We have just finished a few days of the 42 days of lockdown as announced by the President of the Republic of Uganda Mzee Tibuhaburwa Yoweri Kaguta Museveni last week. This 2nd lockdown came as a result of surging cases of Covid19 in the country that has claimed the lives of our friends, relatives, and in-laws.
At times like these, access to information is important especially to that person whose point of news collection is from physical sources.
As Government prepares to send a survival token to the various urban poor, there is a need to update people on the progress of this plan and also Ugandans need to be updated on what the Government is doing in finding a lasting solution for this pandemic.
Just as Morgan Freeman said in his life turning point movie Shawshank Redemption “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies”.
These locked-up hand-to-mouth Ugandans need hope to survive for another day.
Digital media to be precise for our vulnerable Ugandans is basically any information that is encoded in machine-readable formats. It’s that message that is sent through a screen or airwaves, it can be through a screen of your phone on social platforms or the Radio message from your best DJ on that local radio station that you listen to every day.
Digital media holds considerable potential for information dissemination and promotion as it addresses some of the limitations in traditional communication by increasing accessibility, interaction, engagement, empowerment, and customization.
The use of Digital media increases the potential for easy access to information, interaction with health care providers, interprofessional communication in emergency management, and public health especially in this period of covid19 pandemic.
Social Media is a component of digital media and according to Hansen et al. (2011), social media is a set of online tools designed and centered on social interaction. Practically, social media is a phrase for the mixture of web-based technologies and services such as blogs, micro-blogs (e.g., Twitter), social sharing platforms (e.g., YouTube, Flicker, Stumble Upon), and social networking services (e.g., Facebook, MySpace, Whatsapp).
In a study published by Global Digital Insights, there were 4 million people on social media in Uganda. In January 2021 and the number increased by 36% between 2020 and 2021. As a social media user, I know the power of social media in both disseminating information and setting narratives.
I will tell you that my mum in Nyeibingo is not on social media but whenever I talk to her on phone, there is that information I pass to her from these social platforms and this is where I want to acknowledge the great work done by the digital arm of Government (Government Citizen Interaction Center) for championing this and making sure we get relevant information.
I wouldn’t have known that there was covid19 vaccination in my division if I had not seen the GCIC graphics on WhatsApp and Facebook. As the Digital arm of the Government, I think they should scale their services to deep corners of this country and maybe negotiate with telecommunication companies on behalf of Ugandans to reduce data costs and make social media accessible to every Ugandan, especially in this period.
If you sample 10 Ugandans today on how they are coping up with lockdown, a bigger percentage will confirm that they spend most of their time-consuming information through watching movies, chatting with friends on different social platforms and this is a great opportunity for Government institutions and business people to explore and increase their visibility.
Other spaces like the news websites have been critical in propagating information to Ugandans and this is the time to intensify the news production for our consumption and it’s my humble request that this space is more given to voices that are supporting the fight against this pandemic so as to help in informing our people on what is required of them to win this battle.
Rukundo Paul Rwabihurwa