DISCONNECTED: The Digital Divide in Apac District Exposed!

24 08 2010

When the local Television channels will not broadcast without a DSTV connection, no Broadband, and no radio – except for one Community Radio! What would do you do?

Exposing the Digital Divide - Local TV NOT working, No Broadband, Just one Community Radio and Mobile Phones!

This week I am in Apac District – Northern Uganda facilitating a Website training at Kubere Information Centre (KIC) a project of Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET).

Apac town is one of the disconnected towns in Uganda. People here; need DSTV (Dish Television) to watch local TV channels. There are no telephone lines – which means you cannot access broadband internet. They only have one community Radio (Radio Apac – 92.9) – this means that the rest of the local and international radio stations wont broadcast here.

During the lunch break, we went to one of the local restaurants, the TV set is playing in DVD Move – we are watching a Nigerian movie (they are very famous here). Do you have a TV set at your house? – I asked one of my friends.  “No”, she replied. “I don’t need it, TV is only good when you can watch local TV channels. TV works very well in Lira (a neighboring district) but here, it won’t broadcast!”

Another friend I talked to said, “when I want to watch the news, I will just go to any of the local bars where they have DSTV.”

Life is very cheap and expensive here at the same time! Personally, I cannot imagine life without TV – I want to be able to watch the news on local Television when I can, I want to be able t listen to radio – both local and international (like BBC).

Information and communication technology continues to become popular in many corners of the world, even in the developing countries. Now, the Digital Divide is wider and more visible than ever!

This is not my first time in Apac but this time I have learned something new and rather very inconveniencing. But life here continues. Through out the day, I see people walking in and out of this information to read the daily newspaper, agriculture information material and to access the internet.

Its times like this that I get to appreciate the power of a mobile phone. My cellphone is working very well, and thats why I can use my Mobile Internet Dongle to access the internet via GPRS. The internet is pretty slow and unstable but at least thats the reason I am still connected  with my friends in Kampala and all around the world.

And Radio Apac ( the community radio) is really doing wonders here. Its the only working/ broadcasting FM radio station in this town. Everybody tunes into it. Last night, I tuned in to Radio Apac using my radio-enables mobile-phone. They use a mix of English and Luo (the native language here), playing some decent music and actually download a couple of podcast from Voice of America radio (VOA) and play them back for the listeners here in Apac!

Our stake holders should do better than this. The government should invest more funds in development of community radios, information centres (Telecentres) and infrastructure to facilitate communication not just in “big cities” – but also down to the grassroots.





Youth, Rural Development and ICT: ARDYIS Essay Contest Extended to 15 August 2010!

26 07 2010

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA), in collaboration with FARA, Yam-Pukri, CAFAN, AYF, ANAFE, PAFPNET, has recently launched an essay writing contest on “Youth and ICTs in Agriculture and Rural Development”.

Youth finding solutions to challenges in agriculture and rural development using ICT !

The deadline to submit is extended to 15 August 2010.
The essay contest is open to young people aged 18 – 25 years old, from urban or rural areas of Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific countries. Win up to 1,500 Euros, make your voice heard and improve your capacity by submitting your essay today!

Interested? : Read Details here:- http://ardyis.cta.int/en/activities/awards/item/48-awards/48-awards





Ssozi Javie wins 4th place in eLearning Africa photo competition

1 07 2010
4th place  Camera Phone – Keeping Distant Families in Touch! (Uganda)

In this photo, my mother (red dress) is showing

relatives we were visiting in their distant village

a video of my nieces and nephew on her mobile

phone; she had recorded it in our home town a few

days earlier. It served as visual documentation for

her explanation of how the children have grown and

how they look now. Video is a very powerful tool in

Uganda, along with mobile phones, which have become

a vital device. However, not everyone can afford even a

basic mobile phone, let alone a sophisticated one.

Photographer: Ssozi Javie

Follow link to see TOP 10 winners and details about the competition:

How ICTs Are Changing the Way We Live –
The eLearning Africa 2010 Photo Competition

Communicating with friends from all over the world, putting business ideas into practice via the Internet, learning any time and any place – Information and Communication Technologies (ICTS) have permanently changed lives all over the planet.

What does this mean for the African continent? The aim of the photo competition was to learn more about how mobile phones, the Internet, computers and the audiovisual media have changed lives in Africa.
More than 100 images were submitted to the competition.





Provide skills NOT just finished technologies.

3 03 2010

Most of the current problems in Africa are being solve by the few “experts”. On top of being expensive, it takes them a bit of time to do the necessary research and studies before they come to a conclusion. In my opinion, it would be a lot easy if the local people are given the skills to investigate solutions to the problems affecting them. This makes them feel more involved hence taking up the obligation to find solutions to their own problems and “make it happen”/ innovate. Its the same with the technologies. Once people get the technologies, they don’t feel the urge to work hard or improve on the current technologies or even look for cheaper solutions. But when the solution to a problems affecting a wider community comes as a result of skill the locals have earned. They get more involved in applying the required skills – more innovative too!! Give skills not technology.





Mobile Technology for Community Development!

13 04 2009
Mobile Phones

Mobile Phones

In the recent 16 Days of Activism campaign Against Gender Based Violence (GBV) Raising Voices and EASSI in partnership with WOUGNET ran a campaign to create awareness of GBV through the use of Bulk SMS.
Throughout the 16 days, we (WOUGNET technical support) used the Bulk SMS tool to send messages to over 500 People around the world. Most of the people who participated in this campaign were from within Uganda however others were from countries outside Uganda.
This SMS tool is a Mobile Technology. Apparently many people in Uganda and around the world own cell (mobile) phones. In Uganda the distribution of telephone services is a phone for every 4 people. That implies that approximately 8 Million Ugandans owns mobile phones today.
This has been as a result of mobile phone prices becoming very cheap and also more service providers being licensed in the country. The tariffs (call rates) are also becoming affordable with offers to make cheap calls across the different networks.
In Uganda today people are using their phones for different purposes. And some of these purposes are not limited to special phones with a number of functionalities. For example last year I visited a local organization Kubere Information Center in Apac district (Northern Uganda) and here rural women farmers use their mobile phones to get updates on Market prices! Today I can get news headlines, forex rates and soccer updates on my cell from my service provider. Many people use their mobile phones to communicate and keep in touch with their friends and family most of these are youth. More advance users of mobile phones are demanding for more sophisticated mobile phones. To get one with all the functionality you need you will have to pay a good price for it as the prices vary from one distributer to another. Uganda Telecom one of the Telecom Service Providers has introduced 3G technology. This service provides a fast internet connection for mobile phones that are compatible with the technology. Other service providers are still using GPRS and EDGE technologies to provide mobile internet services. MTN (another Telecom Service Provider) had introduced mobile money. To use the service one has to subscribe on the MTN network and then register with mobile money dealers and then they can use their mobile phones to send and receive money.

Text To Change a Dutch organisation working here in Uganda is using mobile technology (SMS) to improve health and education facilities/ services through quizzes and SMS campaigns.
However all mobile phones support SMS. This is a basic function. And one of the most widely used technologies around the world.

Mobile technologies have been known to be “boring”, but with the new innovations they happen to be more cost effective and easy to use as compared to the web. Most of the web applications have been made available for mobile! Websites, social networking site like facebook, myspace etc.

Recently I was discussing with a friend about the innovative use of SMS and mobile technology and she told me that in Serbia people use their mobile phones to pay for parking space on the streets!