The number of internet users in Uganda has significantly increased over the last year, a study by Unwanted witness has revealed.
Titled “The State of Digital Rights and Internet Users in Uganda”, the report shows that the number of internet users in Uganda drastically increased to 20 million by September 2020 from less than 18million a year before.
The report attributes the increase in the demand for online services resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and expansion of access to the sea cables, growing ICT services and lowering costs of the international bandwidth.
The reports indicate that many Ugandans especially the youth resorted to internet use for business and social purposes. The introduction of OTT saw about 3 million subscribers become inactive between 2018 and 2019.
While launching the report in Kasese, Dorothy Mukasa, the Executive Director Unwanted Witness, said that in a country where freedom of assembly and associations are greatly constrained, social media has been a blessing for those whose voices could not be heard.
She, however, notes that the high cost of Internet bundles, low levels of digital literacy and poor internet coverage especially in rural areas where the majority of people live continue to pose a challenge to the enjoyment of digital rights.
Mukasa challenges the government to appreciate that the Internet and associated technologies provide opportunities for parties to interact and increase access to information, a key digital right.
The report indicates that the government has greatly embraced e-governance to improve service delivery to the citizens including the introduction of e-services like e-procurement portal, e-passport system, e-receipting, IFMS, IPPS among others.
Among others, the study recommends that the government through the Ministry of ICT should establish policies and programs that make the Internet affordable to all citizens irrespective of the economic and social status of the individual citizen.
Mukasa says laws such as the Data Protection Act 2019, the computer misuse act 2011 and others continue to be abused by the government to harass citizens into submission.
The Rwenzori Regional Police Commander-RPC, Samuel Asimwe however said most of the actions taken by the government to control the internet originate from those who are violating its usage. He sighted cases where people were inciting violence on social media during the just concluded elections.
Asiimwe requested human rights advocates to also remind citizens of their responsibilities in using and sharing information.
The Kasese municipality mayor, Geoffrey Kabyanga said there is need for government to enlighten the public on proper internet use. He adds that the government regulation that could interfere with the internet should be explained to the users very well before such action is taken.
The report was developed in partnership with the Digital Human Rights project with the support from The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).