Strengthening rural women’s access to broadband in Uganda
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Strengthening rural women’s access to broadband in Uganda

A WACC-supported project run by the Woman of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) is strengthening community-based connectivity in the rural North of the country, with a particular focus on bridging the digital gender gap.

WOUGNET, which brings together women-led Ugandan civil society organizations, was established in 2000 to promote the use of information and communication technologies by women and girls for gender equality and sustainable development.

Ugandan policy views broadband as the cornerstone for economic growth, job creation, global competitiveness, and a better way of life in today’s digital era, notes the WACC partner. But communities in rural areas lack sustainable, reliable, just, accessible, and affordable connectivity, including devices to access broadband networks.

Women are particularly impacted by this lack of connectivity. Of the 900 million women globally without use of the internet, almost two-thirds live in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. In Uganda, the digital gender gap exceeds 20% in rural areas.

Narrowing the digital gender gap

With support from WACC and co-funder the Association for Progressive Communications, WOUGNET is strengthening a rural broadband network for schools, health centers, government offices, women-led farmers groups, and businesses in Apac municipality, home to 65,000 people in northern Uganda.

The rural voices project uses a “connectivity for all” approach based on “feminist principles of internet methodology,” according to WOUGNET Executive Director Sandra Aceng.

She says the initiative is strengthening network infrastructure to expand connectivity in Apec. WOUGNET is working with 24 community leaders, both women and men, to build their capacity in basic networking and troubleshooting of the community network.

A gender governance committee is assessing the gender responsiveness of the rural broadband connectivity model and looking at steps to close any gender gaps.

Graphic for UN Sustainable Development Goal 16 with dark blue background and in white the number 16, the words "peace, justice and strong institutions" and a dove holding an olive branch and sitting on a gavelIn addition, the project is setting up a knowledge web portal, accessible both online and offline, that will enable easy community access to social services such as health and education and to information about agriculture and markets that people need to improve their livelihoods.

WOUGNET is aiming to improve “access and use of affordable broadband with increased benefits for women and girls,” says Aceng. “[We want] to enhance the capacity of women in all their diversities — to fully enjoy their digital rights and engage in dismantling patriarchy affecting digital inclusion.”

Left: In partnership with netLabs Uganda, WOUGNET is expanding broadband access points across the northern part of the country, including here at the marketplace in Atopi in the district of Apac. Right: Community members access the internet outside the community broadcaster Radio Apac. Photos: WOUGNET

 


WACC works in partnership with WOUGNET and other communication rights and sustainable development organizations worldwide through its Communication for All Program (CAP), with support from Bread for the World-Germany.

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