MY FIRST AWARD EVER: EAST AFRICA REGIONAL WINNER.

Having been the very first of its kind; The ARDYIS Youth essay Contest focused on Youth, ICT in Agriculture and Rural Development aimed at identifying innovative solutions to challenges faced by youth in agriculture and rural areas using Information and Communication Technologies.
The essay contest which was open to young people, aged 18 – 25 years old, from urban or rural areas of Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific countries attracted 184 youth applications and only 12 finalists from the six regions were shortlisted. I was among the Young women/professionals who applied and I answered the question on “How young people are using ICTs innovetatively in Agriculture” with a case of a young fruit grower Mr. Gilbert Egwel from Northern Uganda in Apac district.

On 13th October 2010, 12 Finalists with two from each of the six regions of the African, Caribean and Pacific regions (ACP) were announced. After the evaluation of oral presentations of the selected essay took place in South Africa on 22 and 23 November 2010, as part of the CTA/NPCA Week events organized by CTA and the NPCA (NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency) from 22 to 26 November 2010. The 6 winners of the contest were to be announced on 24 November 2010. One winner per ACP region, and an overall winner. However, 7 winners emerged with 2 coming from East Africa as opposed to one. And the winners were:

West Africa:
– Itodo Samuel Anthony (Nigeria)
Central Africa :
– Gabriel Dacko Goudjo (Cameroon)
East Africa
– Maureen Agena (Uganda)
– Chris Ngige Mwangi (Kenya)
Southern Africa
– Gerald Musakaruka Mangena (Zimbabwe)
Caribbean
– Tyrone Christopher Hall (Jamaica)
Pacific
– Riten Gosai Chand (Fiji)
With Caribbean regional winner Tyrone Christopher Hall from Jamaica emerging as the overall Eassy Contest winners.

To all the winners and finalists, WELL DONE and WELL WON and to The centre for Agriculture and Technical rural development(CTA) thanks for looking at the youth as potential players in bridging the Agricultural divide through the use and application of ICTs.

Technology, Gender and Violence!! Break the Silence.

As I anxiously wait to join the rest of the world in marking the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence(GBV) from 25 November 2010 to 10 December 2010 whose regional theme is “Engaging Faith-based Communities to Prevent Violence against Women” focusing on how our faiths and faith-based communities can (and should!) get involved in preventing violence against women, I can’t help think of the millions of mothers, sisters, Aunties and nieces who have been violated yet still remain helpless and silent despite the growing opportunities and improved technology which can help them break the silence through sharing and reporting.

According to a Ugandan psychologist Paul Nyende violence ranges from Physical, Emotional, Economic and financial. In physical abuse, usually physical force against someone is used meaning that sexual abuse fits in this. A signs of this, is being viewed as a sex object or property rather than a human being. Whereas in emotional abuse, the abuser attacks the victim’s spirit by eating away their feelings of self-worth and independence making the victim feel trapped and worthless. Signs of emotional abuse are humiliation, being yelled at and teased in a hurtful way both privately and publicly, Verbal insults and calling you names against your will as well as using threats.

The financial abuse which is usually ignored by many, involves the abuser controlling their victim financially; the signs include monitoring one’s account for every penny spent, not letting you get on with your career or sabotaging you at your place of work.
MAJOR TACTICS USED BY ABUSERS.
Dominance: This is used so that the abuser is in charge of the relationship.

Humiliation: This is to make the Victim feel bad about him/herself.

Isolation: This is to increase the victim’s dependence on the abuser.

Threats: To scare the victim into staying with the abuser

Intimidation: To make the victim submit to the abuser’s will, this involved denial and placing blame to push into excusing the inexcusable.

AND WHO BREAKS THE SILENCE?
With the emergence of New Media and Technology, it is now evident that the power of the media is in the hands of the people. The only issue is how this power is being used to create positive social change in regard to combating Gender Based Violence. Web 2.0 technologies have given people the power of real time reporting, networking and receiving timely information, but how many people have the technical know-how of using them? Then the mobile phones whose subscription in Africa alone has surpassed five million http://ht.ly/37Ks7 and powerful penetration to the rural communities and can be used to combat gender based violence, How many people use up to 50% of the mobile phone application/functionality? How many are aware that it combines text, video and Audio?

Many people have mentioned to me that you get more knowledge by asking many questions. I am desperate to learn from you the readers of this article.
I conclude by quoting one man from Eastern Uganda who once said that: “For every bullet that hits a man during war kills a Woman’s Child”
Gender based violence is real and it affects all of us, some directly and others indirectly. But the good news is that it’s within our power to end it.

And who said that Gender does not matter in social Change?

“We are tired of hearing about Gender, What’s wrong with you Women?”

These are some of the words that many people echo when you mention GENDER. As if gender means WOMEN!

As I attend the Digital Natives: My bubbles, My space and My Voice workshop at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, I cannot stop thinking about yesterday’s morning session on “Keyword paring”. This was an exercise that required each participant to describe their practices, policies and ideologies in one word which would be paired up with another participant’s one word description to form a topic of discussion.
Thinking about what describes me best and my ideologies was very easy, however, I had one problem; I came up with two words instead of the required one word. The words were GENDER + COMMUNITY
The first participant I attracted was Mr. James Mlambo the founder of Cyber Gateway in Zimbabwe who had the word INCLUSION, he was interested in pairing it up with my word COMMUNITY. We both agreed on having the words merged to come up with “COMMUNITY INCLUSION”. Our focus of discussion, in relation to our subject then centered on the marginalized and disadvantaged members of the community who are many, a times ignored in projects meant to benefit communities. These are; Youth, Children and Women. It was surprising that, this group of people make up the biggest percentage of many communities yet they are the most marginalized. We asked ourselves how to make sure that there is total inclusion and participation from all the members of the community without discrimination based on age, gender or political ideologies. And the answer was in linking technology to development.
Next was a participant with the word EQUALITY, Manal Hassan from the Arab Techie Network wanted her word EQUALITY merged with My GENDER to make GENDER EQUALITY. To many people, this does not sound new but as a team we looked at it from a technology perspective. We realized that Gender influences the dynamics of any society and that there is a digital divide when it comes to technology. One Gender (Male) is more dominant over another Gender (Female) in terms of Access, use and application of Technology. Of course several factors like perception, negative cultural practices and social cultural effects are responsible for this but our interest was in directing technology for younger generations not to use it just for the sake of it but rather relating it to development.
And finally Mr. Piadamoyo Muzulu from Padare/Men’s forum on Gender and the commercial Farmers Union(CFU) came in with REVOLUTIONARY and wanted it merged with my GENDER. We focused on ‘Deconstructing Masculinity’ and why the work of women as a gender is not quantified. According to him, the only way to empower women is through liberating their minds. The underlying questions is:
Does gender really matter when creating social change?
For more about Digital Natives

I am a finalist in the ARDYIS Youth Essay Contest: How I made it !!

It was the very first of it’s kind; The ARDYIS Youth essay  Contest which focused on Youth, ICT in Agriculture and Rural Development aimed at identifying innovative solutions to challenges faced by youth in agriculture and rural areas using Information and Communication Technologies.
The essay contest which was open to young people, aged 18 – 25 years old, from urban or rural areas of Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific countries attracted 180 youth applications and only  12 finalists from the six regions were shortlisted. I was among the Young women and professionals who applied and I answered the question on “How young people are using ICTs innovetatively in Agriculture” with a case of a young fruit grower Mr. Gilbert Egwel from Northern Uganda in Apac district.

On 13th October 2010, the Finalists were announced and saying that I was happy would  be an understatement. I must say that I was humbled being among the best in Eastern Africa . The list of the finalists is………….

West Africa:
– Inoussa Traore (Burkina Faso)
– Itodo Samuel Anthony (Nigeria)
Central Africa :
– Dolly Angela Ngandjou Mela (Cameroon)
– Gabriel Dacko Goudjo (Cameroon)
East Africa
– Chris Ngige Mwangi (Kenya)
– Maureen Agena (Uganda)
Southern Africa
– Gerald Musakaruka Mangena (Zimbabwe)
– Isaac Chanda (Zambia)
Caribbean
– Samantha Kaye, Denise Christie (Jamaica)
– Tyrone Christopher Hall (Jamaica)
Pacific
– Riten Gosai Chand (Fiji)
– Ruben Nui (Papua New Guinea)
The jury and organizers warmly congratulated finalists. As specified in the rules of the competition, the
winners will be announced after the evaluation of oral presentations of the short-listed essays by their authors in front of the jury. These oral presentations will take place in South Africa on 22 and 23 November 2010, as part of the CTA/NPCA Week events organized by CTA and the NPCA (NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency) from 22 to 26 November 2010. The 6 winners of the contest will be
announced on 24 November 2010. One winner per ACP region, and an overall winner, will be selected.
The six regional winners will each receive a sum of Euros 1,000 (Regional Prize), along with other rewards. The overall Winner will be selected from the regional Winners and he/she will receive an additional sum of Euros 500 (ACP Prize).
CTA will cover the 12 finalists’ costs for the trip and stay in South Africa. They will take part in one seminar of the CTA/NPCA Week to strengthen their capabilities and interact with other players. CTA and its partners thank and congratulate all participants in the essay contest. Apart from finalists, outstanding participants will have the opportunity, among others, to take part in an Exchange and Training Workshop on Web 2.0 for Development in 2011. The essay contest is one of the activities organized by CTA to commemorate the International Year of Youth established by the United Nations.”

WATER IS EVERYBODY’S BUSINESS. WE ALL NEED IT TO SURVIVE!!

Putting a price on Water will make us aware of its scarcity and make us take better care of it” Agnel Gurria, Secretray –general of the OECD,quoted in The Guardian.’Experts call for hike in global water prices’. April 27th,2010.’”
Water is being referred to as a new oil, says Edith Van Walsum the Director ileai.  The UN declared that access to water and sanitation is a fundamental human right but millions around the world still lack even the most basic access.
With over 88% of Uganda’s population of 32 million being rural based and depending almost entirely on agriculture at various levels of livelihoods. It is widely held that access to clean water for both domestic and agricultural purposes by rural communities can not only increase agricultural productivity; it can also result into improved health which in turn would enhance economic and social development.
Millions of people in Uganda do not have access to clean water for both domestic and agricultural purposes and due to the high costs of conventional piped water, Rain water harvesting, a low cost technique is a valuable alternative to overcome the growing water shortage. People collect and store rain water in buckets, tanks and ponds which they use for multiple purposes ranging from irrigating crops, washing, cooking, bathing and drinking. This collected rain water can supplement other water sources when they become scarce or are of low quality.  
The Technical Center for Agriculture and Rural Cooperations ACP EU(CTA) through her CTA2010annual seminar has dedicated this year’s theme is ‘Closing the Knowledge Gap: Integrated Water Management for Sustainable Agriculture’ to make the world aware of the importance of water  also, this year’s BlogActionDay them is WATER  and all bloggers world over are invited to have their say.

PEOPLE AND THE WEB: Web 2.0 Technologies must be Development Oriented.

As I sat in the room at Baraka Agricultural College to attend the Web 2.0 learning Opportunity in Molo-Kenya, I didn’t know what to expect from the sessions which were yet to start on the morning of 27th Sept 2010. When Mr. Nicholas Kimolo, the key trainer requested us to introduce ourselves and briefly talk about the organizations we work for and what our expectations for the training were? I was second in the queue and stressed the fact that I was from Uganda, I also mentioned that my main expectation is to build on what I already knew about web 2.0 tools. At the end of the introductions, I noticed that I was the only Ugandan in a room of 24 trainees, meaning that 23 were all Kenyans.
Being the only Ugandan trainee didn’t just happen, right from the call for applications, one of the key requirements was to be Kenyan. I was the only lucky non Kenyan shortlisted and eventually invited to attend the one week training. Mr. Nicholas mentioned that over 700 applications had been received but we were the Lucky few to be shortlisted.

The training began with a welcome message from the principle of the hosting college Br. David Muchemi who warmly welcomed the participants to the college. He then gave us a brief background of the college. Read more about Baraka.
Mr. Nicholas Kimolo then introduced his co-facilitator Mr. Morris and gave a brief background of the Web 2.0 learning opportunity. He mentioned that the learning opportunity forms part of CTA initiatives that support development partners in networking, accessing and disseminating information more effectively. He then said that we were being trained as Trainers in the use and application of web 2.0 tools.
The General Principles of Web 2.0 tools
Mr. Kimolo said that the training would entail accessing information using web 2.0, Learn what web 2.0 tools are, what other people have dome with web 2.0,  Breaking it down according to functionality, how web 2.0 have been used to successful disseminate information, remote Collaboration, Voice over Internet protocol (VOIP), Mapping(Information in a Geo form), Blogging, using  Social Networks for Professional Social Networking  and finally introducing the use of iMARK module “web 2.0 and social Media for Development”.
What the participatory web for development is all about.
‘When the web started, we needed a web Master to guide and help end users but today, everything has changed. Web 2.0 tools are 2nd generation tool that empower users on the web to read and write to it. With Web 2.0 tools, you can publish your content without having to rely on others. It is user centered and enables inter-operability and Information sharing.
Web 2.0 tools alone are not relevant unless they are linked to development. They must be Participatory in a sense that people must be involved and sharing/access to information must be voluntary. We need to be ‘people centered’ and understand their needs. We must also understand that access might not only be connection but Language. Web 2.0 tools are of four categories (Aggregation, Collaborative /Filtering, Rating / tagging and Widget/Component).They can either be web based or Non-web-based)
Web 2.0 technologies were made possible because of the falling price of Hardware & Software, the technological Advances (Easy for a non Techie person to communicate and use technology) and the increasing use of Mobile devices especially in Africa.
For the first day of the training, we were introduced to web 2.0 and we looked at the opportunities and threats, we also looked at advanced searches, Alerts and RSS. Today [Day 2], we concentrated on Wikis, GoogleDocs and Skype. 
For the two days that I have so far spent, I must say that a lot of value has been added to what I already knew about web 2.0. I feel that by the end of day 5, I will be a real expert in Web 2.0 applications. Also, the choice of venue for the training was perfect, far from town with no shopping malls to distract participants, therefore the levels of concentration and participation are high.
Thanks to The Technical centre for Agriculture and rural cooperation ACP EU (CTA) for making this possible. I hope that a similar training will be conducted in Uganda in the near future.
At the end of the training, together with three Kenyan colleagues will have an entire write-up about the sessions and I promise to share the link with all you awesome people!!

A road trip to a ‘mysterious’ place called Molo in Search of Knowledge!!

How it all started.
When The Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural cooperation ACP EU (CTA) announced a web 2.0 Learning Opportunity in Molo, Kenya through it’s mailing lists, I was excited and very enthusiastic. I quickly but accurately read through with a focus on the requirements for the training which all seemed perfect for me except one “YOU MUST BE A KENYAN”.  This would have made me give up easily since I am UGANDAN  but being the curious and daring kind of person, this did not deter me from applying for the one week training. I said to myself that I needed the skills just like the Kenyan’s did.

A few weeks Later, I received a call from the Coordinator “ICT and Innovations”, CTA who wanted to know if I really needed the training . My answer was definitely affirmative. I also had an opportunity to ask him why the training was being restricted to Kenyan Citizens yet we call ourselves ‘East Africans’, He told me that CTA did not have enough finances to cater for transport of participants from Outside Kenya but added that a similar training will be conducted early 2011 in Uganda [Not sure about how the political situation will be then]. He added that if I was lucky enough to be shortlisted, I would cater for my own transport to Molo. As I write this blog post, I am seated in a room with 23 Kenyans[Excuse me: Fellow EastAfricans] attending the Web2.0 Learning Opportunity at Baraka Agricultural College in Molo, Kenya.
View Molo on Google Maps

My Journey to Molo.
On the 26th Sept 2010, heeding to a friend’s advice not to board a bus, I headed for the Old Taxi park in Kampala to begin my journey to a mysterious place called MOLO. I was lucky to find the taxi with a small Card board almost half way full having the words TORORO/MALABA inscribed on it. I took up the front seat just next to the driver’s. When it filled up, it was about 9:37am and it took us another 13 minutes to find our way out of the disorganized Taxi park. Once we were out of the park, I estimated 3hours of non-stop driving to reach Malaba boarder. And indeed we were at Malaba at about 1:00pm with delays that  resulted of a few stop overs in Tororo and some time that got wasted when some of the language[also known as “muzigo” in swahilli] fell out of the boot and had to be put back.
At Malaba, the immigration process on the Ugandan side was less of a hustle, I had my passport stamped in  less than 5 mins and straight away headed for  Immigration at the Kenyan side. I nearly shed tears when I saw the long queue. [I later on learnt that the queues were long because the Arrival/Departure forms had gotten finished]. I had to join the queue until I had my passport stamped. I  then rushed to the stage to board the “Eldoret|Nakuru|Nairobi” taxi also known as ‘matatu’ in Kenya. I had to start using Kenya Shillings and start speaking Swahili………………..the money bit was easy but the speech……..

View Larger Map
Conclusion
To cut the long story short, I left malaba after about 2hrs of waiting for the matatu to feel up, reached Eldoret at around 5:47 and left for Nakuru at 7:25. Now MOLO my destination is located between Eldoret and Nakuru but I had to go straight to Nakuru to be on a safer side then board a Matatu on 26th Sept to Molo for the training. I had to speak all the little swahilli I knew because nobody gave a  ‘damn’ about English.  I managed to reach my destination at round 8:00am on the morning of 27th Sept 2010 and was warmly welcomed. I MUST say that despite all the stress and Tension I went through, I am so happy to be at Baraka Agricultural College. It is totally awesome Read more about Baraka 
Please do not ask me how I managed to pay my transport fares!!!
That will be told verbally

CTA Annual Seminar is on Again.

Uganda Water sector

With the theme: Closing the knowledge Gap: Intergrated Water Management for Sustainable Agriculture. The CTA annual seminar is scheduled to take place in Pretoria, SouthAfrica from 22nd -26th November 2010.
How to be part of the 2010 CTA seminar:
You are invited to send your proposals for seminar papers and poster presentations for the CTA 2010 seminar on ‘Closing the Knowledge Gap: Integrated Water Management for Sustainable Agriculture’. Abstracts are welcome from experts and stakeholders in the following main themes:
  • Water Availability and Access
  • Public Policy and Investment
  • Water and Society
  • Knowledge Support Systems
For more details please visit: CTA2010 Annual Seminnar
The Water Sector in Uganda:
The water sector is one of the priority sectors in Uganda, as it directly impacts on the quality of life of the people and overall productivity of the population. Water supply and sanitation are among the key issues emphasized under the national Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP), which is the key government framework for ensuring poverty eradication through creation of an enabling environment for rapid economic development and social transformation.
Water is a key strategic resource, vital for sustaining life, promoting development and maintaining the environment. Access to clean and safe water and improved sanitation facilities and practices are pre-requisites to a health population and therefore have a direct impact on the quality of life and productivity of the population. Besides domestic water supply, water is also vital for: Livestock Water Supply, Industrial Water Supply, Hydropower generation, Agriculture, Marine Transport, Fisheries, Waste Discharge, Tourism, and Environmental Conservation. Water, therefore, significantly contributes to the national socio-economic development and thus poverty eradication.
Despite Uganda’s being well endowed with significant freshwater resources, the challenges of rapid population growth, increased urbanization and industrialization, uncontrolled environmental degradation and pollution are leading to accelerated depletion and degradation of the available water resources. Uganda is also faced with the challenge of low safe water coverage (59% rural and 65% urban, as of December 2003).
In order to meet the above challenges, government initiated reforms in the water sector, in 1997, to ensure that water services are provided and managed with increased efficiency and cost effectiveness. Comprehensive sector reform studies have been going on since 1998 and are due to be completed by August 2004. During these studies, detailed situation analysis of the sector was carried out resulting in the preparation of a comprehensive water sector Strategy, investment plans and time bound national targets for the sector up to 2015. In demonstrating its commitment to the reform process, government has already embarked on the process of implementing some of the strategic recommendations from these studies.
One of the key strategic outcomes from the reform studies is the adoption of a ‘Sector Wide Approach to Planning (SWAP)’ for the sector. The SWAP framework, which has been embraced by both government and the water sector development partners, has already proved to be themost appropriate mechanism for resources mobilization and implementation of the action plans. The SWAP framework also guarantees the participation of all stakeholders in the planning and implementation of water sector activities.
 (Extracted from Uganda National Water Developmet Report-2005)

Contracted to Tweet and Blog at the 3rd Regional EastAfrica Internet Governace Forum (EAIGF) in Kampala.

The EAIGF twitter page
Globally, technological development has taken the place of face-to-face interaction; with an increasing range of devices for communicating and disseminating information. It is evident that the world is changing rapidly and African Media is catching up with the technological revolution.

At the third East African Internet Governace forum which is being held in Kampala Uganda with a theme:”Strengthening East Africa’s Critical Internet resources: Thinking Globally, Acting Locally”, Twitter an interactive micro blogging platform based on open publication of 140 character messages is one of the most powerful social media tools being used to share information and Network about the event.

A citizen Journalist and a professional Journalist working together.

Together with Ms. Esther Nakazzi a Journalist with the EastAfrican Newspaper, we were contracted as official resource persons in-charge of communication during the 3rd EAIGF. We were tasked with tweeting and blogging during the three days event. I must say that it is very interesting working with a professional Journalist. It is my very first time as a citizen Journalist to be contracted to tweet and blog at a regional workshop. I have always tweeted at workshops, conferences as well as meetings but that was mainly on voluntary basis. These include among others the digital citizen Indaba and Highway Africa 2009 conference in South Africa, the CTA2009Annual Seminar, art and science the international festival TREFFPUNKT AFRIKA among others.

Who inspired me?

Like the saying goes, “Credit must be given where and when it is due”. I first heard about social media and specifically twitter, blogs, facebook, youtube and skype when I Joined Women of Uganda Network as an information Officer in 2008 and was tasked to head the citizen Journalism in Africa Project (CJA) which was funded by Hivos and SANGONeT in SouthAfrica.  Citizen Journalism is a form of citizen media – where individuals write and or comment on issues they feel are left out of the mainstream media using social media and web2.0 tools.

A lot of motivation was from  a freelance Zambian Journalist known as Brenda Zulu who I first met during the 2009 highway African conference and thereafter during the CTA2009 Annual seminar who helped me start up my personal blog http://dignityinpoverty.blogspot.com/ .  

The idea of tweeting during major events is a very powerful one since very many people who would otherwise not have received such information are able to follow and contribute.

Please follow the tweets  https://twitter.com/EA_IGF  and the blog at http://www.eaigf-uganda.blogspot.com/

The Third East African Internet Governance Forum takes place in Uganda

Strengthening East Africa’s critical Internet Resources ”Thinking globally; Acting locally” is the theme for the Third East African Internet governance forum (EAIGF) which is currently taking place at imperial royal in Kampala Uganda. The forum started on 11th August and ends on 13th August.
The forum was opened by Eriya Kategaya, the first Deputy Prime minister and minister of East African Community Affairs in Uganda who represented the prime minister Apollo Nsibambi.
The Opening Session of the 3rd EAIGF in Kampala
Hon. Kategaya emphasized the need to create awareness on Internet Governance issues within the East Africa region and to enact enabling laws for Internet growth and cyber security.
The Ag. Executive Director, Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) Mr. Patrick Mwesigwa said that the Internet is a critical resource whose governance is mandatory. He added that The Commission has been involved in the Internet Governance process since the World Summits on Information Society of Geneva in 2003 and that of Tunis in 2005, which resulted in the creation of the Internet Governance Forum. It is gratifying to note that the Uganda National Internet Governance Forum has continued to play an active role throughout the entire process. Mr. Chengetai Masango, from UN Internet Governance secretariat said there is need to look at lowering of Internet prices in East Africa after the landing of cables at the Mombasa cost.
The East African Internet Governace forum is an annual conference within Eastern Africa that takes place to mainly discuss issues that have come up at National level form all the the East Africa Community (EAC) countries Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda which have IGF chapters
Min. of EA Affairs Mr. Kategaya
Critical issues discussed included discussed IPV6 migration, de-regulation of ccTLD, cyber security, rootservers and exchange points among others.
Alice Muyua from Kenya who is also the East African Internet Governace Forum convener mentioned that Kenya would host the next global IGF in September 2011 if the UN Assembly gives the mandate.