KAMPALA - Majority of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in Uganda remain cut off from basic information and communication technologies in spite of growth in coverage rates, a new survey has found.
The study shows a sharp divide in access and usage of ICTs by PWDs, as well as access to other human needs like education, clean water, electricity, employment and financial services.
The study was conducted by the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) to assess the access and usage of ICTs by PWDs in Uganda.
A preliminary report unveiled today indicates that PWDs suffer exclusion from access and use of ICTs and calls for a new thinking by all key players.
“Awareness, access and use of ICTs by PWDs is extremely low. The most accessible and used ICT device amongst PWDs is a radio followed by a mobile phone,” the partial report reads.
Most of the PWDs interviewed had physical disabilities, while others had visual or hearing impairment or disabilities related to learning.
The survey covered 2,757 households and individuals, 35 businesses and 118 institutions run by PWDs. It captured their demographic characteristics including age, gender, marital status, level of education, main economic activity, level of income and social welfare.
According to the survey, 95% PWDs have never heard of assistive technologies, a set of devices used to maintain, increase, or improve the functional capabilities of PWDs.
Most of them also have no knowledge about the devices, which include: manual Perkins Braille, magnifiers (hand held), hand frames and communication boards.
For instance, even among the 14% who were aware of the Perkins braille, only 4% use them and only 2% of PWDs use magnifiers. Only 8% of PWDs use computers while 16% use internet.
The new study makes reference to the general living standards of living of PWDs, who constitute about 12% of Uganda’s estimated 40 million people.
It shows that an average 43.6% of PWDs are living in poverty using the $2 (about sh7000) per day poverty line, higher than the national average of 36%.
In spite of the universal primary education (UPE) and universal secondary education (USE), slightly more than half of PWDs interviewed have not gone beyond Senior Four.
The new study shows that most individual PWDs are largely excluded from formal and informal financial services, leaving them.
It shows that the percentage of PWDs who use mobile money for financial services lies at 33%, below the current national average of 56%. Access to services through SACCOs is also low.
Only 14% of PWDs had access to a bank account. The study shows that the social media tax and the mobile money levy threaten gains in increasing access to ICTs for PWDs.
“It is obvious that, given the observed poverty likelihood amongst PWDs, if not exempted from the daily sh200 or use of Over The-Top (OTT) services and tax on mobile money transactions, the progress made in advancing financial inclusion of this financially excluded people using ICTs may be reversed,” the report states.
The report attributes the digital divide in access and usage of ICTs for PWDs to poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, lack of ICT skills and low awareness, among others.
It argues that the current initiatives by government, development partners and the private sector aimed at improving ICT access and usage by PWDs are either be ineffective or insignificant.
The study is expected generate new policy ideas to help improving access and usage of ICTs by PWDs so that they can participate fully and equally in the Ugandan’s information society.