media can be a downright silly place to be in so some of the comments
bordered on the indescribable. One stood out: Otim’s old school friend demanded
he checks on him while in the US. “Make sure you call me up when you get here,
looking forward to seeing you again after so many year,” the comment
read. 

Otim’s ‘generous’ friend who put this
outstanding comment gave him his home address in the US and email address in
case he needed any help. (By the way, the home address was one that existed).
He then offered to continue with the chat off Otim’s timeline to the
inbox.  Three days to his trip, as he went by doing some shopping in
downtown Kampala, Otim bumped into his “US friend” trying to run some errands.
Shocked at the sight of the guy who he thought was in the US, Otim tried to
convince himself that this could either be his brother or a look alike. But the
shock on his friend’s face at the sight of Otim gave him in faster than water
soaks cotton. Otim’s hilarious narration of the event inspired this blog post.
I came to work in Nairobi a
year-and-a-half ago from The Netherlands. Like Otim, I updated my Facebook
status about how excited I was (not that I was that excited because I had my
own crazy opinion of Nairobi). My excitement was from the fact that Nairobi is
a couple of hours away from home and that I could easily go to Uganda to see my
people and get back faster and cheaper than while I was in Europe. The reaction
to my update was huge, with many of my Kenyan friends and Ugandan friends
living in Kenya asking me to let them know when I arrived, if I needed any
help, suggesting that we could go ‘do’ coffee or lunch and inquiring about
where my next home in Nairobi would be. In Nairobi, just like Kampala, you are
judged based on where you live. Places like Westelands, Lavington, Upperhill et
cetera harbour a certain class of people, so do places like South C and 
Langata. Same as in Kampala. Kololo, Muyenga, Buziga etc are places for those
who have the money. I was so flattered but little did I know that one and half
years down the road, I would never meet these people. I came to Nairobi, saw
it, enjoyed it and found my way around it but I am yet to meet all those who
commented on my status update that day, and continue to occasionally comment on
many of my updates.

Now, I am not here to rant about my
Kenyan Facebook friends, but to share some of my interesting experiences in
Kenya, particularly Nairobi. My Facebook friends are too busy and I don’t blame
them. I am glad that at least we are friends on Facebook. That’s good enough.
Beautiful Nairobi City. Photo Credit: www.nairobitoday.co.ke
Back in Uganda, I had heard all sorts
of stories about Nairobi. Scary stories. Talk about car jerks in broad day
light, shootings at residential gates as people drove in, jumping onto a
speeding matatu and having to know how to speak “Sheng” (a blend of Swahili and
English) in order to survive.
I don’t remember hearing anything
positive save for the nice building and good roads. Sure, most of these things
are not true. With all these at the back of my mind, I always prayed never to
find myself in Nairobi for a long-term stay, especially employment or
education. It’s ironical because these are the exact reasons I am now in
Kenya—to work and study. But food comes first at any one time.
Let’s whet the appetite.
The Food 
My first shock came with the food. I
love food and I love it in variety. Uganda has all the foods you can imagine.
Fresh and tasty. Kenya being a neighbour, I thought it wouldn’t be a problem
getting the food I loved. Wrong. So freaking cultural shock. On day one at
work, I went out for lunch with a couple of colleagues from my Unit. At the
eatery, they all made their orders on a reflection. “Ugali na Nyama”. I asked
the waiter to give me five minutes to think through the menu. These guys didn’t
have to look at the menu. As the waiter brought their orders, I was shocked to
see ‘Posho’—the very white one every girl in boarding school lived to
curse—with ‘Mchomo’ (roast meat) and collard greens, the very renowned ‘sukuma
wiki’ (apparently, it is aptly named so to mean ‘pushing the week’ as it is a
common dish that helped many peasant families live on back in the days).
At this point, everyone had a plate of
food in front of them except me. I had to place my order. I asked for chicken
and rice with soup. I repeated soup loudly incase he missed it. This amused my
colleague, with one sarcastically joking that, “She is a typical Ugandan; they
love soup! This statement would make lots of sense in the coming months.
To cut my food story short, I got to
learn more about Kenyan foods and fell in love with ‘Mukimo’ and the fish but
not with Ugali. I don’t even intend to. Since I am not a fun of red meat, I am
happy to continue enjoying the fish. I found out the foods grown and eaten in
different regions of Kenya and got rid of the stereotype about the “Ugali na
Nyama” being the only food known to and loved by Kenyans. A thing which many
Kenyans are yet get rid of, a similar stereotype about Matooke (mashed
plantains) being loved and eaten by all Ugandans. My Kenyas friends, not all
Ugandans eat matooke. Many of you travel and stop in Kampala and your opinion
of Uganda is informed by the experiences in Kampala where the predominant tribe
is Baganda. Yes, a muganda’s meal is incomplete without matooke, just like a
Musoga man has no meal without boiled sweet potatoes, and my Northern
connection people wouldn’t go without peanut. Uganda is a huge country. Oh, the
other thing: while yams, sweet potatoes, cassava form part of the main course
meal in Uganda, it is a different story in Kenyan—they are eaten for breakfast.
Yes Breakfast!
The Matatu (s)
Whenever I travel to a new country, I
enjoy trying out their public means of transport because it’s usually
affordable and it helps me have an idea of the realities among the citizens,
especially the common man from the chats, lamentation and jokes shared. It’s
exactly what I did in Nairobi. My command of Swahili is not so good but I can
communicate and engage in a simple discussion.  Well, for a Ugandan, the
thought of using these buses or commuter taxis in Nairobi is enough torture.
Many of my friends who have been to Nairobi and have attempted to use them
complain about the loud music that they play, the speed and the fact that the
conductors collect money as soon as the bus takes off. In Kenya, you’ve got to
pay your fare whether you will reach your destination or not. In Uganda, the
story is different. You stop the ‘taxi’  lazily with an attitude, get in as
slowly as you can and only pay when you are close to your destination.
The clincher with Kampala is that you
have the liberty to stop the taxi at any point on the road and yell at the
conductor and the driver if the vehicle stopped a few inches past where you
wanted to, regardless of whether the driver had a parking spot or no. I was
told that the people from Mombasa are the ones who board matatus like Ugandans.
I am yet to find out why and confirm this.
Now, this might sound ridiculous but I
prefer the Kenyan Matatus, save for the two occasions that I almost broke my
legs and specs while jumping off. The thing is, I thought that the matatu had
stopped, only for it to move as I was putting my first leg on the ground. It
was a gross experience but a learning one too. I am told that it’s necessary to
go through it to learn the hard way and prevent future falls that could be
fatal.
But if you are the time consummate,
speed is everything with Kenyan matatus. They fill up so fast, the fare rarely
changes. In Uganda, a light drizzle will see the fare triple and commuters have
no business complaining. Kenyans also give a receipt when you pay. The best
part of it all is that they do not stop anywhere, anyhow to drop off or pick
passengers except at their designated bus stops. Now I like that kind of order.
I am an ardent fan of Kenya Bus Service (KBS) buses and occasionally those from
Westlands that play the coolest reggae music as they get into town. I do not
mind the Kenyan matatus at all because unlike in my country where you must know
“Luganda” to feel so comfortable in a taxi (Matatu), in Nairobi, you only have
to know the bus number to your destination and make sure you have money. You
don’t have to talk much. In Kenya, a taxi is an equivalent of “Special hire”.
The taxis in Uganda are what are known as Matatu in Kenya or Daladala in
Tanzania.
The learning environment
I am enrolled at one of the
Universities in Nairobi and it’s extremely interesting to be a foreign student
in Kenya. When I mention that I am Ugandan, students smile and some whisper
Museveni. I wonder what I have got to do with Museveni besides him being my
president. But I realized that he has this weird popularity in Kenya. Many
Kenyans laugh at his accent when speaking Swahili, others at his jokes of
having his cows stolen by the pokot while others simply enjoy the jokes that
the media makes of him. The learning is quite interesting because students
identify me as the “Ugandan girl” and some ask if I personally know Anne
Kansime.
This school environment has taught me
how to differentiate Kenyans based on their tribes just by the way they speak.
Not so different from Uganda. For instance, some Luo have challenges with “sh”
and so they could say something like “fis” to means “fish”, some Kikuyu just
like the Baganda of Uganda use  ‘L’ and ‘R’ interchangeable. For instance,
saying “bring’ would instead become “bling” and the Kamba are as lavish with
the letter “M” as a Nigerian would be with their age that they fix it almost
every where ‘mboy’ for “moy”, ‘mbig’  for “big.” The some Luhya
have “ko” which people make fun of and would say “Niambieko” instead of
“Niambie” etc. I am amazed by the diversity and I respect their “normal”. I
appreciate these differences and yearn to learn as much as I can from these
people. School has made me realize the differences in speech among many
Africans and made it easy for me to identify a Kenyan’s way of speech and
connotation regardless of how polished their English may be. No wonder it’s
also easy for Kenyans to tell a Ugandan from the accent.  Of course, I
have also learnt that the word “imagine” can be placed anywhere in a sentence
depending on how sad or interesting a conversation is. It’s used to express
shock, excitement , anger, joy… name it.

The Tribal
Jokes
Many of us only get to hear about Luos and Kikuyus as
if Kenya is only made up of those two tribes. Well, I will not get into the
nitty gritty of this, but will stick to the jokes that are made about them. The
luo take up the bigger chunk of this, because they are said to be a proud lot
of people. There is a funny joke that Luos do not drive Toyota Vitzs and that
if someone driving a vitz hooted while on the road and a luo was driving next
to them, The luo will lower their car window and say that this……. “people driving vitz are not supposed to hoot
because unlike other cars that get log books when purchased, a receipt is given
for a purchase of a vitz. So be patient and wait for the real cars to move, the follow in silence

Another silly joke is summarized in this picture below. About the Kikuyus, the
jokes revolve around money and how they take up any opportunity to make money
and that for one to prove that a Kikuyu is dead, you need to drop a coin on the
floor. And if the corpse doesn’t show any signs of movement, then the person is
indeed dead. Not funny but those are some of the jokes made to emphasise their
love for money. Nothing is taken so seriously among the Kenyans, these are
jokes that have found their was to high platforms manned by comedians like “ThechurchHill Show”.

Received via Whatsupp. If you know the source, please let me know so that I can give the credit.

My Cab guy
I could write about so many things other interesting
things in Nairobi, but I will stop at this one because it’s one of the most
interesting. I met this cab guy a few weeks after I settled into Nairobi. He
was one of those cabs you call out randomly and then take his mobile number and keep
calling him when you need to be dropped to places occasionally. This guy is the
most hilarious man I have met in Nairobi. I do not need to buy news papers to
know what’s going on in Nairobi. He will give me the latest updates with a
sizzling touché to them and even add more details using his own theories. He is
one of the most punctual cab guys I know and he keeps his word. I consult him
when I have to travel somewhere within Kenya and he advices on the safety and
expectations. He has recommended me to visit a couple of places and has taken
me to some of them. Each trip comes with new stories and so much laughter. He
has been in Nairobi for years and driven his taxi for years too, so he knows
the entire city like his palm. His advice is, never bully a Taxi man in Nairobi
or refuse to pay his fare and threaten him because when he takes you to police,
without listening to what transpired, the Taxi man will be favoured and you will be
fined heavily. The police are always on their side.  

Bottom line, this blog is to tell you never to get taken up or overly excited by comments that people make on your Facebook updates. Many write them
just for the sake of writing, very few are honest. If you have to travel, make
your own arrangements so that an invite from a friend is simply a bonus. You do
not want to get a shock of your life in a foreign country. I know all my
friends in Uganda would host me with Open arms :-). No doubt!! I thank you who
would and those with the desire to but wouldn’t for your generosity and
honesty. For now, I have so many Kenyan friends. I guess more than I really need. I am happy that I get to meet and talk to them often. 

Email Etiquette: Some of the basics that you need to know

The technological advancement today has made email part and parcel of many people’s lives as they have almost replaced the traditional letters. We need email addresses to join social networking sites, to either keep in touch with family/friends or to simply go about with our professional work. Therefore, there is no doubt that whoever is subscribed to any of the social media platforms, has an email address. That’s how important email is to us in today’s world.

Often times, we complain and lament about receiving too many emails and having no time to read through them all. Some people have close to 5 email accounts that they have to check on daily basis for fear of missing out on important communication. Being one of the people with multiple email accounts and one who has suffered poor email etiquette but at the same time guilty of poor email etiquette, I thought to myself about the value of emails and decided to share some of the ‪email etiquette on twitter, now summarized in this blog post. The common mistakes that people make and what to avoid when using email. In no particular order or category, the following are my findings based on my knowledge as a user.

ScreenShot2014-08-15at9.50.53PM

  1. Read email in its entirety: When you receive an email, please read it in its entirety before thinking of replying. If you must, read it more than once. This is extremely important because some people do not put the key points in the initial paragraphs and you could miss important information by reading it partially. Reading the entire message informs your reply.
  2. Acknowledge receipt of Email: When you receive an email that requires a detailed response and you are too busy to reply immediately, acknowledge receipt. It is so rude to receive an email, read it and completely ignore it. A simple message such as “I acknowledge receipt of your email and I will respond to it as soon as possible” is a sign of respect for the sender and appreciation for their time to send you an email. Please make sure you actually reply when you are ready to.
  3. Out of office auto responses: When you leave an out of office auto response, please do not let it exceed your return dates or when you are able to respond to your email. It is very unfortunate to indicate a date only for
    a sender to receive an out of office auto response a week past your return date. Always deactivate it as soon as you are back to work. If you work with a team, It is polite to share the email of an alternative contact person in your absence.
  4. Clear Subject Line: When writing formal emails, make sure the subject line is clear and that your main points are captured in the first paragraphs. Avoid writing what is irrelevant to the subject or purpose of the email. Read more here .
  5. Emotional Emails: When you receive emotional emails or emails that require tough decisions to make, do take sometime before you reply. Give them deep thoughts and reply from a logical point of view and less from an emotional one. This is so because emails can be saved and used many years later for reference. They could be used against you in the event that you over reacted in your response to such emails.
  6. Replying to all: When emails that may require individual feedback are sent to all recipients;- say on a mailing list of dgroup, Try not to REPLY TO ALL especially in workplaces. Some people reply an email to all (even to over 1000 people) with a message like “Thanks for the email”. This not only distracts people from productive work but fills their inboxes too. If you do not have to, do not reply but if you must, you can do it to only the sender unless you are required to reply to all.
  7. Official Email addresses: When you have an official email address, keep the conversations through it strictly official. You can never know who is stalking your email at work. Do not use your official email to discuss your private business or family issues. Because when your leave that workplace, it will be deactivated and remember that your employer may have access to it.
  8. Forwarding emails: Desist from forwarding “Funny” emails to dgroups or mailing lists because it annoys people. Know who to forward what to. Just because something is funny to you does not mean it will be funny to everyone. Also do not forward a whole chain to someone as you might send information that they do not need to know about. Where necessary, Edit messages before forwarding
  9. Email Signature: If you choose to have an email signature, make sure that all the information indicated is correct and up-to-date. Your telephone contacts should have your country code to cater for friends who leave beyond your country boarders, your social media links must also be accurate. Try to include as much details about your alternative communication channels. For example; a link to your blog, alternative email as well as Skype ID
  10. Simple language: When writing an email, keep your language simple. Today, people receive hundreds of emails on daily basis and using jargons in your emails only increases the burden that they have to deal with. You will not impress anyone by using ‘big language’. It will only get your messages deleted. Also avoid using shorthand like many youthful people do when sending SMSes. Not everyone is excited about shorthand especially for formal emails. For example writing “gr8” to mean great, “4get” for forget.
  11. Email Usernames: When choosing a username, Try to use your actual name(s) or initials because this becomes your Identity. Funny addresses raise suspicion and messages from them could be treated as junk. Using your name makes it easy to identify your emails or give them priority.
  12. Delivery Notifications: When you send an email that you consider important, activate your settings to notify you when the recipient opens it. This is very important to track who has received and read or attempted to read your email. It also gives you a clue about those who take long to respond to emails even if they read them as soon as they receive them.
  13. Sending yourself a copy: When sending a job, consultancy, assignment or scholarship related email, it is important to send yourself a copy too. This is good because in the event that they require you to resend it, you can easily locate it, edit it and forward it.
  14. Sharing Friend’s email: Just because you know a friend’s email address does not mean that you should share it with each and everyone especially without their permission. Also for event organizers, it is so rude for you to add one’s email to your organisation’s or company’s mailing list without their permission just because they attended your event and left their details behind including their email addresses. Please seek permission.
  15. Do a spell check: This is a function that is ignored by many email writers. Before sending an email, proof read for consistency and understanding. Once that is done, run a spell check and correct any grammar errors before you click send.

If you are the kind that keeps on forgetting to respond to your emails on time, there is good news for you. There are services that can help remind you. Both free and paid for; ‪http://www.lettermelater.com or ‪http://www.boomeranggmail.com/hp3/index.html

Please add any other tips in the comments section!!

Civil liberties under threat on the streets and online in Uganda

Since 2011, Uganda has been the scene of protests against corruption, poor health care, education, unemployment and alleged nepotism in the current ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) Government. As a result, opposition parties and civic groups have since 2011 planned rallies that have been actively blocked by the police under what they call the “preventive arrest” of protest leaders. Several activist groups have however continued to demonstrate in the capital Kampala and have often been faced with obstacles including beatings, harassment, arrests, use of live ammunition and tear gas canisters among others.
Tuesday 6th August saw the passing of a very contentious bill by the Ugandan 9th Parliament, the Public Order Management Bill. The bill was passed despite criticism from opposition members of Parliament, religious leaders, activists, human rights groups and some members of the public.
According to clause 8 of the bill, police have discretionary powers to reject or grant permission to a gathering, including the use of force to break up gatherings held without prior authorization. This clearly infringes on civil liberties and the sanctity of the constitution which guarantees these rights.

The Public Order Bill was initially proposed and tabled in 2009 and just like today, it sought to regulate public gatherings and empower the inspector general of police to regulate the conduct of meetings. Despite the heated debate in and outside Parliament it was finally passed on Tuesday. Prior to its passing, one of the young opposition lawmakers Hon. Odongo Otto, in an apparent bid to delay voting on the bill, tore up a roster of lawmakerswho were for the bill as the deputy speaker Hon. Jacob Olanyah looked on. For many, this was an act of courage and he was praised for representing and fighting for the rights of the people he serves.


As a youth activist, together with other young people in Uganda, I have on several occasions organized tweetups (physical meetings of people who tweet) at public coffee shops to discuss some of the issues affecting our country and what role we can play. These issues range from politics to governance, fundraising and youth unemployment. With the passing of this bill, we might never be able to discuss issues that affect us directly as young people.  Many have resorted to using the Internet to share, question, engage, blog and tweet their thoughts because they are afraid of what may befall them should they take to the streets after the passing of the bill. These virtual meetings are also under threat as the government’s communications regulator is planning to monitor and regulate the use of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

This poses a threat to Uganda, a country with the youngest population in the world and the highest rate of youth unemployment in sub-Saharan Africa. It is thus extremely important that youth activists seek to promote responsible and effective youth leadership to build positive attitudes towards education, knowledge sharing and entrepreneurship, human rights and tolerance Uganda, to contribute towards lowering the number of youth involved in criminal activity and increasing youth resilience in the face of violence and poverty. Such a bill only hinders our progress.

Uganda’s President Museveni, took over power undemocratically in 1986, when many of the current youth population were not yet born. (Museveni was later elected in 1996).  While Museveni may be a villain for many Ugandans today, he is still praised as a hero by the older generation in Uganda for ushering in peace in 1986 after the said tyrannical rules of former presidents Idi Amin Dada and Milton Obote. I cannot ignore the fact that there are mixed reactions towards the bill because the real cause of this action is to manage public order in the country. Many of the critics do not say much about that. There are many ‘non-players’ in these gatherings including school children, business people and youth who are constantly victims of uncouth police action. The manner in which the bill was passed and the fact that so much power is given to the police to regulate the conduct of meetings is bizarre. Perhaps what Uganda needs is proper dialogue and not imposed bills that infringe on the rights of her citizens.

The cause(s) of these political riots, demonstrations and gatherings must be addressed by the Ugandan Government if positive change is to be achieved and the youth must be at the forefront of these dialogues.

Follow what Ugandans on Twitter are writing about the bill using the hashtag #POMB

Read Same article here on One Young World Website

Freedom of expression crackdown in Uganda, why Social Media is not helpful.

Over the past one week, I have closely followed the story about the
recent media crackdown of one of Uganda’s leading independent newspapers TheDaily Monitor , RedPepper a tabloid and a couple of radio stations. I have, on daily
basis streamed local news via NTV Uganda ,
followed the social media buzz and read blogs from some of Uganda Journalist like Charles Onyango Obbo and Angelo Izama regarding the media besiege of 20th May 2013 in Kampala Uganda.
With many personalized African regimes, where you easily get thrown in
jail for publishing news that holds the government accountable, there is no
doubt that good journalists become an endangered species. Main stream
Journalist have become an easily target and have been victims of media crackdowns
with so many being thrown in jail and threatened or have their licenses
withdrawn by the communications regulator Like Rosebell Kagumire a Journalist and blogger shares.
 

 Snap shot of tweets about the Besiege on 20/5/13
Because of such risks, the advent of social media has shaped and continues to shape the
experience of news because, it not only enables real time reporting but also creates millions of witnesses to hold Governments accountable. We all witnessed
its impact during the Arab spring and how the narrative about Kenya is Changing
though an online movement on Twitter dubbed #KOT [Kenyans on twitter] who will not waste any chance
to correct  international media like CNN for wrongly broadcasting news about the various situations in Kenya. All
these have been very successful but the same approach has failed to yield
anything tangible in Uganda yet a reasonable number of Ugandan use social
media.
The obvious reasons will be attributed to issues of numbers; how
many people use social media in Uganda,what social media platforms are used, if any, what they are used for, if there are rules governing usage? Etc. While I personally agree that big numbers are essential for advocacy, they do not always guarantee positive impact. But for those
who use social media (which is quite a reasonable number) how is their online activism and advocacy
shaping and or impacting on the media freedom debate in Uganda? 

This is why I think social media is/has not been helpful in Uganda

  1. For
    many of us, action has become what we think. We have chosen to use social
    media as platforms to express our grievances and only stop at that, and
    then leave it for few ‘brave’ ones to act. And unfortunately, only few
    brave people have acted. This is why I think that, social media has not
    been an effective tool in advocating for positive social change or
    creating positive impact in instances where the government has silenced
    citizens who question its mandate, those who express their opinion freely
    and those who threaten its existence in one way or another through freedom
    of expression. 

  1. We
    advocate for connectivity without pushing for freedom yet at the back of
    our minds, we know that this cannot work. In many places worldwide, ordinary people
    have been tortured and continue to be toured because of censorship. Without
    freedom, many Ugandans are hesitant to participate in sensitive issues
    that jeopardize their existence, so they choose to follow the “bandwagon” effect and
    share information randomly without good coordination such that at the end of it all,
    no one is responsible for the online buzz and therefore one is to blame
    or held accountable because somehow everyone is responsible.
  1. When
    you look at a list of Ugandans on twitter
    you will notice that these are elite and mainly urban dwellers that have
    jobs to protect and fear to get on the wrong side of government. You will
    hardly find members of parliament, the police, ministers and other
    legislators with personal accounts that they manage and use to engage.
    For online campaigns to be successful in real life, there must be a
    leader, someone to guide the discussion and move it forward, someone to
    keep the interest strong right from the start to the end, to keep the
    online communities of practice focused and not easily swayed away by other
    “breaking news” a common trend on social media platform and above all someone
    ready to take up the biggest part of responsibility and willing to be
    accountable. We do not have many of such people in Uganda when it comes to sensitive
    issues that that are linked to or involve the government.
  1. The
    communication regulator, Uganda communication Commission (UCC) claims to recognize the fundamental importance of ICTs in all policies
    for development and says that it creates the conditions for the fullest
    participation by all sections of the population, yet the same regulator is
    quick to shut down radio stations and threaten to block social media
    websites when citizens use the internet to question issues of governance
    like it currently is with freedom of expression. In 2011, UCC,
    through Internet service providers attempted to block social media websites twitter and face book during the presidential elections and Walk to work riots. Major telecoms in Uganda
    were also accused of violating customer privacy because they were censoring SMS messages with key words like Egypt, Mubarak during the Arab
    spring. These actions by the country’s communications regulator raise suspicion among online internet users making them worry about their
    privacy thereby hindering online activism that could later on become physical
    activism.
    Aljazeera’s Malcom Webb (R) runs away from a teargas Canister during the journalist demo in Kampala, Uganda on 28/5/13: Photo by Isaac Kisamani 
    Like Chris Obore an
    investigative Journalist with the Daily Monitor recently said during the
    2013 Internet freedom Forum in Sweden , that “Until internet begins to determine politics in my Government, it
    will still remain useless for so many”. It is true that very little advantage can be taken of the opportunities
    social media provides if the policies needed to provide citizens with meaning
    and purpose are not conducive. And because we still have a small online
    community in Uganda, the newspapers and radio stations are effective ways
    of accessing relevant and timely information by the populace. We need our journalists to be protected because they are society watch dogs. Threatening them and beating
    them affects us all. We need to be informed so that we can question and hold
    our government accountable because we are all stakeholders. Journalists surely deserve better.

The Girls Who Code in Kampala

In a city like Kampala, It’s not common that you find a group of over 50 girls seated in one room in the name of programming. Not because they are
unable to, but because there exists a stereotype that programming is something
for the male gender. This rare occurance came true during the  just
concluded very first Rails Girls event held in Kampala Uganda that took place at the Outbox Hub on the 18th and 19th of Jan 2013, with a total of about 75 girls in attendance.These were both students and working class ladies. Organised by Thoughtworks Uganda a global IT
consultancy, the 1 days event saw many young tech enthusiastic girls around Kampala mainly members of  GirlGeeksKampala, who are passionate about programming come together to write code. The main focus was
ruby on Rails. It was a free event open to both novice and advanced programmers and was taking place in many major cities around the world. While speaking to Kathy Gettelfinger a Principal with
ThoughtWorks, She said that “bringing more women into the industry will create
better software”

Demistifying
society’s belief that WOMEN cannot program

Many
people still believe that girls or woman cannot reason technically worse still
program. This stereotype and belief has been attributed to the few numbers of
girls studying computer science, Artificial intelligence, software engineering
and any other technical related courses at high institutions of learning. The ways in which boys and girls are
socialized in Uganda right from Childhood, coupled with societal stereotypes
plays a key role in what children choose study in future. For instance as children,
boys are introduced to technology at a very tender age through the nature of
toys they are given eg, video games like WII, toy guns and many more
electronics, whereas majority girls are introduced to dolls and less tech
related toys.  The confidence of the boy
child is then built to interface easily with technology while that of the girl
has to be built as she grows up. This is just one example but several others exist. However,
over the past few years, this belief no longer ‘holds water’ as many girls just
like boys have continued to prove that they too can mentally achieve what their
male counterparts can in areas of Technology, engineering, medicine and other
science related fields which were once a province of the male gender.
A cross Section of Girls coding. Photo/Thoughtworks Uganda
What’s the progress in Uganda?

Where
as it’s true that there has been a lot of progress in trying to bridge the
gender digital divide in Uganda, it is so unfortunate that this progress is
mainly evident in Urban Uganda, Kampala to be more specific. The same is not
true for many rural girl children who continue to live by stereotypes and
societal perception. Over all in educations, the gender gap is being bridged. A
good example is the statistics for the upcoming 62nd Graduation of Makerere University, the biggest in Uganda and one of the best and popular in Africa.  with 53.3% of total graduates being male and 46.7% being female http://news.mak.ac.ug/documents/62ndgrad/Makerere-62nd-Graduation-Statistics.pdf.
A lot of effort is being put to bridge the gender digital divide in Uganda by
organisations and associations like GirGeekKampala, WOUGNET and WITU.  Girls and women must be encouraged to take up
tech courses and to use these skills and make a profession out of them if the
gender digital divide is too be bridged.

For more details of what transpired globally, please visit http://railsgirls.com/ 
For More Pictures; Please got to Thoughtworks Facebook Page

,

ADOPT TECHNOLOGY THAT SUITS PEOPLE

In a continent where internet penetration is low,
mobile technology especially phones can act as an empowerment tool for the
majority of African people.  It is
evident that in Africa, the existing digital divide is not going to be bridged
with Computers and the internet .it is being overcome through Mobile phones which a great majority of
people on the continent own and or have access to.
Networking
without your Computer
A variety of mobile handsets
Although many people argue that the
penetration of Mobile phones into Africa is being overrated, it is true that
for once in decades; Africans now have mass communication that is interactive.
The people who were once excluded from vital
information are increasingly using cell phones to advance their own well-being
and that of their families.  This technological revolution is boosting
local economies, bringing information to remote corners of the world, and
saving lives. Africa is the region with the highest annual growth rate in
mobile phone subscribers worldwide. According
to International Telecommunications Union, there are 6 billion Mobile Phone subscriptions
Globally  (ITU,2011) with over 1 Billion people in Africa, 41% 
having access to mobile phones. 
 

With
the existing Literacy, skills and electricity shortage in Africa, it seems to
be a fantasy rather than a reality to promote a larger use of online media in
Africa. However, Africa can overcome this through the use of Mobile Technology.
It’s almost a year since I joined Text to change a mobile for development organization
with both offices in Uganda and Netherlands but operating in many African
Countries and some in South America. From my experience of managing a maternal
health project; I have learned to appreciate the value of mobile phones for
Women who are usually underserved and or in rural areas.
It’s
evident that there is a huge difference in terms of access, use,
application and control of mobile phones between men and women. Whereas, we all
agree that ICTs can enable both men and women to gain stronger voice in their
communities and that mobile phones can specifically offer women flexibility in
time and space, this is far from reality for many rural women here in Uganda. A
big gender gap exists in accessing communication services. More men than women
access/make use of ICTs.
Given
women’s multiple gender roles and heavy domestic responsibilities, their
leisure hours are few and therefore need a tool that can effectively reduce the “distance” between them as
individuals and institutions thereby making sharing of information and
knowledge easier and more effective. The mobile phone comes in handy.
About Text to Change:
Text to Change (TTC) has a wide range of experience
in conceptualizing, managing and analyzing mobile phone-based
programs. We developed a flexible and easily scalable mobile platform, with
state-of-the-art tools and techniques, to send out and receive text messages,
mms, voice and data. TTC also has strong relationships within the mobile
industry in the countries they work in. Therefore we deliver the full package
from database and software development to content development, data analysis
and interpretation as well as the visualization and reporting, based on our
partner’s needs.  Read more here http://www.texttochange.org/about-ttc

Ladies’ Map up in Kampala

The Google Technology User group (GTUG) organised
a Google MapUp/Mapping party an event which saw a group of Tech enthusiastic young
women in Kampala get together to map special interest places in their world.

The event which was organised by a team at
GTUG started at 10:00 GMT +3 with an introductory presentation by Max Adoko, a
Google Map Maker Advocate at Google Kampala. According to Max, Google Map Maker
allows you to add and update geographic information for millions of users to
see in Google Maps and Google Earth.


Why Focus on Women?
An interview with Mr. Adoko revealed that
having ladies was on purpose to expand the variety of mappers in Uganda. “There
is a lot of potential that ladies can add onto our maps
” He added that Ladies too have
special interest places and it would be difficult to have a comprehensive map
if we do not have detail slike Saloons, Markets, Boutiques, Clinics, Beauty Spas
among other. A brief interview with Mr. Adoko below;


I talked to a few lady mappers and asked them
why they attended the ladies Map up event;
Sandra Komuhiimbo an Information and
Communications Assistant at Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET) said “UWONET is currently profiling women’s
Organisations across the country, I am here to pick up(more) skills to create a
map for the network members and allies”
Ruth Aine a Journalist and blogger said  “I am  a curious and adventurous person, I love to
create stuff, so, when I heard about adding salons and my favourite places to Google
maps, I said why not? And It’s pretty easy and interesting too. Love it”
Esther Akello said “I want to have my village and Teso region on
the map. So excited about the whole activity”
A cross section of ladies Mapping at GTUG in Kampala on 03/03/2012
Mr. Adoko said that, they hope  toorganise this
event on quarterly basis and to have more women involved in technology. He believes that it will help bridge the current gender digital divide
that exists in Uganda.
Richard Zulu said that a lady who will have
the biggest number of edits will recieve an invitation to attend the Africa
GEO summit which brings together all mappers around Africa to share their
experiences and discuss the way forward in regard to mapping. This year’s
summit is scheduled for August 25-26 in Nigeria, West Africa.   

Can ICTs contribute enormously in the eradication of poverty in Uganda if considered major physical infrastructure?

ICTs cover a wide range of tools
and technologies that can be used to foster development. They are drivers for change and their impact in the economic, social,
cultural, political and individual spheres of life is widely accepted and
recognised world over. Information
and communication technology such as computers, mobile phones, projectors,
digital cameras, music players, and many others have found applications in
every conceivable area where people work and interact including businesses,
educational institutes, and research organizations among others.
And though much talked about, it
is hardly used in some of the most important sector in Uganda. Such sectors
include the Agricultural sector, a sector that dorminates Uganda’s economy and
accounts for 41.6%
of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 85% of the export earnings and 80% of
employment opportunities.
The Ugandan Government is
increasingly adopting the internet for activities that have broader social
implications for grassroots communities. Efforts include laying a fibre-optic
backbone infrastructure; e-governance infrastructure in 27 ministries as well
as a universal fund as part of the Rural Communications Development fund
(RCDF).
A national ICT policy framework
was set up in 2002 to ensure the optimum utilization of information to foster
social economic development. The policy focuses on three areas: Information as a resource for development,Mechanisms for accessing informationand ICT as an industry. The policy
recognises that the three areas are not mutually exclusive.
While several policies and
legislations like “Uganda Access to information Act (2005)”,“Telecommunications
sector policy (1996)” and “The communications bill (2007)”have been put in
place, gaps exist when considering access to information broadly. For example,
the Rural Communications Development fund (RCDF) is not funding broadband
access and it has largely offered subsides for the establishment of services at
district headquarters which are mostly urban or semi-urban ignoring the needs
of the rural and underserved population who are its primary constituency.
Since the inception of the
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) ministry in 2006, Uganda has up
to date had three ministers: Dr. Ham Mulira, Mr. Aggrey Awori and now Dr.
Ruhakana Rugunda. However, even with an entire ministry in place, there is lot
more to be done in enabling access, use and application of ICTs to the rural
majority.
Photo: Khatukhira at 2011 Agriculture Fair in 2011
There is a great need to building
the capacity of people to enable their use of internet and basic ICTs such as
mobile phones whose benefits are amplified by the fact that the spread of
mobile technology in many rural areas has occurred much faster than with other
information & communication technologies (ICTs).
There is also a need develop
local content in local languages and applications in high utility value for the
community. Areas to look into include; health, education, market information,
agriculture and local administration.
The ministry in partnership with
stakeholders needs to device sustainable plans for RCDF grantees and align some
of its programs to the government‘s poverty reduction program. And finally to
enact cyber laws to curb malpractices and to increase confidence in electronic
transactions

Despite
these benefits and opportunities presented by ICTs in the eradication of
poverty, challenges like high costs of, limited network coverage and limited
usage capacity still exist.
The chances of success and sustainability of rural ICT funds like Rural
Communications Development Fund(RCDF) by Uganda Communications Commission are
greater when they do not duplicate services provided by existing information
sources such as the kiosks, telecentres and digital doorways among others.