State Minister for Information and Communications Technology Idah Nantaba has urged girls to join efforts in fighting vices that have emerged as a result of the internet, especially cyberbullying.
The minister observed that like all good things, the increased usage of ICTs has also come with its challenges, highlighting some of the most common pitfalls as impersonation, unwanted communication, violation of privacy, undesired content among others.
“Young girls and women have specifically been the main target of cyber-bullying, trafficking and extortion. Therefore, you need to safeguard against such abuse, and protect your information.”
Cyberbullying has become a common evil and there are various forms in which it is practiced.
Some of the most common forms are cyberstalking, catfishing, fraping, fake profiles, trickery, harassment, exclusion, outing and trolling.
A lot of women have reported being sexually harassed online, and to some extreme cases they have had their private videos and pictures unleashed to the public by vengeful ex-partners.
The effects of the vice are enormous and researchers have listed some as loss of weight, reduction in self-esteem, withdrawal from family and spending a lot of time alone among others.
Minister Nantaba who was speaking Thursday at the ‘Girls in ICT’ celebrations which were held at Nabisunsa Girls School in Kampala under the theme ‘expanding horizons and changing attitudes’, said that such vices can be uprooted from society if girls and other relevant stakeholders join efforts in mainstreaming gender equality through ICTs.
The event was organised by Women in Technology Uganda (witu), a local organisation started to empower women, alongside Uganda Communications Commission (UCC).
The Girls ICT initiative, started by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), aims at raising global awareness, empower and encourage girls and young women to consider careers in ICTs.
Nantaba told guests who included UCC officials, staff members of Nabisunsa and other stakeholders in ICT that the Ugandan government wants more girls to get online, get informed, be inspired, access opportunities and be the game changers in society.
“We want girls to excel, and break the digital divide, we further want girls to be at the top of decision making processes, these dreams are valid and pursuable,” she said.
She however, noted that however much technology provides a platform for equal participation, the engagement of girls was still low.
“…ICTs are by far the greatest equaliser in global development. The usage of ICTs does not discriminate against gender, age, size, faith, location or physical strength. ICT’s have enabled women to break into careers that were years dominated by men,” she said.
“However, statistics indicate that only 17 percent of technology jobs globally are held by women. This unbalanced representation means that women may have little influence over technology design, implementation and use. This must change.”
According to the minister, government has set a gender friendly ICT policy that gives equal opportunities for girls to excel by:
-Promoting ICT as an essential alternative career for girls and youth in the formal and informal education system
-Encouraging creativity and innovation around ICTs among girls and youth leading to entrepreneurship development.
-Enabling full and equal participation of girls and youth in creating the information society.
-Implementing special ICT training programs for girls and youth
-Facilitating special ICT training programs for girls and youth.
– Facilitating and encouraging the development of electronic networks and systems for associations and organisations engaged in the advancement of girls and youths
– Implementing ICT programmes/projects focusing on combating HIV/Aids among women and youth.
She also reiterated that government was building an ICT innovation hub where young innovators will realise their dreams with government support.
“The hub is open to every innovation regardless of gender. It is our hope that these ideas are transferred from the hubs to the market,” she said, adding: “I implore you to make every day a Girls in ICT day, by working to expand horizons. To our young ladies present today, I hope that interacting with us the role models will stimulate you to take a broader interest in ICTs as you move forward with your studies and future careers.”