Social media is rapidly becoming one of the most important media of communication in Uganda.For politicians, the need to jump onto the social media bandwagon, has become even more urgent than ever before, considering the huge presence of young people that use social media platforms. For politicians, social media is a powerful tool for influencing the masses through persuasion, news dissemination and service delivery.
The critical importance of social media could be seen by the way these alternative channels have been used to rally support for political causes including mobilising masses to protest against dictators in North Africa. The power of social media has been tested in toppling repressive regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Algeria and more recently The Sudan.
Of particular interest perhaps to politicians is the fact that social media is widely embraced by the energetic young people, who are prone to being influenced by radical views that could fuel opposition to dictatorships.
In view of the growing importance of social media in Uganda, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS), the pro-democracy German organization has chosen to address the subject of Social Media and the Prospects for Digital Politics in Africa in its 5th edition of Social Media Conference series scheduled to take place on June 25, 2019 at the Uganda Museum.
Conference organizers argue that internet technologies, especially social media have not only amplified the interactions between political actors and their constituencies, but they have also made the interactions more intricate.
“Digital politics as it’s now mostly known describes how the digital revolution is disrupting politics and transforming political institutions and modes of political communication1. In Africa, the digital revolution has gathered momentum and citizens are actively embracing it as a tool to participate in political and governance processes,” KAS notes.
KAS observes however that the impact of the internet and social media on political discourse, has triggered a new form of censorship that targets that targets all forms of communication.
The introduction of the over the top social media tax and the shutdown of all social media platforms by the Ugandan government during the 2016 general elections, are some of the close examples of how governments are trying to limit political exchanges through the social media.
KAS says the Digital Politics conference, will bring together more than 250 social media users including digital activists, researchers, politicians, media professionals, students and members of the general public.
The programme line-up suggests that politicians at the invitation-only event will have a good learning opportunity in how to develop the right messages and maintain connections with their digital audiences.
Kenyan activist and author Nanjala Nyabola, will deliver the Keynote address on the theme; Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics: How the Internet Era is Transforming Politics in Africa.
The event also promises to offer a platform for news makers from different political shades including the #peoplepower movement, the #metoo movement, as seen from the line-up of speakers from these camps.
And thanks to the internet, the rest of us will likely have the opportunity to participate virtually through the common social media live chats.