Thursday, July 27, 2017

#Uganda gets #China to monitor, control #Internet & #SocialMedia - #HumanRights #MediaFreedom

Cry The Beloved Country (Continent might even be more appropriate).  It may not even be an issue since Uganda is now the 24th province of China.  Go ahead and protest this one and then explain why Uganda is contracting a Chinese company which is China government owned to police the Internet in Uganda!

This is not a bad joke.  One of the most controlling countries in the world is going to be controlling Uganda media, journalism, reporters and activism. That kneeling woman who flew to Beijing to sign the deal for China to take over Uganda Internet and Social Media has never even taken a single computer science course in her life.

SPAN wrote something about how dictators hate Social Media.  Now he is proven right.  For when you get China to control your Internet and Social Media, it means that President Yoweri Museveni is at odds with the people.  It also means that there shall be no voices which are not pro-regime.

What Ugandans should worry about is the fact that we have many universities who offer Computer Science, Computer Engineering and Information Technology.  If the regime was really concerned about Internet abuse, they would hire graduates from Uganda to monitor the Internet and Social Media.  This is actually rather easy and Ugandans can do it.  By the regime hiring a Chinese company to do this, it means that even the Uganda regime does not believe in the students who graduate with IT degrees yearly.  It means that the Universities are not preparing the students for work outside of the classrooms. It also means that their professors cannot teach. It implies that despite the exorbitant tuition parents pay to get degrees for their kids is totally wasted. 

For sure, there is some abuse of Social Media and the Internet by Ugandans but it is so minimal it does not warrant censoring any platform.  Neither does it mean that Uganda has to hire a Chinese company to surveille Ugandans.   If the Ugandan government stopped and listened to Ugandans for one month, we would not need to learn Chinese or hire Chinese.

Uganda already has bad blood with the Chinese.  From the rapes while they build the roads, dams and get given 20,000 hectares of land forcefully taken away from Ugandans to Chinese companies forcing health tests and sacking Ugandans who register HIV positive to deals which involve the Chinese in shoddy deals like Kilembe Mines, Nakapiripirit rock or Tororo.  The image of Chinese in Uganda is already bad enough so did we have to go and sign a deal to make them take control of our Social Media and Internet so that we get silenced?

The price will be very high when China takes over Social Media and Internet for Uganda.  The only good thing for the Chinese is most of the work can be done remotely and they do not have to reside in Kampala.  Should they move to Uganda and try to work in Uganda, they can always check up on the Chinese boss people who have been attacked. 

All that said, Ugandans will not miss much when China takes over.  Google had to do extra work for China to block and censor sites which Beijing did not want their nationals to see.  In Uganda, it is a small percentage who use Google for Information Research.  Very few Ugandans use the Internet outside Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter.  In fact if the announcement had been about China taking over Social Media, I would not have given a damn!  Except that Social Media runs on the Internet.  Consequently, it is every social media platform that Ugandans use.

In this age, which country would give their Internet control to a foreign country and most especially China? Where the world is moving towards information sharing, Uganda has decided that information will be controlled.  These buffoons bought a machine to block pornography.  BUT who needs a machine to block when you can just block it via an App written by a kid?   And in any case, when you cannot feed your people or put medicine in hospitals, should pornography be your priority?  OR perhaps you want to censure Social Media because you are afraid that Ugandans will tell the world of how their mother went to a hospital to born a baby and died in child birth?  Perhaps even how someone went to a private hospital and they could not get an X-Ray after an accident and died like Agaba?  Is it maybe possible that you want to control the Internet because people keep exposing the graft, theft, bribes, corruption, kidnappings, assassinations, murders and impunity?

If the Museveni regime really wanted to control Social Media and Internet to prevent abuse, they would turn to Makerere University and Kyambogo University departments of Computer Science and get them to do all the work.  The cost would be much cheaper and would encourage our professors and students and they would know that the education they are getting is useful.  RIGHT NOW, we are telling them that despite some UGX 20 million for a degree, the degree is useless.

Martha Leah Nangalama
Computer Network Infrastructure Analyst for a global company
Masters in Information Science, University of Toronto

Bachelors in Business Administration, Trent University Canada

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