internet governance in Uganda

20 09 2009

The idea of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) recently hosted in Kampala is to popularize IG issues and to galvanize critical regional issues, which are then elevated to the global internet governance forum.

Status of the internet in Uganda

According to the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), the regulator, an increasing number of Ugandans are accessing the internet. In a recent market update, the regulator reported the there was continued growth in mobile (wireless) internet access, with a total of 214,293 active accounts reported by the end of December 2008 compared to the 166,621 in September 2008. Fixed line internet connection was estimated at 22,000; while the total number of internet users was estimated to be 2.5 million.

Internet users in the country continue to suffer low speeds and high costs. However, with SEACOM in progress, consumers highly anticipate improved services and speeds at lower costs.

Following issues that emerged at the National face-to-face consultation (NIGF) held in Uganda and the EAIGF in Nairobi – Kenya last year, the Uganda online IG discussions were initiated. The discussions were also aware of the developments and discussions which had been held by the internet/ ICT fraternity in the months preceding the discussions.

Discussions held during April and May 2009 partly lead-up to the 2009 Uganda National Internet Governance Forum. The discussions were primarily held on the i-Network discussion group.  A key objective of this year’s IG discussions was to focus on consolidation the understanding of the priority issued and to state positions that may have been previously ambiguously defined.

Recap of the 2008 Discussions

The main issues identified in included improving access and affordability , control of the national code top-level domain ccTLD (.UG), interception of communication and its implications on freedom of expression and on the “public good”, control of spam and pornography, the need for cyber law, and promotion of local content/ Ugandan languages on the web.

Fast forward

From the 2009 discussions, the following emerged as some of the major issues in Uganda:

*need to contribute to the national IGF debate. This was partly to establish whether the Ugandan ICT community considered it a useful exercise to continue such discussions, or felt enough had been said on the issue.

*promoting access. Discussants wanted to know what is being done by the government, the private sector and NGOs to promote the effective utilization of the bandwidth once it becomes available.

*affordability. It was observed that while the implementation of the RCDF policy has generally improved rural access and it is praised worldwide, there were limitations which needed to be revisited to expand and guarantee access for the majority. The poor are not yet reached because the RCDF policy follows a market model which does not maximize social returns and benefits. The rural electrification program also remains a big challenge because of its deficiency.

*critical internet resources. Management of the dot UG (.UG) domain and IPv6 transition in Uganda were identified as the most critical internet resources.

*cyber security and trust. With the internet being accessed on mobile phones, protection of children from pornography has become a more critical issue. Under the proposed computer Misuse Bill, Clause 20 concerns concern child pornography. However, it’s not clear whose role it should be.

*IG and gender. Discussions went further to explore the gender issues in Internet Governance and how these could be addressed. Apparently, men still have better access to telecentres and internet cafes as compared to women.

Uganda is a landlocked country so the current internet connections are based on Satellite which is very expensive. The best way to afford this type of connection is using less bandwith (shared 64Kbps in  most cases which costs USD90 per month). Many internet users in Uganda today are counting days till the marine fiber starts to work in the country. It is anticipated that the link will become faster and the bandwith will become cheaper. The work on the fiber is in progress.

Introducing “kasana”: the solar-based mobile phone to rural Uganda!

19 09 2009

Uganda Telecom Limited; one of the leading telecommunication and internet service providers in Uganda has

"kasana": The Solar powered phone on market in Uganda

"kasana": The Solar powered phone on market in Uganda. Uganda Telecom is the distributor.

introduced the new Solar-powered mobile phone. This Coral-200-Solar cell phone is manufactured by ZTE.

Uganda Telecom has officially nicknamed it “Kasana” (luganda word meaning sun) as it’s promotional/ brand name. The integrated solar charger charges the internal battery thus enabling this phone to power up with the use of solar energy.

This phone is anticipated to reduce on the digital divide gap in Uganda. The issue of limited/ lack of electricity lines and power irregularities in many rural areas of Uganda is one of the major reasons as to why many people can’t afford mobile phones today. Electricity bills remain very high for people to afford.

There is still need for many more such technologies (affordable and cheap to maintain) in Uganda to connect the remote communities and rural poor.

This phone not only lowers electricity consumption in poverty stricken countries like Uganda but also environment friendly.

Thank you Uganda Telecom for your continued efforts to connect my Uganda to the world!

Introducing Nika a new Content Management System.

8 09 2009

We have seen many open source content management systems like Joomla, Mambo and Drupal. Well, I will say Nika is one of those.

Yesterday I took the pleasure to attend the demonstration and training workshop on Nika. The application has been developed by a team of Developers in South Africa with support from knight Foundation a US organisation.

Simon demonstrates Nika to the delegates

Simon demonstrates Nika to the delegates

Simon one of the volunteers of the project say he got involved a month ago to help and document the user manuals. “This is not a beta version but the application is solid though there are still more things to do” says Simon.

From my personal experience the most powerful component in Nika is the ability for it to send and receive text messages. No I am not saying that the earlier content management systems cant do this. I must there fore appreciate the fact that Nika comes in one suite and once installed you get the full functionality.

“This is a great day for community newspapers in Africa, the launch of a fully fledged open source CMS, available to any independent paper in Africa and else where that wants something robust for work flow and content management.”

Nika CMS at a glance!

Nika CMS at a glance!

Nika is yet to be made available for the general public to use. Please  Read More about Nika here:

If you have any ideas please feel free to email me and share.

Reporting Community: Reinventing Local News

8 09 2009

Currently in Grahamstown, South Africa attending/ participating on the 13th Highway Africa conference and the 4th Digital citizen Indaba (DCI 4.0). Many new tools, books, ideas and issues arising from the many journalists participating from all over the world.

Some of the questions that have come up following this morning’s discussion is “to what extent does local news re-invent itself?”.

In Ghana a lot of local extensions provide news in local languages. The problem is, this news comes in form of proverbs! The media council in the country held a meeting about this issue recently a participant from Ghana says. The station and media managers justify it as a mode of communication he adds. “Proverbs have saved lives in Zimbabwe, many journalists and writers have been beaten up because of uncensored news”, says a Zimbabwean writer/delegate.

But what is the difference between community media and local media anyway?

“Everybody’s property is nobody’s property” says a participant from Lagos Nigeria.

Now is it about the content or the property? Many communities cant afford the equipment required to start up a community radio or local newspaper print. In a country like Uganda for example, many community radios have been set up through grants and donations. This had made it easy for the communities to communicate and share information. Now once the radio or newspaper is in place, the community then owns and manages the content. This makes the media community owned on a multi-stakeholder basic. But how do you draw a line between community ownership and community operation? – Helps to determine the content that comes through to the community.

Then how can these small community news papers influence change in regard to national policies etc?

How do we cover the minority with in the minority?

Adam Clayton Powell III (author) has just launched his book called “Reinventing Local News”.

In another session the discussion is centered on Reporting Democracy: Media and elections in Africa.