Facts, Freedoms and Rights in a Connected World

CONFERENCE DATE: 22nd June 2017

VENUE: Kampala Serena Hotel


The Uganda Social Media Conference is an annual programme organized by the Uganda country office of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) which aims to bring together key stakeholders from government, civil society, academia and the media to have a constructive exchange on the impact of social media on state and society, highlighting both opportunities and challenges. The conference provides a unique platform for theorizing, dialoguing and engaging on how the growing relevance of social media shapes our social and political interactions and changes the way we access and process information

In its global engagement in the promotion of democracy and good governance, KAS has a long history of promoting free and professional media through journalism trainings and scholarship programmes as well as facilitating networking and dialogue platforms. Through the Media Programme for Sub-Saharan Africa based in Johannesburg, KAS supports journalists, bloggers and political communicators across the continent, for example by facilitating the online platform “Africa Blogging” (http://www.africablogging.org).

In Uganda, KAS in July 2015 organized the first ever platform meant to harness social media opportunities for political communication. The 2015 Social Media Conference brought together a host of experts and professionals from the civil society, media practitioners and scholars, political activists, and government officials to assess the impact of social media on political communication and civic engagement. In July 2016 the second edition of the Social Media Conference focused on the question how Social Media is transforming Uganda’s political and social landscape. Through a series of panels and break-away sessions the conference explored a wide range of topics, including the impact of social media on democratic spaces, the challenges for traditional media, opportunities for good governance and service delivery, social media dynamics with regard to contemporary culture, as well as the specific opportunities and challenges for women in online spaces and social media.

The relevant links to the 2016 Conference can be found below_


Here's a summary clip of the past Social Media Conferences:





Check out the 2016 event report and pictures here__

Check out the 2017 event report and pictures here__

THE 2016 EVENT WAS LIVESTREAMED: Click here for the recorded video.


The third edition of the Social Media Conference took place on 22nd June 2017 provided a unique opportunity for deepening and expanding the discussions and exploring new perspectives under the theme “Facts, Freedoms and Rights in a Connected World”


The conference aims to bring together key stakeholders from academia, government, civil society and the media to have an open discussion and constructive exchange on the political and societal dimensions of the growing social media sphere.

A total of 300 invited participants are expected to attend the full-day conference which will take place at the Serena Conference Centre in Kampala.

An opening and closing session, both featuring keynote addresses from prominent speakers and panel discussions with distinguished experts and practitioners, will form the overall frame for the event. In addition, parallel break-away sessions will provide opportunities for exploring different sub-topics with relevant stakeholders. A newly introduced feature, the “speakers’ corner”, will create an additional space for thought-provoking short presentations from key influencers and experts.

In order to reach a bigger audience beyond the conference halls, the event will be streamed live online. In addition, Facebook live segments will feature short interviews with organizers, speakers and participants as well as behind-the-scenes impressions from the event. Under the hashtag #UgandaSocialMedia participants and the interested public can contribute to the discussions.

The 2017 Social Media Conference will be implemented in partnership with NBS Television. NBS will broadcast some segments of the conference and will feature the topic in a wide range of TV formats.



Social Media, Blogging and Citizen Journalism: Re-configuring Ethical Standards?

The opening session will feature opening remarks from the KAS Country Director and the Minister of Information and ICT, a keynote address on the topic, followed by a panel discussion and engagement with the audience. The session will particularly focus on the implications for professional and ethical standards in the sourcing, analysis and publication of information. Traditional media are challenged in their work by the rise of social media and the growing sphere of alternative channels of information sharing. Increasingly, traditional media make use of the opportunities of social media platforms to spread their content. At the same time, social media becomes a key source of information and media houses often have to follow stories that broke via social media. How does this affect the professional and ethical standards in the traditional media?

Social networks, online news websites and blogs have become crucial alternative sources of information. Citizens can now easily access a much wider range of information, perspectives and opinions. Observers talk about a “democratization of information”. But what does this mean not just for the quantity, but more importantly for the quality of information? Are citizens better informed as more information can reach them without the influence of journalists, editors and media managers? What happens to the functions of filtering, explaining and contextualizing? What does it mean with regard to aspects of objectivity, accuracy or the protection of privacy? Do the alternative channels undermine professional and ethical standards? What happens when any smart phone user with a social media account can instantly become a “reporter” on the ground? How do bloggers and social media influencers navigate between facts, opinions and advertisement?

Keynote address by Rachael Akidi (Editor, BBC Africa)

Panel discussants

Dr. Sara Namusoga (Department of Journalism, UCU)

Ian Ortega (Founder, Bigeye.ug & CEO, Campuseye.ug)

Rachael Akidi (Radio Editor, BBC Focus on Africa)

Miriam Ohlsen (Country Representative, Deutsche Welle Akademie)

Joy Doreen Biira (Journalist, KTN)


Panel 1: Freedom, Responsibility and Regulation: Navigating Online Spaces in Uganda

The panel will discuss the controversy around the regulation of online spaces and social media. Not just in Uganda, but in many countries on the continent and around the globe, governments are exploring options of how to deal with the apparent need to contain some of the risks posed by the unregulated spaces in the digital world. While there seems to be a wide consensus on the need to address issues such as cyberbullying, hate speech and cybercrime, there is little agreement on how best to go about this. What should be the responsibility of the state, the service providers and the individual users? How much regulatory interference is appropriate without shrinking online spaces and curtailing the rights to access to information and freedom of expression? Critical voices see a danger of governments using regulatory and legislative efforts to crackdown on civil liberties in order to silence critical and dissident voices. How can a balance be struck between defending freedom of expression online, ensuring responsible usage of online spaces and tools, and the need to contain some of the risks that have emerged?

Panel Discussants

Moses Watasa (Commissioner for Information, Ministry of ICT& National Guidance )

Sarah Kihika (ICTJ/Chapter Four Board)

Jimmy Haguma (Uganda Police)

Dorothy Mukasa (Unwanted Witness)

Neil Blazevic (Manager Technology Programme, DefendDefenders)

Lillian Nalwoga (President, Internet Society, Uganda Chapter)

Moderator: Ivan Okuda (Journalist, Daily Monitor)

Panel 2: Breaking Barriers? - Youth Engagement through Social Media

In light of the demographic trends in Uganda and on the African continent the challenge of how to engage youths and how provide opportunities for the young generation will be a key factor for achieving economic prosperity and political stability in the future. The panel will explore in how far social media have provided - or may provide in the future - enhanced opportunities for youths and young leaders to engage, influence and shape their societies. What are the new and emerging opportunities for young people for constructive (or disruptive) social and political engagement? How are young people using social media to amplify their voices, especially in the political realm? How can a strong voice on social media translate to actual influence? How are young people exploiting the opportunities of innovation for networking, idea-sharing, agenda-setting and strategizing for social and political action?

Panel Discussants

Antonio Kisembo (Media Challenge Initiative)

Ivan Rugambwa (LeO Africa Institute)

Binyamin Rukwengye (Boundless Minds)

Jackie Kemigisa (Parliament Watch)

Anna Adeke (Youth MP)

Moderator: Raymond Mujuni (Journalist, NTV)


Input presentations of maximum 15 minutes, followed by a short Q&A with the audience. Topics

The “Digital Humanitarian”: Social Media for Social Good

Philip Ogola (New Media Consultant)

Art Goes Digital: Are Social Media Our New Stages and Galleries?

Kemiyondo Coutinho (ARTpreneur)

Africa Blogging: Trends of Political Blogging across the Continent

Anthony Masake & Ruth Aine (Members of the Africablogging initiative)

Host: Raziah Athman, #UgandaReading and Urban TV


Panel 3: ICT and Social Media for Development: Leaving No One Behind?

ICT and social media are increasingly seen as crucial instruments to promote development and social good. Whether it is the use for advocacy or awareness campaigns, enhanced access to information and increased transparency, new channels for participatory processes, or technical innovations that may revolutionize small scale business and agriculture - the opportunities seem to be immense. At the same time critical voices emphasize the persisting disconnect between urban, educated elites and disadvantaged people in marginalized rural areas.

Low penetration rates and high costs for internet data appear to remain major obstacles. Platforms like Twitter in countries such as Uganda are still largely branded as “elitist”. A key question seems to be whether social media attention effects can actually translate into positive impacts for development. How can we realistically assess the societal and developmental impact of social media - beyond what some cynical voices may describe as “slacktivism”? What are the success stories of ICT and social media use for development? How can the digital divide between urban and rural spaces be overcome? How can the potential of ICT and social media be harnessed to help attain key development goals?

Panel Discussants

Maureen Agena (CEO, Tune Communications: ICT4D Consultant)

Philip Ogola (New Media Consultant)

Evelyn Namara (!nnovate)

Patricia Litho (Lecturer, Makerere University)

Joseph Owino (Founder, Owino Solutions and Kawowo Sports)

Moderator: Michael Niyitegeka (Social Media Consultant & Trainer)

Panel 4: More Opportunities, More Threats? - Feminist Voices Online

The new digital environment and the rise of social media have opened up expanding spaces for progressive discourses, one of them being the feminist struggle. Through social media, discourse is much less dependent on mainstream media gatekeepers and - theoretically - even the most marginalized voices can have infinite reach. Networking for amplified voices and collective action has become easier than ever before. Online feminism has enhanced opportunities for questioning common narratives, challenging stereotypes, calling out injustice and discrimination and identifying inherent barriers in society.

However, feminists engaging online are also vulnerable as they are often exposed to massive backlashes and phenomena such as trolling and cyberbullying. Some critical voices highlight tendencies of elitism and lack of inclusiveness and constructiveness in online feminism. But what should be the agenda and strategy of online feminism? Should it only focus on the big picture and the overarching agenda or is there a value and power in a diversity of voices that include contradictions and “petty” arguments? Can we actually see a growing coherence in the online feminist movement? What are the internally divisive issues that may undermine such coherence? What are the main external challenges and how can they be managed? How best can online feminism create the desired societal impact? And how can feminist voices online be strengthened, amplified and protected?

Panel Discussants

Lydia Namubiru (Data Journalist, ACME)

Leah Eryenyu (Feminist and Communications Specialist, Barefoot Power)

Patricia Twasiima (Chapter Four)

Dr. Florence Ebila(Senior Lecturer, Makerere University School of Gender and Women Studies)

Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire (Lawyer and Writer / Co-Founder, Writivism)

Moderator: Josephine Karungi (NTV News Anchor)


Input presentations of maximum 15 minutes, followed by a short Q&A with the audience


The Art of Online Media Manipulation

Mark Kaigwa (Speaker, Author & Entrepreneur / Founder, Nendo)

Press Freedom, Social Media and other short stories in between

Joy Doreen Biira (News Anchor, KTN)

The Weight of Words – Social Media and the Power of Language

Juma Kasadha (Journalist and Media Researcher, City University of Hongkong)__

Host: Catherine Ageno (KFM)


Shrinking Horizons? – Online Trends, Algorithms and the New Rise of Populism

The closing session will kick off with a second keynote address, followed by a panel discussion and engagement with the audience

The session will focus on the larger picture and the trends and topics that have dominated recent discussions about the impact of social media. Particular emphasis will be on the question how social media affect the way we perceive our world and especially our socio-political environments. How do social media change the way we consume and process information and form opinions?

The rise of social media and digital opportunities has for a long time been accompanied by a lot of optimism, even euphoria, about the empowering effect of the “democratization” of information. Indeed social media have brought down many barriers and created many opportunities. Never before have people had access to a wider variety of information sources and channels. Monopolies are brought down, traditional gatekeepers are bypassed, voices that were previously unheard burst to the limelight and stories of individuals are harder to suppress than ever before. But recent trends seem to indicate that despite the empowering effect of social media citizens have not necessarily become better informed and more enlightened. Concerns have risen about the growing success of populist forces which seem to benefit from social media trends. Recent debates focus on the impact of algorithms and the effect of what is referred to as “echo chambers”. Fake news is making headlines.

The old concept of trust - based on reputation, objectivity and accuracy - seems to evolve in a new direction. Social media seem to contribute to a growing dominance of feelings over facts. Are people just fleeing from the complexity of reality into the comfort zone of their silos and echo chambers? Do algorithms and new manipulation trends shield people from information that does not correspond with their world views? How can we contain the negative trends while tapping into the great opportunities that come with the fast innovations in the age of social media?

Panel Discussants

Rachael Akidi (Editor, BBC Africa)

Mark Kaigwa (Speaker, Author & Entrepreneur / Founder, Nendo)

Rosebell Kagumire (Blogger, Media & Communication Specialist)

Angelo Izama (Analyst, Writer & Blogger)

Kin Kariisa (ED, NBS)

Moderator: Mildred Tuhaise/NBS