Internet in Uganda: a growing baby with shrinking space to express self


If Internet in Uganda was a baby, he/she would be with every reason to write a petition well packaged with enough ingredients to argue a strong case in the courts of law.

Indeed, if that baby had any good Samaritans in this case human rights advocates, it would be prudent for him/her to argue his case from a more independent court, beyond the parent’s normal jurisdiction for avoidance of any possible interference of any kind.

As a must, being a parent doesn’t stop at giving birth to a child, simply because a scientific method of giving birth to a child is automatic as long as a male and a female do expectation in that regard, but it does definitely go beyond to include parenting.

Parenting include among others; providing social needs, paying school fees for that baby from Primary level to tertiary level, giving him/her good upbringing and other related issues  which subsequently assist the baby to get a bright future.

In a case where a parent like Uganda has failed to play his role in looking after his child Uganda, laws particularly human rights related laws, dictate that he must face trials as a result of neglecting the normal duty, thus compelling that parent to do the needful!

Like parents, who commit themselves on the responsibilities, well knowing that they will not fulfill them, Uganda has made a number of pledges over the years regarding freedom of expression using all avenues the Internet inclusive, but implementation has been hardly or not implemented at all.

Internet, which knocked in Uganda in late 1990s, has had a minimal growth due to the unstable environment.

By 2009, four years back, Uganda had only 6,757 internet hosts, making 131 in terms of countries with the most internet hosts after a previous research finding it with 2.5 million internet users out of the total population of 35m.

Going by the those statistical figures, you will realize that Uganda is still behind schedule given the rate at which other Countries harness this Child, Uganda is not helping to grow up.

 As if the denial of the basic necessities in to this child Internet was not bad enough, through acting adamantly as far as creating a good environment for the speedy growth of Internet in Uganda, the parent [Government] made it worse when he decided to decisively suppress it!

As other Countries in the region [East Africa] a case in point the neighboring Kenya where the government has undertaken to harness the internet usage through equipping every child in schools with a laptop, such that they can get skills from childhood, Uganda is concentrating in forging the best ways on how to limit people from getting access to the Internet.

Though there are Ugandans especially the elites who have capacity to get connected on the direct internet providers, with the capacity to visit any website, with different forms of accounts such as email address, and other social media accounts like Facebook, twitter, skype, among others, many people particularly the youths can at least use their mobile phones to read emails, Facebook and what’s up etc.

With these avenues in place, communication has been quite easy, but it is regrettable that Uganda is not that happy parent about this development.

Indeed, he reacted by seeking to block these channels with the main target on social media like Facebook, and twitter on grounds that people misuse them, through uploading un censored information which is inciting violence.

Mid last year, the government of Uganda made a request to facebook, to provide it with user account information of some of its citizens on social media platform, arguing that they wanted to curb some of the security threats, a request which was vehemently rejected by the facebook.

This came shortly after the security Minister Muruli Mukasa noted that government was in the final stages of setting up a social media monitoring Unit to follow social media discussions which has since been implemented.

This tense environment is on top of the already risky situation, under which Ugandans who attempt to use online communication channels to link-up with their talking points.

When you talk of communicating using mobile phones, you will be mistaken to leave out the tapping which was formalized by Parliament a some few years back, talk of using emails; you will definitely be hit by the routine surveillance by the security agencies!

Indeed, it is between a hard and a rock, that communicators in Uganda are placed.

As we commemorate January 18th the Internet Freedom Day, I will urge that we reflect on the existing and the emerging challenges being faced by Internet users, to find lasting solutions, including but not limited to drafting a petition that we would use against this parent Uganda before a competent body who will compel him to play his role in upbringing the neglected child.

The author is a Journalist, and a civil rights advocate