Digital Inclusion: Unwanted Witness’ Amplified project is bridging the digital divide among women and persons with disability in Uganda

By Sempala Allan Kigozi

One of the key issues faced by Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in Uganda is exclusion from many aspects of society. PWDs just like other humans in Uganda continue to grapple with not having equal opportunities and equal access to most spheres of life. This lack of access includes ICT skills; and because of the limited access to ICT skills, they are often the most exposed to risks such as exploitation, harassment and discrimination, a reality particularly true for females.

The global pandemic transformed many aspects of human lives, forcing millions to stay home, with ICTs becoming a lifeline of human survival. As different people relied on the internet to survive during COVID-19, the situation remained dire for PWDs whose ICT access and use is rated low in Uganda.

A study by the country’s communications regulator- UCC points to a very low uptake of ICTs among PWDs in Uganda, despite the social economic benefits that accrue from accessing ICTs. This shows how increasingly PWDs are increasingly isolated from accessing and using ICTs, thus exacerbating digital inequality, marginalization and exclusion.

In Uganda, persons with disabilities have been recognized as a vulnerable group, which requires special measures of protection. Article 21 (1) of Uganda’s Constitution upholds Uganda’s commitments in safeguarding equality and freedom from discrimination for all including Persons with Disability. This is because of the various challenges they face that make it impossible for them to access the same opportunities as other members of society.

To bridge this gap, Unwanted Witness with support from the Canadian Embassy, through its program “Amplified”, seeks to provide PWDs with digital skills and tools to increase their civic engagement and participation, enable them to document abuses, speak truth to power, make their voices heard and defend their rights. To this end, PWDs activists at the grassroots will be equipped with the necessary skills to develop and implement campaigns related to human rights advocacy using these digital tools.  

Guided by its vision of an open, secure and inclusive use of technology/internet that contributes to the realization of human rights and good governance in Uganda, UW among other things, strives to bridge the digital divide among marginalized groups including PWDs and women Human Rights Defenders through the provision of ICT tools, safety and security training, policy advocacy, research and investigations, creating platforms for dialogue and strategic litigation among others.

In 2021, Unwanted Witness’s inclusion programme benefited over five grassroots’ women human rights defenders’ organizations serving a population of 6000 people in the Rwenzori region of Uganda, with access to digital platforms (websites and social media platforms) and skills.

Unwanted Witness in collaboration with the PWDs umbrella organization known as National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (NUDIPU) with support from the Canadian Embassy, intends to once again benefit six more PWDs organizations in Eastern Uganda with digital tools and the relevant digital skills guided by its passion of “Amplifying voices, changing lives”.

If you would like to comment on this story, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.