the digital “dent” in Uganda.

30 10 2009

mobileinternet

Women of Uganda Network Trains Members on how to install Mobile Internet

The inconveniencing truth

 

In Uganda today, the digital divide remains unfixed despite the government efforts to liberalize media and communication strategies. I must acknowledge the role of the regulators (Uganda Communications Commission) for the job well done in ensuring that the consumers are educated on their rights, ensuring that the telecoms deliver as expected.

Even with many technologies emerging, many Ugandans still remain below the digital divide line. The good news is, the communities are struggling to make the digital divide a “Digital Opportunity”. The bad news is, the immense poverty and low literacy levels are still hindering this evolution.

In some parts of the country, the technologies are in place but not developed. Many government bodies still use type writers, old fashioned computers with no internet connection and others don’t have a telephone or fax line! I am not saying that these technologies are not working where they are established but they are just not up to standard for the developing world – where information and communication is of great value, more than ever before. This limits the use of these technologies hence hampering social and economic development.

The Challenge

Many people now either own or have access to telephony services. Mobile phones (cell) to be more specific, for wider communities in both rural and urban communities in Uganda. However, the distribution of ISDN and ADSL lines is still

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Watching a video clip on a mobile phone in Rural Uganda

 limited to towns and cities. In Uganda today the cheapest means of broadband internet access is through the use of ISDN and ADSL lines. Prices are USD67 per month for 64kbps,   USD134 per month for 128kbps (prices based on shared services). The second alternative to the above is use of Satellite connections which are very expensive. The introduction of mobile internet (now provided by all mobile service providers in Uganda) has greatly improved on the connectivity issues all around the country. This is a form of internet which requires a small gadget (modem) costs USD165 with a monthly subscription of USD46 per month. The modem works with GPRS and EDGE hence the speed is not good. On many occasions (during the peak hours) the link is usually low. This is a very good innovation. It’s highly mobile, and quite cheap for individual users. However many people still can’t afford mobile internet.

In many parts of Uganda power cuts are still very common. The major source of power in Uganda is Hydro Electric Power. Alternative sources of power (solar and gas) are very expensive.

As many modern technologies continue to break into the country, the uptake is still slow. This is because either the people require special skills to fully harness the technology or the technology is too advanced for the locals (rural communities) hence threatening. I usually call these inappropriate technologies. The idea of technology and ICTs, most especially in development is to ensure that it’s applicable, easy to use and appropriate for the people who intend to use it.

Way forward

It therefore goes back to our government of Uganda and the policy makers to strengthen the use of Information and

Maureen Mbale 115

Gender and ICT Youth Camps organised by Uganda Communications Commission in Partnership with Women Of Uganda Network

 Communication Technology in all national policies.

In addition we should also adopt the technology that works for our communities. Not too advanced and not too old fashioned. Of course one thing leads to another and the need for technology advancement comes with time.