WOUGNET was set up in May 2000 by women's organisations from Uganda. Its mailing lists are hosted by Kabissa. WOUGNET's mission is "to promote and support the use of information and communication technologies by women organisations as well as individuals, so as to improve the conditions of life for Ugandan women, by enhancing their capacities and opportunities for exchange, collaboration and information sharing."
Primarily, WOUGNET focuses on using mobile phones, e-mail and the web, and is interested in the integration of "traditional means" such as radio, video, and print in a way that it enables wider outreach. Subscriptions to the WOUGNET's mailing lists, drawn from a global audience, have grown from 50 in the year 2000 to 1,292 (spread out across two lists, the WOUGNET mailing list and the WOUGNET update newsletter) by December 2006.
WOUGNET activities are carried out under four major program areas:
Information sharing and networking: This program aims at providing relevant information to women and sharing of experiences for purposes of improving quality of lives. Information sharing and networking is conducted in a variety of ways including through an electronic mailing list, a monthly electronic newsletter with updates on the activities of WOUGNET members and the secretariat, the WOUGNET website www.wougnet.org, a quarterly print newsletter "WOUGNET News", as well as online and face-to-face workshops. The secretariat also houses a Resource Centre with a variety of information on ICT for development.
Technical support: This program aims at supporting women organisations to access, utilise and apply ICTs in addressing their development problems. Under this program, WOUGNET activities include designing simple websites for members (with support from volunteers), providing Tech Tips on a variety of computer related queries and issues of members, and facilitating access to ICTs (e.g, refurbished computers in collaboration with Computer Aid International, WorldSpace satellite radio in collaboration with RANET-Uganda, innovative technologies such as i.scribe).
Gender and ICT Policy Advocacy: The program aims at building capacity of network members to effectively influence the formulation and implementation of gender sensitive ICT policies and programs. WOUGNET serves as secretariat for the Uganda Women's Caucus on ICT (UWCI) to undertake advocacy activities geared towards addressing gender concerns within the ICT Policies and programs. Primarily funded by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), advocacy activities include building the capacity of policy makers, ICT experts and the media to articulate gender issues in the on-going ICT policy processes (e.g., conduct public fora, gender analysis training), advocating for gender sensitive ICT policy processes (e.g., produce policy briefs), and assessing the implementation of ICT policies (e.g., assessment of the Rural Communications Development Fund from a gender perspective).
Rural access: The program aims at improving rural women's access to ICTs, strengthening organisation members and building capacity in their ICT use and application increasing women access in ICTs. Under the Rural Access program, a project on "Enhancing Access to Agricultural Information using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in Apac District" was initiated to develop and improve information and communication systems so as to enable easy access to agricultural information for rural women farmers via a variety of ICTs including mobile phones, radio cassettes, and community radio. Located in Apac town, the Kubere Information Centre (KIC) was established to act both as an Information Resource point as well as to support project implementation and two-way linkages with the women farmers. This project was initiated with support from the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA).
Also within Apac District, Northern Uganda, WOUGNET is piloting an e-Society programme that seeks to foster collaboration between local government and civil society in Apac district through the use of ICTs. Funded by Hivos and IICD, it involves local government at the district and sub-county levels as well as CSOs active at district and community level.
Another key project under the Rural Access area is the Dimitra Project/FAO that involves collection and updating of information on NGOs, Research Institutes and Information Centers working with rural women in five countries, namely, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. This information is maintained in an electronic database as well as on the Dimitra website.
WOUGNET argues that there are some "challenges" blocking the spread of ICT (information and communication technology) among women in Uganda. These include language constraints (most information is in English, and little has been translated into local African languages), lack of access to ICT equipment and services, multiple roles women have to fulfil and time constraints, lack of ICT skills, "technophobia" specially among women and girls, gender issues (like the control by men over women's decisions, impacting negatively women's effective participation), irrelevant content which doesn't address local needs of people and ends up further aggravating the situation in an "information poor society".
WOUGNET argues that "access to accurate and timely information by rural women can result in enhanced economic and social development".
It points out that the Ugandan government "recognizes that information is key for programs such as the Poverty Eradication Action Plan and the Plan for Modernisation for Agriculture". Yet, at the same time, WOUGNET also concedes that "information is of limited use unless it is appropriately packaged and communicated".