A survey carried out by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) in 2014 found out that only 6% of Ugandan women are online. WOUGNET and Web Foundation conducted a survey in Uganda and found out that only 21% of women reported having used the internet verses 61% of men. The gender gap in Uganda is perpetuated by a number of factors including limited access to the internet, lack of digital skills and empowerment of women, affordability of ICT services especially broadband connectivity, relevant content online as well as saftey and security of women users online.
The above constraints hinder women's ability to actively participate and influence ICT Policy and decision making processes. Women must be at the forefront of ICT Policy and decision making processes for the internet to be a transformatve space for all. WOUGNET and the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) conducted a desk review to ascertain the gender responsiveness of ICT policies and laws. The analysis of the laws were done on laws and policies such as the Data Protection and Privacy Bill, the Electronic Transactions and Signatures Acts, the Regulation on Interception of Communications Act among others.
Data Protection and Privacy Bill - A critical look at how it can hamper women's online use
The Data Protection Bill has many issues to contend with. First, there are issues regarding the current set of personal data and information that is in the hands of Telecom Companies, Government, Internet Service Providers [ISPs] and Private sectors such as Banks, Secondly, there are concerns on the aspects of data that is already out and the lack of provisions on; who is permitted by law to collect and own this data and under what circumstances can it be used or even may be misused. Furthermore, the Bill doesn’t provide for the length of time they should be in possession by any entity and how or where they should dispose of it.
This laxity in the bill may promote online harassment and violence against women as no checks and balances are provided within the Bill. The elements of online violence and harassment against women are not limited to hate speech (publishing a blasphemous libel), hacking (intercepting private communications), identity theft, online stalking (criminal harassment) and uttering threats but can also entail convincing a target to end their lives (counselling suicide or advocating genocide). The Internet also facilitates other forms of violence against girls and women including trafficking and sex trade. A law on data protection would help minimize cases of violence against women and girls that they are likely to face online.
If such personal data is in the wrong hands without a law on how its access or processed and for what purpose, then it can be used against the rights of women and girls hence infringement of their privacy. This may include accessing women’s private data without consent, monitoring, tracking and surveillance of women’s online and of ine activities, doxxing (researching and broadcasting personally identi able information about an individual without consent) and other acts such as divorcing a husband and he exposes your private nude photos online among others
A closer analysis of this Bill found that it lacked gender speci c provisions that protect women. It also lacks clear provisions for the privacy and protection of other vulnerable groups like, children and the elderly. It denies them the protection they need particularly in instances where they are named and their identity shown on televised programs including news putting them at risk of being ostracized, denied justice or even being sentenced by the communities they live in without a proper legal trial. It also doesn’t protect the rights of sexual minorities who may be victimized due to their sexual orientations by communities or people around them. The lack of legal provisions that protects women and girls may lead to women’s/ girl’s identity theft including deleting, changing or faking personal data, photos/videos of women who may be of target
Overall, several recommendations are neccessary for ICT Policies and laws in Uganda to be sensitive. Some of these includes:
Women should be involved in all stages on ICT policy implementation so that their views are included into policy formulation
Civil society organizations need to combine efforts and have an ICT strategy for engagement with policy makers and other stakeholders
All stakeholders views should be integrated into all ICT consultative processes and such processes must be exhaustive enough for all views to be captured
Government should have a Monitoring and Evaluation Framework for all gender and ICT policies so that actual bene t accrues to the common person.