Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has temporarily lifted a ban on outdoor air broadcasting commonly known as “bizindalo” to give a leeway to the agents of Ministry of Health to sensitize the masses about the COVID 19 pandemic.
Any kind of broadcast in Uganda is regulated and outdoor air broadcasting deemed illegal in Uganda’s jurisdiction under Uganda Communications Act.
However, UCC being a communications regulator, has specific authorizations that are given on a need and emergency basis. This has for example in the past been given to Ministry of Health to use “bizindalo”to publicize immunization campaign, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) among others.
According to Ibrahim Bbosa, the head of Public and International relations at UCC, whereas broadcast, print and digital media have excellently informed the public about COVID 19 pandemic, there is still a section though very small of Ugandans who up to now may not be knowing about the Coronavirus pandemic.
This he said was the reason behind the lifting of the ban on outdoor air broadcasting.
“There has been need that if local authorities, the Ministry of Health agents can go to the grassroots using megaphones, using loud speakers and be able to talk to the people in the markets, in the communities, that could help reach the last mile. We feel that COVID 19 is such a unique circumstance that may require us to pull all the plugs to use whatever means that is accessible, that is available to make sure that we reach the grassroots.”
“We gave a temporary lift on the ban of “bizindalo.” Was given up to 30th of next month (May) to make sure that those people who are agents of Ministry of Health, District Authorities can use every means possible to them including megaphones to reach to people. The idea here is there is few restrictions. Use of megaphones will always start at 9 (am) and end at 6 (pm),” said Bbosa.
He however clarified that information being spread must be COVID related content.
“The information has been key and will remain key in fight against COVID 19. We are are talking about accurate reliable Information that speaks the need, the actions that that we need to see people do but also gives necessary advisory,” he said.
Due to the nature of the society that some people take information as true and accurate depending on someone delivering it such as their pastors or traditional herbalists, Bbosa said that will be taken as misinformation.
“This is not time for preaching, this is not time for herbalists to come up with different remedies that arrest COVID 19. We have pastors who would want to take advantage of this and claim that God had notified me about this COVID 19, that is an issue of misinformation,” he added.
Meanwhile, Bbosa also noted that this is the time when internet is needed more than ever before to keep people updated especially in the event that they cannot access a television or radio station.
“There is need to have the ability of for example Livestreamings. A lot is happening. The demand for internet resources has never been as seen as in this COVID 19. I was in a location where I could not access television and I watched an entire presidential address on phone. So, how better do we improve, how better are you able to sustain this kind of progress in case for example we are in a lockdown longer than we are today? He asked.
The telecom companies he said have to work 24 hours to make sure that the sites that are carrying all telecom signals are up and running.
On the issue of whether Uganda is using fourth Industrial Revolution technologies in the containment of the pandemic, he said Uganda is doing well though it has not yet reached the levels of the developed world.
“I will give you an example, the Ministry of Health is looking for I think some 10,000 individuals who allegedly could have gotten into contact with some of the individuals who imported COVID into the country. So what they have done basically is get details of these individuals from their in-flight manifests. So they (MoH) have given numbers to the Commission to be able to help.”
He also said UCC is generating geo call collection data of all phones so that when health workers call an individual, the individual doesn’t give their wrong location.
He however assured the public that their privacy will not have been infiltrated adding that there is law (privacy and data protection Act) and have learnt how to use technologies without infiltrating people’s privacies.
He added that UCC has used technologies to track down individuals who allegedly spread fake news especially about COVID 19.
“We have used a lot of technology means to do that. We have around 8 cases right now that have been investigated.”