This shutdown is a chilling reminder of where digital rights stand globally. How can decentralized technologies help?
In the midst of Uganda’s elections yesterday, incumbent President Yoweri Museveni announced a country-wide internet shutdown. This has come on the heels on of a national social media ban just days before.
In response, Ugandan youth, social media activists, journalists rallied behind #RedPearl to speak out against historical censorship and violence under Museveni. If Museveni wins, this will be his 6th term as president having served 35 years total. Museveni has sent a strong authoritarian message to the world: digital rights are not human rights. The shutdown also means that during a national crisis, Ugandans cannot reach their friends, family, and loved ones. This is simply terrifying.
What can the Web3 space do?
As technologists primarily from the West, it is imperative that adoption of Web3 technology and other tools of social justice be directed by Ugandan community leaders. For decades, many African countries including Uganda have fought bitterly against Neo-colonialism. This foreign political influence, disguised as aid, has been used to benefit corporate interests and undermine true African sovereignty.
Decentralized technology is fundamentally about decentralizing power and restoring that power to everyday people. This includes the work of de-centering our crypto/web3 community from directing how technology should be adopted locally. De-centering ourselves, however, does not mean we cannot support marginalized people outside of the West. It means that we need to be aware of the historical context of our aid, and seek to solely empower marginalized people. In other words, brands should not aim to reap brownie points for “saving” the less fortunate. Help because it is the right thing to do. Period.
Therefore, to truly believe in decentralization is to de-center ourselves from the narrative, and enable local leaders to decide what’s best for their communities. Decentralization isn’t just what we are doing, it’s how we are doing it.
How can Uganda get back online?
P2P mesh networks are one tangible solution for restoring internet access. This would require someone within Uganda to run a mesh network node close to a neighboring country with internet service. Dave Roos from HowStuffWorks explains: “In a wireless mesh network, only one node needs to be physically wired to a network connection like a DSL Internet modem. That one wired node then shares its Internet connection wirelessly with all other nodes in its vicinity.”
One single wired connection can then provide the foundation for resilient and low-cost internet access, meaning that “The more nodes, the further the connection spreads, creating a wireless ‘cloud of connectivity’ that can serve a small office or a city of millions.”
If successful, Ugandans could get back online; however, they would still be unable to access government-blocked social media pages. This is where decentralized social media apps on Skynet like Skyfeed can help in the interim. Because SkyFeed is decentralized, the platform is a surveillance-free and censorship-resistant way to communicate.
Looking to the future, Skynet Labs is open to anything we can do to support Ugandan developers interested in building decentralized applications for their communities. While apps using public Skynet portals utilize Skynet’s storage foundation and infrastructure, these apps are fully owned and run by their respective developers.
We believe in decentralized technology and its potential to decentralize power.
Digital rights and freedom of expression are universal human rights.