Monday, October 11, 2010

Women's Agenda, Pillar No.7: Information and Communication Technologies

7.1 Background to the Thematic Pillar: Information and Communication Technologies

In the last twenty years Uganda has witnessed an ICT revolution, with regards to communication, information sharing, proliferation of media houses and the democratisation of information. There has been an upsurge in: the access to mobile phones, internet usage, and availability of private owned television and radio stations, that are largely due to the liberalisation of the ICT sector. While the private sector has readily embraced the ICT age, Government has been slow in promoting the use of ICT in service delivery and the communication of government policies and programmes, especially in the rural areas.

It is important for Government to develop and implement policies and programmes to promote the usage of ICT amongst the population and more especially by women. ICTs are an effective mechanism for expanding knowledge and access to information for rural women and can enhance their abilities to market their produce and negotiate prices, thus increasing their share of resources.

7.2 Key Priorities Within the Thematic Pillar: ICT

Women and information technology

ICTs offer enormous potential for transforming the lives of women. They provide access to training and skills for political, economic and social participation. They also provide a direct means for women to network, share information and enhance their abilities to negotiate for their rights. Despite these advantages the majority of women in Uganda have not benefited from ICT. ICT coverage and usage is dismally low in the rural areas, where the majority of women and girls reside. This is mainly due to the high cost of: IT equipment, software, internet connectivity and energy. In addition the unequal power relations between men and women contribute to differential access, participation and treatment, with regards to accessibility and usage of ICTs. Indeed women face challenges that generally impede their integration into the information society namely: lack of resources, low literacy and education levels and time constraints due to multiple roles. It is therefore important that Government establishes programmes for accessibility and training in ICT, for rural communities as well as schools and institutions to help improve coverage in the rural areas with a special focus on women.
Women and the media

The media and women hold a very mutual relationship, as the media is universally known to be essential in any democratic and governance process. The media in Uganda has been a very instrumental ally in raising popular awareness and support for women’s rights, as well as raising awareness. There has been a marked expansion in: the growth of the local advertising industry and the development of young upcoming female and gender sensitive artistes in the film making industry, hence promoting behavioural change and the transformation of gender relations and stereotyping.
Unfortunately the media continues to: marginalise women, trivialise their issues and paint negative images of them. The media has been commercialised and privatised, producers and editors have underlying commercial interests, which are often not about empowering women. There is abuse of women’s bodies and portrayal of negative “sex sells’ images like pornography and the presentation of women as sex objects. Similarly the media continues to portray women in stereotypical roles and images, especially since the industry offers quick money to unemployed young women, willing to trade off their right to privacy in many of the pornographic media houses.

The Change We Want to See

1. Expansion of the Digital Science Teaching component of the Cyber Schools Technology Solutions Programme, supported by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), to promote increased and wider use of ICT in rural schools

2. Increased resource allocation to UCC’s Rural Communications Development Fund, so as to equip more rural pupils with computers

3. Gender sensitive media policies developed, to ensure that media programmes do not promote gender stereotyping

4. Affirmative Action policies developed to ensure gender equality, in the appointive positions on public ICT boards and heads of ICT Institutions

5. Investment in the use of ICTs in education (formal and informal) and in the establishment of establishment of rural ICT Centres, to promote accessibility and usage by women

6. Self regulatory mechanisms developed for all media houses, in order to address the exploitation of women’s bodies for pornography and to promote the right to women’s privacy, as well as respect for their bodily integrity and personhood.

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