22 years of internal strife by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people living in the northern part of Uganda. In 2007 a total of 31 IDP camps (which now are called Community Centers) with all together 214,908 people have been administrated to which food aid was being distributed. Now that the situation is stabilizing, many inhabitants are leaving the camps to return to the land that was once their home. But in doing so they encounter a new array of problems and difficult challenges to overcome. I visited two different IDP camps along with 2 different organizations that were active and carrying out projects to sustain the community and improve the lively hoods of the people i.e. BOSCO Uganda and SOVCO Uganda.
Ongako – SOVCO
“To enable and empower children to lead a better quality of life and instill good morals and hope in the future”.
My friend Tonny took me with him to visit Ongako, where SOVCO (Support the Orphans and Vulnerable Children’s Organization) is based. Upon arrival I was welcomed by the SOVCO volunteers and Tonny immediately started explaining the basis and plans of SOVCO. As he said, the problems of the community and its local members are that as a result of the conflicts they were unable to catch up with the national development through education. As the central Ugandan people have acquired a high level of education due to the peace and harmony in their region, in the north, though the government enforces to supplement on the regional development peace recovery program, the people cannot yet forget of the conflicts of the past 22 years. Therefore SOVCO is to build and strengthen the capacity of the existing constraints and the disadvantaged community through training, counseling, guidance, life skills education, paying for the school fees so the war affected orphans can get a chance to get education and to meet other fundamental demands like scholastic materials and health care for orphans and vulnerable children part the community.
To make their organization and projects self sustainable they have plans to start Income Generating Activities (IGA) through the provision of a vast agricultural program. The chairman of SOVCO, Ojok Kisembo, has donated a great deal of his land for this plan. Yet, as Tonny and Kisembo explain, there is a critical need for donations and funding to get this plan off the ground, because there are some obstacles hindering the progress of the IGA. And as a consequence, due to these obstacles they cannot begin with effective service for the orphans and vulnerable children. As Tonny honestly says, “we cannot yet blindfold the community that we are assisting”. SOVCO is trying hard to get this projects started, to find funding to inject into the IGA and put their mission into action. This exemplifies the serious need for international development cooperation on the ground and in the rural areas, but I wonder and seriously question what needs to happen to render this dependency on international cooperation obsolete. Is international development perpetuating the problem it’s supposed to solve? Does the availability of donations and aid influence the mind and beliefs of the people in such a way that makes them convinced that the only way out of poverty and the only solution to their problem is through aid and donations? Because humanitarian aid is (easily) accessible it’s, in my debatable opinion, the first thing people in need aim for, therefore perpetuating its own existence.
Tonny explained to me that in the African tradition of society there is traditional belief, a myth that needs to be eradicated, and hinders the development of present society. This myth created by factor of material gain. There is a high percentage of girls dropping out of school because of the poverty and the need for instant material gain. “If the tuition fee is not yet there, that will bring a very funny thinking capacity in our brain”, as Tonny exemplifies this way of (parental) thinking, “this is a girl that is now grown up, why not for me to look a way forward so I can achieve some material gain out of her”. This mindset results in early marriages, school dropout, a low educated society, and it holds back development. So, Tonny says, “that is an idea, a belief in our local community that we are trying to abolish, and we must do away with such a belief so that our society and our community and community life should develop”.
So, I wonder, where does ICT come into the picture? How can ICT help in this, and what does this scenario and everything Tonny explained say about the future? Eventually no one can deny that ICT will be integrated into the educational system and the daily lives of people, even in Ongako. But will the provision of ICT change this mindset that hold back development? It is a large factor that needs to be anticipated when looking ahead and using ICT4D. It is a factor that will reshape tradition of the people on the one side and the general use of ICT on the other. Can ICT be a strategic/tactical/functional tool to abolish the traditional belief of material gain. Is this what is needed? Should ICT be implemented for development with the goal to change traditional mindsets, or will the change of the mindset be merely a result/side-effect? Of course communities and societal structures are different everywhere and is the problem sketched here not the same everywhere, but it certainly is a factor that needs to be taken into consideration in the field of ICT4D.
This subject is very much open for debate and comments/feedback/ideas are MORE than welcome!!