The web, radio, and television have been flooded recently with the news about Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill, sentencing homosexuals, or people who commit homosexual acts to anywhere between 5 years and life in prison.
The specifics of the bill can be seen here to the left, and, as you can imagine, it has been causing international uproar. Today on the web I saw an article with a graphic photo of a supposedly homosexual man being burned alive in front of a group of people which included many children. That image made me want to write about whats going on in Uganda for my blog this week, and how whats happening there is associated with ICTs.
First of all, its amazing how fast news flies these days; uproar began even before the bill was signed, as early as 2009 when it was first being introduced. Since then foreign diplomats have been pressuring the Ugandan government to not sign the bill but, as we all know, it was to no avail. The World Bank now has said that it will delay a huge loan it had promised the nation because of this bill. Now some of the biggest worries for Ugandans and the international community alike are about the safety of people who may be at risk. Jail is not even the type of risk that is most concerning, but the fact that gays are being beaten, killed, and denied services such as healthcare in their own countries. So what does this all have to do with ICTs? First of all, without the Internet the international community would have much less influence over the happenings in other parts of the world. Amnesty International immediately set up a protest petition, gaining over 200,000 signatures within a few days. The hashtag #uganda has surged suddenly, leading to thousands of tweets about whats going on in that country an opinions on the bill. Mobile phone users have captured incredible and horrifying images of protests and human rights abuses and are putting them on the web for the whole world to see. ICTs have given us the power to do this, to effect change thousands of miles away, to support protesters, or to watch entire nations collapse.
So what can ICTs do now? Can ICTs be useful in times like this? In places like Uganda? ICTs showed us whats going on, and sparked the discussion on how to change it- but can ICTs really do anything on the ground in real time to help the people whose lives are at risk? I think so. I wonder if we will see any apps spring up that could help, because there’s an app for everything, as the saying goes. Maybe an app that will locate clinics that will treat open homosexuals? Though to access the app you would have to know a secret password or something so that the possibly life-saving information stays with the people that need it rather than in the hands of the wrong people. So maybe that wouldn’t work too well, but there has to something- what do you think? How could ICTs be used in this situation? I’m not sure, I’ll keep brainstorming, but lets get the conversation started.