The 2021 Uganda Social media Conference is a much-anticipated event set to take place Virtually at the Kampala Serena Hotel with Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) Uganda as the host of the event’s 6th edition. Set to start tomorrow (25th August 2021) through 26th August 2021, the event will run under the theme ” Digital democracy in a post-pandemic world”.
With public and private sector stakeholders, government, civil society, policymakers and researchers will meet to discuss the impact of Social Media on society. Additionally, the effects of the COVID19 Pandemic on social media uptake in Uganda has ignited a new wave of Netizens making the virtual community space a priority than ever before.
However, with active sanctions from African Governments and other challenges affecting Social Media and information flow, the 2021 Uganda Social media Conference will be a spotlight for discussions on how users can overcome these sanction effects and what the future holds for Social Media usage in Africa as speakers will highlight under set topics for the event.
Digital Diplomacy: The rise of algorithms and implications of big tech in African Institutions, Governments, and Individuals
The coined phrase “digital diplomacy” is widely used in the context of Internet governance debates and digital policy-making. Social media portrays different realities with different narratives promoted by various actors. This poses new challenges like biased algorithms, online censorship, targeted manipulation, and the like.
As the past few years have shown, social media platforms are not simple tools of engagement, they are huge business empires influencing our ideas, our actions, and our politics. Social media sites are less seemingly neutral conduits of information and idea exchange. Their recommendation engines and algorithms are deciding what speeches to amplify, and what to give less attention to.
Social media algorithms steer us into groups and conversations — factual or not. They’re selling tools to advertisers — which can include political operatives — that target us with certain types of speech. And their leaders make intentional, political decisions on which policies to enforce when, and whose voices are important for their business needs. One of the most important debates of our time is around who should govern the internet. Who should be held accountable?
Impact of social media on mental health: Hitting the pause button
While many of us enjoy staying connected on social media, excessive use can fuel feelings of anxiety, depression, isolation, and FOMO (Fear of Missing out). Digital media connects people in ways never before possible, enabling users to maintain friendships across time and distance.
It enables those who are socially isolated or somehow set apart from their immediate physical community to connect with like-minded or like-situated people. However, the internet has a darker side to it. Many people are reporting cases of increased depression, suicide and online hate during and post Covid-19 Pandemic.
It’s important to remember that social media can never be a replacement for real-world human connection. It requires in-person contact with others to trigger the hormones that alleviate stress and make you feel happier, healthier, and more positive.
The rise of Global Social movements and social media: A critical moment
Social media is more than views and opinions shared online. The technology can also help orchestrate protests that move beyond the digital realm. #ENDSARS (Nigeria) and #IcantBreathe (USA) are some of the most famous hashtags from 2020. The past year has opened the world’s eyes to social injustices globally.
This year, Africa’s young people have stood at the forefront of the continent’s fights for social and civil justice. With hashtags in one hand and a will to defend the defenseless in the other, young people have propelled the crises of Africa’s injustices to the world stage. Digital media is also allowing people around the world to build communities, organize activities and make their voices heard on a multitude of issues.
Through online petitions and charities, people across the cybersphere can act on causes about which they care. Change.org, which helps individuals to start petitions and advance their causes, has enabled more than 123 million users to attain their own goals on almost 15,000 issues in 196 countries, according to its website.
Social media and Elections
Social media is becoming increasingly central to election campaigns around the world. Social media has helped develop new spaces for political engagement and civil debate. Using popular sites like Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp – civil society organizations have used social media to add transparency to electoral processes in Africa. For many governments especially those in Africa, social media can validate the legitimacy of an election through the click of a button.
Nonetheless, new issues are now emerging such as fake news, voter manipulation, and disinformation in African elections. The absence of a strategy by big tech to address misinformation has incited election-related violence in many parts of the continent.
Citizen journalism vs digital newsrooms: Building a consensus for new media
Social media’s complex symbiotic relationship with mainstream media is still evident in powerful ways. There are questions of legitimacy between the public and private media. Tensions between traditional and modern forms of communication are reflected in the online clash of views over “appropriate” online content, moral values, and perceived threats to national security.
Citizen journalism is a rapidly evolving form of journalism, which has enabled ordinary people to report newsworthy situations around them. Nowadays mainstream media do not serve as the only source of news. The alternative news sources on the Internet, such as blogs, web portals, and social networking sites give a good competition to mainstream media.
Re-framing the climate change agenda on social media
Social media has increasingly become a vital tool for climate change advocacy. Social media encourages greater knowledge of climate change, mobilization of climate change activists, space for discussing the issue with others, and online discussions that frame climate change as a negative for society.
Recently at the UN’s Climate Action Summit, photos from climate strikes around the world emerged on all platforms, demanding action on the impending climate crisis. Many have credited widely known climate activists – Vanessa Nakatte and Greta Thunberg, with launching this climate change movement globally, setting an example for others who believe the actions of one individual can have an impact. This has been amplified through their increased use of social media to draw public action on climate change.