What about Uganda?

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. Anti-Homosexuality Bill

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.

2 responses to “What about Uganda?

  • areed2014

    I am so glad that you brought up a conversation that links ICT with the intensity and gravity of a life-threatening social problem. Within the scope of this course, I often forget that strategically disseminating information and communication is the goal of ICT4D rather than simply the creation of technologies (be it the hardware or software). Perhaps travelling health clinics could assist with the health ramifications of the Ugandan atmosphere. Maybe combining a health-on-wheels model with an app or another form of communication could assist homosexuals in need of medical treatment. That being said, I am also reminded how technologies can bring further social divides based on who has and who does not have the most current information (be it because of class, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality).

  • jboleky

    First off, I am not expert by any means. However my thoughts when i saw this was to jump to Tor. You need an ICT that could get help to these people, at the same time people communicating could absolutely not have their information compromised. Well the fact it is well known that the US government spies on its own citizen, has a lost of negatives that would not fit in this space. But there is one positive, and that has to do with things like Tor. Tor is a client that encrypts information so well that the NSA has had trouble hacking it, best part is, it’s free. There is an entire group people who specialize in making things that encrypt information, now the ramifications of using this tech could be large and I am unsure of the political realities of the situation. But encrypted apps could actually be used to solve many ICT4D quandaries where the users personal information has to be private. Just my thoughts, i wonder if their could be uses in other places and how the government would react to having information they cant access over their towers, probably not well. If anyone has thoughts regarding this point feel free to post below.

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