Ban on Used Computers: What next?

6 07 2009
Manage the Environment Dont Just Ban!

Manage the Environment Dont Just Ban!

The 2009-2010 Uganda National budget saw used computers banned. According to the budget, all used computer dealers and importers were given a grace period of three months to sell out their stock.

Apparently computer usage and need is increasing acutely across all sectors in Uganda. The most common type of computers available on stock in Uganda today are the used computers and “clones” (computers assembled by computer dealers in Uganda using different hardware parts). Bigger institutions however can afford the rare expensive brand new computers like Dell, Acer, Lenovo etc.

In the past two – three years, people have bought used computers with “ill specifications”. This is because many people only for a working computer without minding the specifications. Today, many people can at least identify the minimum specification of a computer they want in terms of hard disk space, amount of RAM and speeds (in most cases Pentium 4).

Today owning a computer in Uganda is very easy and

Used computers in a school.

Used computers in a school.

cheap since the government scrapped import duties/ taxes on computers influencing computer dealers to reduce the prices of both used and new computers. A  used computer set ranges from UGX 350,000 to UGX700,000 ( USD167 to USD333) depending on the computer specifications. Now used computers have their own issues like some require upgrading plus some people still cant identify the specifications of a good computer hence they may end up buying an computer with ill specifications.

Clones on the other hand start from UGX500,000 to UGX800,000. Clones are however not durable and in my personal experience I have been called several times to resolve issues with clones which turn out to be hard ware failures in most cases since many different hardware parts from different manufacturers are brought together to built a single base unit.

Brand new computers remain very expensive. They range from UGX1,200,000 to UGX2,000,000. These are very high specification computers, durable and come with a warranty of up to a year in most cases. However they are only affordable by big organizations and enterprises plus a few rich individuals.

In my perspective:

The ban on used computers is good and bad.

Of course issues of environmental protection for e-waste require immediate and effective attention. Not forgetting issues old fashioned computers which are still on market.

On the other hand, these cheap computers help people to realize the relevance of computers in homes, schools and their enterprises. Once they learn this, they find it very easy to determine whether they need better computers in terms of performance.

With the ban, there is likely to be a big recession in terms of the expansion of computer owners as it is in Uganda today. Most of the public computer access places like internet cafes and information centers have used computers. In the same way, schools usually buy used computers in bulk because they are affordable, with the ban they will find it hard to buy new computers in bulk considering the big variation in prices.

A couple of days back employees of a famous computer refurbishing company in Uganda drove around Kampala streets wearing t-shirts with words reading “Manage the Environment don’t just Ban!”.

Employees of a computer refurbishing company on a Pick up: "Manage the Environment, dont just Ban."

Employees of a computer refurbishing company on a Pick up: "Manage the Environment, dont just Ban."

Among other commodities that were banned are used refrigerators, freezers and second hand clothes.

Question remains: After the ban on used computers will the Information and Communication Sector in Uganda remain the same?

Whats next after the ‘famous and common’ used computers are banned?

The Long “Trek” to Open Source.

5 07 2009
A student using a windows computer.

A student using a windows computer.

In many developing countries where computers and ICTs are just finding their way in, Microsoft is the most common type of operating system.

Most of the users (let’s say, roughly 90% of the computers they have are using pirated operating system. In Uganda alone, this is a very typical practice. Most of the computers we use here are distributed by local dealers who sell computers with unlicensed operating systems. Many of the computer users in Uganda still remain unaware of genuine software issues.

Many computers continue to fail as a result of terminated operating systems.

Last week Microsoft contacted a local law firm in Uganda seeking their services to check software pirates.  In the New Vision a letter from one of the writers with the title “Microsoft, give the poor a break”. Read letter here

Throughout the past 2 – 3 year, open source promoters have tried to sensitize and train computer users in Uganda on how to use Open Source Software platforms like Linux, Ubuntu, e.t.c.

Whilst a few people have started using open source software, many others still remain rigid and prefer Microsoft software like Windows Xp, Microsoft office and the like.

This variation is attributed to the following reasons:

  • All computer users are introduced to computers through Microsoft platforms from day one and most of the computers be it in Computer café’s, schools, computer shops and homes all come with windows and Microsoft software.
  • Microsoft software is virtually free as users and distributes can easily copy and distribute the software as they wish.
  • Free and open source software is either not widely distributed or users are not aware of its existence.

All the above have given Microsoft software fame and made it the first choice for all computer users.

Today Microsoft is ready to fight software piracy which means all unlicensed software will be failed and the software pirates will be prosecuted. Is this the beginning of the transition from Microsoft to Open Source?

Of course a couple of users previously complained about the issue of the User interface of Linux and Open Source not being user friendly. However, over years open source developers have improved on the interfaces and the usability of their software.

Blogging in Ugandan Schools.

3 07 2009

I have just created a new blog for Seroma Christian High School writers club,

Seroma Christian High School Writers Club Members

Seroma Christian High School Writers Club Members

I have also introduced them to citizen journalism and writing for the web.

Apparently these students have been blogging on ‘notice boards’, paper and in words. But now with their new wordpress blog “seroma writers” they will be able to reach out to a wider community in and outside their school.

This young group of writers is  very ambitious and are willing to use their new blog for their publicity and also to disseminate information.