Working to bridge the ‘Gender digital divide’ in Uganda

Women in Technology Uganda (WITU), held it’s very first meeting of
the year 2012 0n 17th Feb with the theme “Ugandan Women in Technology:
Opportunities and Challenges
” at Makerere
University in Kampala Uganda. Women in Technology is a forum that we founded with
a focus on finding real solutions to the long-standing problems of how to
attract, retain and advance more women in the IT industry.
The
uneven distribution of Information and communication Technologies (ICTs) 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’ low
levels of literacy and education relative to men as well as the negative
attitude towards girls achievement in science related fields contributes to the
gender dimension of the digital divide. Women
still have a low degree of economic security than men and face gender related
constraints on their time and mobility. They are therefore less likely to
access, use and participate in shaping the course of ICTs compared to their
male counterparts
The Status of
Women and ICTs in Uganda
In
Uganda, Women’s awareness and usage of ICTs is nearly three times less than
that of men (2006 ResearchICTAfrica ). An assessment of the Rural communication
and Development Fund(RCDF) from a gender perspective undertaken by women of
Uganda Network in 2007 revealed that the fact that women are key consumers in
the privately owned computer training centres had nothing to do with gender
targeting. Many of these females went for secretarial training or to learn
elementary computer skills like Microsoft office applications to enhance their
gender stereotyped roles of secretary.  Women
who were employed as trainers or lab attendants were the minority. As far as
ownership management and control of private ICT business centres, Women were
generally few. The study also revealed that although RCDF support to various
ICT projects had facilitated further spread of ICT facilities and services to
the less privileged areas and its communities, women have benefited less from
the projects as compared to their male counterparts. Without
access to information technology, an understanding of its significance and
ability to use it fo social and economic gain, Women are likely to be further
marginalized from the mainstream of their communities, their country and the
world (Nancy Hafkin and Nancy Taggart 2003).

Meet our speakers
of the Feb 2012 Meetup
We tackled the opportunities and challenges that women in technology face, how we can explore these and solve the challenges to increase the number of women technologists in Uganda. We had amazing young women who shared their experiences.  Barbara Birungi gave an overview of what WITU is and why it exists, she shared the vision, mission and purpose. She also welcomed all the members to the first meeting of the year. The sessions were chaired by Lynn Kirabo and Maureen Agena

Rosebell Kagumire a Multimedia Journalist and Human right
Activists works at Chanel 16 and runs a blog http://rosebellkagumire.com/
spoke about “Women and Media”. She shared her work experience at the daily Monitor with participants. Rosebell acknowledged that Technology and especially
social media has increased opportunities for citizen to speak out and for
journalists to share ideas and opinion beyond the newsroom.
She said that ordinary people without professional
Journalism training can now use tools of modern Technology and the global
distribution of internet to create, fact check and argument media. Rosebell
believes that tools like twitter are now changing the “Agenda Setting” function
of the media.  Follow her on twitter
@RosebellK
Eunice Namirembe a Program manager at  Text to Change and ICT4D specialist talked
about the “opportunities of Mobile Technology for women”. She said that it is
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 because most ICT infrastructure is in the urban areas, where areas
majority of the women/rural populations live in the rural areas.
Given women’s multiple 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. Follow
her on twitter @gnayeunie

Evelyn Namara an entrepreneur, programmer and AfNOGChix
trainer working with Solar sisters shared her experience from AfNOGChix on
“Training Women in Technology”. She said that AfNOGChix was inspired by
the desire to share technical challenges in setting up, building and running IP
networks on the African continent. As a result, some of the pioneer Network
Operators came together and established a network of key operators on the
continent. The Africa
Network Operators Group (AfNOG) is a forum for the exchange of technical
information, and aims to promote discussion of implementation issues that
require community cooperation. The reason as to why a lot of focus was on women
was because Few women applied for the main AfNOG events;Women are a bit intimidated learning with male
students;
Women were hesistant to asked questions
and finally Women usually relied on Male participants to finish up assignments. AFNOG therefore
solves all these issues and bridges the gap by having women trained by women. Follow her on twitter @enamara

Esther Patricia Akello an employee of Bank of Uganda who is
so passionate about Information Security shared with us “what it means to work
in a male dominated profession”. Esther said that, there are few women who
study technology related courses and practice what they studied professionally.
She attributed all this to the cultural socialization of women and the notion
that women are made to believe that they cannot think or work technically. At
the meeting, Esther encouraged young ladies who are passionate about technology
to own up and stop complaining about the few numbers but rather make a
difference and excel in their IT related professions. Follow her on twitter @ekisesta

Last but not least
was the Google ambassador and Appscircus 2012 Kampala winner Christine Ampire. As
a second year software engineering student, Christine joined the AppsCircus
competition and developed a mobile application called MafutaGo that saw her win
in Kampala. Together with her team, she attended the recent Mobile World Congress in in
Barcelona and they won the RingMater ward. http://thenextweb.com/mwc/2012/02/27/the-mobile-premier-awards-announce-winners-at-mwc/
She said that the secret to all this was the spirit of teamwork and commitment
regardless of your gender. She said that young girls have to get rid of fear if
they are to excel in Technology. Follow her on twitter @axtine831

I
strongly believe that women’s participation in the creation of technology will
strengthen the workforce, raise the standard of living for many women, and help
to assure that technology addresses women’s needs and expands the possibilities
for their lives.
The
sponsors; UGOuganda, PC Techmagazine and Makerere University (Faculty of CIT)
Photos by: Javie Ssozi