Monday, December 7, 2015

My Ugandan Selfie Vote



Image Credit: 123rf
By Mwebya Fred
When one talks about Uganda, many different ideas and perceptions show up in our minds. These perceptions entirely depend on how much you have heard or related with Uganda either through individuals or the government. Whichever side of the coin you are, one thing for sure is that Uganda never runs out stories. Right from the time of independence to Amin’s regime, then to the Successful National Resistance Army (NRA) later turned a political movement under the umbrella of National Resistance Movement (NRM). Of course not forgetting the Notorious Lord’s Resistance Army group (LRA) whose atrocities caused a lot of pain and misery to many Ugandans and other Africans in the region. These and many other stories have seen this wonderful “Pearl of Africa” make headlines in many global newspapers.
I just cannot stop imagining, what would have happened if many of the above occurrences had happened in the current Social Media age? Would the late Dr. Milton Obote and  Idi Amin Dada  have allowed Facebook and Twitter shape the political landscape in Uganda? If you are reading this article I actually know that quite a lot of answers are going through your mind; however I certainly think Uganda would have dominated the Social media space had it arrived here before 1990. As to whether the earlier political regimes would have allowed the operation of twitter and Facebook in their Leadership tenures is another debate.


With all due respect, not comparing who of the previous presidents had more love for Information Communication Technologies (ICT), truth is they all played a role in having this nation develop as far as embracing technology is concerned.  From the Satellites in northern Uganda to Uganda Television now named Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC), to the currently many television and radio stations. It’s a clear indication of growth in the information Communication Technologies.  

With the coming of the Internet and Internet enabled Gadgets ranging from mobile phones, tablets, palmtops, laptops and desktops. The political power houses and house hold names have without doubt slowly but steadily embraced technology most especially the internet enabled communication tools like Social Media. Unlike in the west most especially United States where political emailing is a very common trend, here in Uganda, Social Media dominates the political “industry”.

 
In the past Ugandans had to wait for official regional visits from political, religious and other activists so as to have their opinions heard. We also need to remember that before 1995, there were a few Newspaper companies which were mostly concentrated in urban areas leaving those in rural heard to reach areas in a shadow of no information. Lately a farmer in Busheyi is able to follow the latest news and happenings via social media. These same individuals also have access to directly and publicly air out their opinions to their leaders through Social Media.
After witnessing several political stories make headlines in the past years, Uganda was taken by surprise when one of the Presidential Candidates took to YouTube to officially announce his interest in the Biggest and Highest office in the land. The YouTube video spread like wild fire and aroused a wakeup call to all other political actors and houses. Some looked for potential social media managers while others were fired for not having seriously strategized to Leverage on Social Media before competitors.  Currently many social media accounts have cropped up and I am starting to base my vote on those accounts that drive the real issues that I consider valuable to me as a Ugandan.

 
Unfortunately many political actors do not know how to use Social Media and they have resorted to allowing other people run their accounts either professionally or un-professionally. I also know political actors who have taken off time to study and learn how Social Media really works and as a result they have had a significant impact on the way they communicate and engage followers and supporters online.
Just like many Pro-Democracy advocates say “Your Vote matters” I absolutely have no doubt that my vote matters too. I will only vote for those candidates who know how to use social media and are tech savvy.  I am looking to a future where my president can directly listen to my challenges than the existing bureaucratic system. Thankfully most of the candidates have existing social media accounts but I am yet to discover how many know how Social Media works. I also know that the Electoral Commission now owns a twitter account though they are very slow in responding to queries and questions. For transparency and clarity I will take a selfie with my ballot paper come 2016. Over to you, will you vote a tech savvy candidate?  

By Mwebya Fred
mwbyfred@gmail.com
www.twitter.com/Ugaman01

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