By Rosette Gladys Nandutu
Reflectively, digital organisation has offered Uganda a robust tool for mobilising support, scrutinising leadership, and championing for change.
Young people in Uganda have used digital organising as a tool for social change.
The demonstration was started by a cartoonist and Lecturer at Makerere University, Dr. Spire Ssentongo, who kicked off with a tweet on April 15, 2023.
“Our preliminary KAMPALA POTHOLE EXHIBITION starts on Monday, April 17. We shall exhibit Kampala pothole photos on every tweet by @KCCAUG @UNRA_UG, @NRMOnline, @GenWamala with the location of the pothole (pondhole), age of the pothole, estimated size, and a note of thanks.” Read the tweet.
This was a profound and effective protest where Ugandans used their digital devices from wherever they were to raise their concerns about the city roads.
According to a news release published on the KCCA website on April 22, 2023, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni later issued a directive to the Ministry of Finance to release Shs. 6 billion quarterly to KCCA for carrying out repair works on the pothole-filled roads and general road maintenance.
Initiated by a significant number of young people, this virtual platform has mobilized thousands to support local initiatives, effectively utilizing the digital space for social transformation.
The digital age has brought forth a paradigm shift in the way society operates, especially in the realm of civic space, where technology has found pervasive adoption.
Uganda, like any other country, is at the heart of this global digital revolution, with the young populace being the most affected and influenced.
The prominent role of technology in Uganda’s civic space can be attributed to the widespread proliferation of smartphones and internet access across the nation.
However, despite this positive shift in the civic space, there remain notable challenges, with platform censorship being the elephant in the room.
These disruptions ostensibly aim to maintain peace but, in effect, curtail freedom of expression and undermine the democratic process.
According to the 2022 Civic Space Index by the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders in Uganda, the civic space in Uganda is considered to be restricted.
Among the five civic dimensions examined, three were ranked as restricted, indicating significant limitations on those aspects of civic space. The remaining two dimensions were identified as partially protected.
This assessment collectively highlights the challenges faced in maintaining civic space and upholding freedom of expression and human rights in Uganda.
Such restrictions are not unique to Uganda but are glaring examples of how technology can be used to shrink civic spaces rather than expand them.
This selective use of technology underscores the need for regulations that consider the digital rights of young people and uphold the integrity of civic spaces.
For a truly dynamic and inclusive civic society for young people to flourish, Uganda, like many emerging digital societies, must foster an environment where free speech and freedom of association are preserved rather than infringed.
The challenge lies in enabling a digitally connected civic community, free from undue censorship, where the youth can lead the conversation on crucial matters impacting their lives and the future of their country.