Uganda’s ongoing program of digital government transformation has been lauded a success story, with the World Bank finding that its biometric digital ID system rollout puts Uganda “in a different league of countries.” But on-the-ground qualitative research has shown that the Ugandan digital ID system, like those in many other countries, is deeply exclusionary: it is estimated that up to one-third of Uganda’s adult population is not included. The digital ID has raised barriers to accessing social protection and healthcare for older persons and pregnant women and, had the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights and others not litigated against the government’s plan to require authentication of the digital ID for access to the Covid-19 vaccine, significant proportions of the Ugandan population would also have been excluded from vaccines. Meanwhile, the digitalization of government in Uganda is consistently serving to exclude in other spheres, from social protection payments during the pandemic to the digitalization of education. How are socioeconomic rights NGOs responding to these trends? What challenges do such NGOs face in adapting to a new context of rights violations as governments embrace digitalization wholesale? And what is the role of human rights research and advocacy as against exclusion from digital government initiatives?
Speaker: Salima Namusobya, Executive Director of the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights, Uganda, and expert member of the Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.