The Rural Communications Development Fund in Uganda (RCDF) is a type of Universal Access Fund that encourages the private sector to invest in ICTs for rural areas. The RCDF allows for basic communications services at a reasonable price and distance by all people (urban and rural) in Uganda. It is meant to 1) assist in areas where commercial services cannot be provided 2) provide basic universal access 3) promote competition among operators. The RCDF supports a multitude of projects that include but are not limited to: multi-purpose community telecenters, Internet cafes, public telephone booths, ICT training centers. However, from a gender perspective the RCDF may not seem as perfect. The Uganda Women Caucus on ICTs conducted an assessment of the RCDF and provided commentary on necessary alterations. Because the RCDF is (for the most part) successful and can/could be used as an appropriate model to set up similar funds in other countries, it is important in my opinion to understand certain flaws that could be changed with heeding advice from the gender perspective assessment.
Here are a few things they recommended (considering the assessment concluded with a number of concerns), and that I thought important:
1) Women and marginalized populations in rural areas cannot all be reached by solely newspaper, which is the main form of spreading information regarding RCDF. Consider radio/Internet/mailing lists/posters/brochures/etc.
2) In relation to the RCDF policy, the policy makers should be more specific in what the policy intends to do for gender mainstreaming.
3) The selected agencies should be distributed in the 3 following categories: “educational institutions including female only ones; private sector for profit businesses including women owned enterprises and NGOs / CBOs including women’s organisations and agencies with gender objectives
4) Revise selection criteria to attract more women: this should encourage women to apply by “giving incentives to women proprietors, through positive discrimination, or indicating that women organizations should apply.”
In conclusion, this assessment was productive; however, I was interested to read on about other initiatives the UWCI had taken on. One project included a presentation on “Gendering the e-Government Policies in East Africa,” at the April 2006 Regional Stakeholders’ Consultative Workshops on Cyber Laws and e-Justice and on Information Security. I am curious to see if any changes followed with this assessment on the RCDF.
To read the assessment in full, please go to this link: RCDF_Uganda (PDF)