Disability Innovations Uganda and three other teams emerged as winners of the second round of the Innovation Program after successfully pitching their ideas that aim to provide innovative digital solutions to advance human rights that took place at the MCI Media Hub.  

The Digital Human Rights Innovation Program aims at creating digital solutions for Human Rights Defenders to execute their work in better, more efficient and more secure ways. In order to implement their solutions, the teams applied with a digital idea to win a share of the total amount of 60.000.000 UGX plus qualifying for the following 6-month Mentorship Programme. 

Digital technology has transformed the means through which human rights are both exercised and violated around the globe. The Internet has become an indispensable tool for the realization of a range of human rights, and for accelerating economic development. Yet, every day, there are new examples of how digital technologies play a role in undermining human rights

Using innovations in Digital Technology and results based programming, Start Hub Africa supports the young people to  build sustainable and scalable programmes that increase the quality and coverage of basic human rights services. In addition, the innovations aim to help young Ugandans realize their right to participation, and are one step forward in ensuring transparency and accountability at the grassroots level. 

In November and December 2020, the DIgital Human Rights Innovation Program started with over 140 teams applying for the First Round with ideas to improve human rights work in Uganda. The 10 most promising teams were selected to further develop their solution in a 4-week design sprint. With the help of the Design Thinking Methodology, the 9 Principles for Digital Development, e.g. “Design with the User” and the coaching support provided by StartHub Africa, the teams managed to make significant progress in a very short time. 160 teams applied for the Second Round of the program working on different challenges that saw 10 teams take the stage to present their ideas to a critical jury and audience on the 5th, July 2020. 

At the Pitch Event the 10 teams presented their ideas, solutions and projects. Based on common selection criteria, the jury selected 4 winning teams that are to share part of the total award money and further support in terms of a 6-month Mentorship Program. 

The total award money of UGX 60.000.000 was divided among the teams according to their needs as below:

Disability Innovations Uganda receiving a Dummy Cheque from Sophie Dienberg

Disability Innovations Uganda – Awarded Shs 16 Million

For many people with hearing impairments, access to health services, especially Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) remains a challenge. Young people aged 12 to 35, who need these services are often not able to access them because health workers lack knowledge and skills in sign language. Disability Innovations Uganda seeks to change and address the challenge by expanding access to information through training health workers in sign language using various platforms including through an app and video formats. The team hopes that acquiring these skills will ensure equal inclusion and accessibility of health services for deaf people.

Awesome Mind Speaks – Awarded Shs 17 Million

Mental health remains one of the most stigmatized conditions in Uganda. As such, many people do not know where and how to access services. This is especially true for young people who often lack access to accurate information and knowledge, and subsequently services. This is what the My Pal App, an initiative of the Awesome Mind Speaks team hopes to address. With the app, the team hopes to reach more young people digitally with mental health services and information and also be able to normalize conversations on the subject.

Through the App, young people are able to connect with a number of service providers including psychiatrists, counsellors and therapists while remaining anonymous. Awesome Mind Speaks hope to reach hundreds of youth in need of mental health services in the communities in which they work.

Naguru Youth Health Network – Awarded Shs 15 Million

Through an application called Centres4Her, the Naguru Youth Health Network hopes to make it easy for women and girls to report cases of domestic violence and also access legal aid and justice in a timely way. One of the biggest challenges faced by victims of domestic violence is the limited access to services, including access to justice.

Oftentimes, women fear to be judged by society and family members are ignorant about where services are and the cost of accessing these services. With the app, women and girls are able to access services including legal, law enforcement, and protection from police, shelters, HIV testing and access to sexual reproductive health and services.

The Debunk Team – Awarded Shs 12 million

In Uganda, as is the case globally, fake news remains a big challenge. Many people are more likely to believe and spread fake news than accurate news. To counter this problem, the team at DeBunk hopes to use its platform to address the issue of fake news in real-time using a dedicated BOT.

The BOT is a WhatsApp number that can be added in WhatsApp groups or that individuals can add to their phone contacts and have private chats with the BOT. It works in a way that users can send any information they want to fact-check to the BOT. The BOT forwards the information to different fact-checkers who verify the information through experts. The team will also produce video and audio shows that will help people learn about the negative impact of fake news and disinformation. These shows will be shared via social media platforms and with various newsrooms that sign up for the information. They will also offer skills training to young people on how to identify and debunk fake news. 

The De Bunk Team

We had a keynote speech of the day from Mr Micheal Niyitegeka, Country Manager at International Digital Skills Vocational Training and Certification (ICDL) Africa who had this to say,

“It’s important that you think about everything with the level of simplicity. Anything that simplifies processes qualifies to be an innovation. We innovate to simplify life, to make things easy.” 

The Digital Human Rights Lab also launched the #BeHaerd Campaign which has people adding their voices to help shape the future for women around the world to reach their full potential.

“It is important as human rights defenders  that we adapt to technology since human rights violations in this digital era have transcended into online spaces especially against minority groups,” says Ayazika Phillip on the significance of the Campaign. 

The Digital Human Rights Innovation Program is supervised by Sophie Dienberg, the lead of the Innovation at Start Hub Africa which started in September, 2020 said that,

Teams working on ideas that make human life easier can apply to the program to present the different digital ideas, they must make sure that they are dedicated to what they are doing so that they can win a contribution of prize money, 60 Million with which they can share. 

We are in a period of profound societal change and disruption, almost a tectonic shift, brought on by the rapid expansion of digital communication infrastructure and exponential adoption of digital technology. Protection of human rights in the 21st Century will rest on our ability to articulate how to apply enduring human rights principles in the digital context. 

Human rights apply online just as they do offline. Digital technologies provide new means to exercise human rights, but they are too often also used to violate them. Data protection and privacy issues, digital identity, the use of surveillance technologies, online violence and harassment, are of particular concern.

The Digital Human Rights Innovation Program took place at the MCI Media Lab, Tirupati Mazima Mall Kabalagala on the 5th June, 2021 with the generous support of the Digital Human Rights Lab, StartHub Africa and implemented by GIZ. 

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