A gender critique of Uganda’s rural ICT access policy: opportunities and challenges
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Rural access to ICT has been highlighted as key in driving development. It is argued that rural access to ICT boosts production, improves household income, reduces inequalities and widens market options. The Uganda government in 2001 put in place a rural ICT access policy named the Rural Communications Development Policy (RCDP) that provided for a Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF) through which government subsidises communication investment in areas that are considered unprofitable if left to free market forces to promote universal access. Since 2002 support has been provided to establish telephone points, computer training centres and Internet services. In 2006 a gender analysis of the Rural Communications Development Policy/Fund (RCDP/F) was conducted in 14 districts of Uganda. The objective was to find out the extent to which the initiatives supported under RCDP/F had provided universal access to rural communications by both women and men and whether the implementation process took into account gender considerations. The findings and subsequent follow-ups in two districts show contradictions and discrepancy between policy conception and implementation, pointing to failure to achieve intended objectives of reaching out especially to women. No women’s organisation had ever accessed support. Culture, attitudes and gender blind project selection criteria inhibited females’ access to funding. The policy and its implementation did not take into account women’s and gender needs. The paper suggests a review and re-conceptualisation of the RCDP/F to remove contradictions so that selected projects benefit women and men equitably.