Category Archives: Access

Visiting KIFAD in Kampala

KIFAD office

KIFAD office

I had the opportunity to visit the Kiyita Family Alliance for Development (KIFAD) last week. KIFAD is a local community based Non Governmental Organization with its headquarters in Nansana Town Council in the Wakiso District of Kampala. As they explain in their mission statement, “KIFAD stands out to challenge and respond to causes and consequences of disease, poverty and ignorance with a commitment to mobilize communities to solve their own problems and live with dignity”. Continue reading

Dullu game goes Digital

Dullu Game Team - Tony & Alex

Dullu Game Team - Tony & Alex

Tony Wamala, Age 25 Alex Tumuhairwe, Age 24

Ben White: For their final project at university they decided to develop a computer game based on the traditional game of Dullu, a local version of marbles. This is a game that has been played for centuries in Africa. The name changes by country, culture and tribe. Similar versions can be found in Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Congo and elsewhere. Continue reading

YouTube ‘burden’ creates opportunity in Africa

Creating Mobile Based Social Communities

Creating Mobile Based Social Communities

Tom Pickett, director of online sales and operations at YouTube, says the company still hews to its vision of bringing online video to the entire globe. In the last two years, it has pushed to create local versions of its site in countries like India, Brazil and Poland. But Mr. Pickett also says that YouTube has slowed the creation of new international hubs and shifted its focus to making money. He says that does not rule out restricting bandwidth in certain countries as a way to control costs

Continue reading

Experiencing the Connectivity Divide

One can only understand the meaning of the connectivity divide through experiencing it. Nothing as annoying as just simply waiting for something in order to find out that you have been waiting for nothing. But last week I was lucky..
I experienced a ‘mild’ form of the connectivity divide, when I tried to send an email in an Internet cafe in Kampala. After first having tried hotmail, which just didn’t work, I gave my student mail a shot…after some frustrating moments of biting my nails, as a last resort I tried gmail.. and after 20 minutes (of more) trying and crying my email finally got sent. Yoohoo!! Lucky me.. Continue reading

What is it like to be a programmer in Kampala? (Part 3)

Career Event at the Makerere University

Career Event at the Makerere University

What are the challenges of being a programmer in Kampala?

Resources. The software isn’t in great condition and they are always forced to use platforms that are JUST acceptable. Programmers here get tired of using simplified versions that don’t give them full access to the software’s potential. A lot of times, and because they don’t have the money, they are forced to use unauthorized versions. This makes it harder for them to publish code when they know it wont be accepted. There is also a fear of being tracked down for using unlicensed software. This limits the programmer’s ability to push the potential. Continue reading

What is it like to be a programmer in Kampala? (Part 2)

Young Programmer

Young Programmer

Why study ICTs?

Some of the programmers wanted to join another program, like engineering or law, but didn’t qualify for the government scholarship program. It seems easier to secure money needed to study ICT. Many of the programmers explained that they are intrigued by electronics. Continue reading

What is it like being a programmer in Kampala? (Part 1)

young_programming_talent

The past few days I have spent considerable time with young programmers here in Kampala, Uganda. I wanted to know what it was like to be designing tools and applications for the Ugandan market.

Most of the students I spoke to did not really use mobile phones or the Internet until they got to University. Only then did they get access to these technologies. At the same time, many of them had already made the decision to study computer programming and ICTs. Continue reading

There is a snake in my computer!

By: Guido van Diepen in Kampala, Uganda

snakesandcomputers

On friday april 17 I met with John, who had set up a few cybercafé’s and telecentres both in Uganda and Tanzania. He has a university degree in mechanical engineering, but as soon as he graduated he started focusing on computers. At this moment he forgot all about mechanics, but in the meanwhile he developed serious computer skills. Continue reading

Growing efforts to incubate software projects in Kampala

Young Programmers in Kampala

Young programmers inspire in Kampala

I have spent several days at the Department of Software Development and Innovations (DSDI) at the Makerere Faculty of Computing and ICT. The DSDI is a recent establishment of FCIT’s engagement in applied Software Research and the application of ICT in Education in Uganda. DISD focuses on the growth of software conception, design and development capacity at the Faculty of Computing and Information Technology. This is out of the belief that ICT plays an important role in development, and that local capacity to build and exploit ICT innovations is critical. Continue reading

Internet in Kampala……..

My first intention was to shine a light on the dark informal sphere of illegal economic activities conducted on the Internet. Scams, fraud, fake marriages and so on. My first encounter with a Ugandan blog taught me that the scams were typical Nigerian, not African. People in Uganda were warning each other for this foreign Nigerian fake mails. There went my first prejudice.

Continue reading

Burglars break into Makerere ICT faculty

Makerere University Computing and ICT Faculty

Makerere University Computing and ICT Faculty

Today we had some unfortunate news. The reality is that technology has greater value when in short supply. I can tell you how hard the Makerere team has worked to put good infrastructure into place. The drawback is that they are now sitting on the best equipment in the country. Security remains an issue and is something that has also been mentioned by individuals in the private sector. Great hardware and solid internet connections remain a sought out resource.

Tuesday, 14th April, 2009
By Steven Candia and Fortunate Ahimbisibwe, New Vision

UNIDENTIFIED thugs have broken into the Faculty of Computing and Information Technology at Makerere University and vandalised over 230 computers, before making off with memory chips and processors.

A total of 101 memory chips and 140 processors were on Easter Sunday stolen from the laboratory on the fourth and fifth floors of the building, the Police said yesterday.

Police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba yesterday said the faculty had incurred a loss of about sh96.4m. She added that they were holding seven suspects in connection with the incident.

Nabakooba identified the suspects as James Omachan, B Mwesigye, John Bosco Tumusime and Amos Kagaba, all laboratory technicians. Others are Mathias Ruhuma, a custodian, Charles Komakech, a university guard and Bashir Turyahebwa, a private security guard attached to Ultimate Security.

The suspects, Nabakooba said, were being held at the Wandegeya Police Station on charges of office break-in. The vandalised laboratory is the biggest information communication technology (ICT) facility at the university.

The faculty dean, Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba, yesterday said the matter was being jointly investigated by the Police and the university security department. “It seems the thieves had ready market for the software,” he said. The stolen property was worth about sh20m, Baryamureeba said.

He explained that they were still assessing the extent of the damage, adding that the staff members implicated in the theft would be forwarded to the university disciplinary committee.

Text To Change: Spreading the Message to Stop the Virus

t2c1 “Using SMS technology to spread information about HIV/AIDS among mobile phone users in sub-Saharan Africa in order to measure, analyze and improve knowledge, attitude and behavior regarding HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.”

 

Over the past decade mobile phones and services have taken Uganda by storm. Thanks to the ease in getting a prepaid phone number and the relatively cheap phone prices and phoning costs, mobiles have penetrated the largest part of the population. The mobile phone has provided people, ranging from the densely populated cities to rural communities, with the powerful and life influencing means of distanced communication. These developments have opened-up new doors for health, awareness and education initiatives. With HIV/AIDS being a large health issue, Text To Change  (TTC) is “harnessing the powers” of mobile phone technology by “using it as a medium to communicate health related issues and to support existing prevention campaigns”.

Through an interactive SMS-quiz which lasts several weeks, questions and information about HIV/AIDS is spread among a large amount of mobile phone users about 3 times a week. During the pilot project in 2008 (which has been a great success) a total of 15.000 active mobile users in the Mabarara region were targeted.

  1. First an announcement SMS is sent to the target group announcing the quiz taking place, giving them the chance to enroll in the program.
  2. Then the target group receives, about 3 times a week, questions regarding issues on HIV/AIDS and its prevention, the main focus points being “General knowledge about HIV transmission” and “The benefits of voluntary testing and counseling”. The target group are opted to reply to the questions, and when they do, they receive additional information on that issue if they answered correctly or they receive the right answer with additional information if they answered wrong. Users can earn/win airtime by engaging in the program and answering the questions correctly.
  3. At the end of the program users are provided with information on health clinics near them, and are stimulated to go there for a free checkup and HIV testing.
The TTC system/process chart

The TTC system/process chart

During the program a significant increase has been noticed on patients who came in for testing during a six week period, from 1000 to 1400. This shows the actual impact the project has and the potential it possesses to support in education, awareness and combating disease.

Through this program valuable data and information is collected on the current state of knowledge and awareness amongst the population, which in turn is relayed to health clinics and other organizations in order to improve programs and methods. As they state, “Text to Change aims at establishing partnerships between governments, public and private companies, non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), financial institutions and medical experts. Joining forces to achieve a common goal for mutual benefit by sharing skills, resources and risks could be the key to an actual change”.

All together, the TTC project provides a solid base for communicating relevant knowledge to the masses, educating the nation and fighting disease strategically. By seeking a broad range of partnerships and redeveloping their software in open-source they expand the range of possibilities and thus the impact the program can have nationwide (and even continent- or worldwide). Therefore Text To Change is in my opinion, well on its way in achieving their ambition, which is, “to become a global platform of telephony health services”.

Battery Operated Systems for Community Outreach in Uganda

BOSCO Uganda
Battery Operated Systems for Community Outreach

picture-22

For decades war has been raging in Northern Uganda. With civil casualties ranging in the hundred thousands, thousands of child abductions and many millions of refugees, this war has been labeled to be “the world’s most forgotten humanitarian disaster”. Today, in total a number of 53 IDP camps (Internally Displaced Persons Camps) provide the safety of shelter for approximately 2 million war refugees who live under inhumane conditions in total poverty. But projects are being setup to better the lives of these people and aim to develop a prosperous future for them.

BOSCO (Battery Operated Systems for Community Outreach) is such a project initiative that aims to give these IDP’s a voice; a chance to access and share information, and the possibility to connect to others and the rest of the world through the use of ICT. In short, the project provides internet access and VOIP (Voice Over IP) telephone access to, at the moment, 20 of the 53 IDP camps in Northern Uganda.

A common problem noted by Kevin Baily  is that when supporting development through ICT, most of the time:

  • Schools and IDP’s have no access to the power grid
  • Computers they get are produced in 1990s and consume large amounts of energy which schools and IDP’s cannot afford
  • Regions that are connected to the power grid don’t have the infrastructure supporting the use of the computer and internet, this is like “providing a car without wheels”.

But BOSCO provides means for a sustainable ICT infrastructure by providing low-power PCs that can run on a 12 volt battery charged by a small solar panel and by transmitting the internet signal over radio waves that can reach to places 60 miles from the central hub. Next to the technological support for the ICT infrastructure needed to accomplish the project, BOSCO also provides a training program that educates the local community in using the ICTs to “articulate and communicate their own needs better than any outside actor”.

They have developed a web 2.0 style strategy in providing these means for education. The educational model consists of the following steps:

  1. It starts with the formation small user groups willing to learn the uses of the computer and the internet to gain competence
  2. They get email and gain access to the BOSCO intranet and are encouraged to post pictures, write blogs and create educational content to the BOSCO Wikispace. This space is accessible to children and adults in schools, community centers and IDP camps involved with BOSCO.
  3. Collaborators from the rest of Uganda and across the entire world get the opportunity to log onto the wikispace to view and share user content created on the Wikispace.
  4. Collaborator input is linked back to the volunteer groups and the North Ugandan Users of the space, creating a circle of information interaction.

This initiative connects both people in the most impoverished rural areas of Uganda to the rest of the world and the other way around. Giving the people in those places voices to be heard across the entire globe, giving them the means to communicate their needs, questions, and thoughts. Giving them the ability to access, create and share information, and next to that providing the world with the awareness of their living standards and ways of life.

For more information on the project go to their homepage! 
For up to date reports, keep track of their Weblog!
And collaborate on their Wikispace!

See here an inspiring segment from Global Challenges aired by CNN International, about the impact of a BOSCO related ICT installation in rural Uganda.

MUBS Online

mubs-online

mubs-online

 

MUBS Online is an online academic resource platform for students and lecturers of Makerere University Business School. The platform is aimed at promoting research collaborations and the sharing of knowledge among students and lecturers in the school and with other researchers in Sub-Saharan Africa and Beyond.

MUBS Online welcomes publications and contributions from lecturers and students of MUBS and also from other researchers interested in research on ICTs, Business, and Development in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Makarere University Business School hosts an online platform to which researchers can register to share and gain access to academic resources. The platform which is a collaborative project between the Makarere Business School, Kampala, Uganda and the International Center for Information Technology and Development has been launched in late 2008. At the moment (March 16th 2009) it counts a total 45 registered members from a variety of countries. These researchers are encouraged to publish their research results, publications, abstracts and dissertations in order to enhance international knowledge sharing and collaboration on the following topics:

Next to that it provides subscribed collaborators with the ability to create communities, communicate with each other, and it provides an ever growing inventory of relevant web links to:

All in all, the relatively new, MUBS online proves to be a reliable online research and teaching platform, open for contributors seeking and sharing knowledge and information. Because it is a relatively new platform, improvements can be made on certain collaboration and knowledge sharing techniques. The addition of, as of now still lacking, discussion boards might bring significant improvements to the platform. But, over the years this initiative does promises to grow into a vast knowledge and collaboration base for people who are interested in the topics discussed above.

Be sure to check it out and collaborate!

The ‘Last Mile’; A crucial step to connect

After SEACOM touches the shores of east Africa, this part of the world will finally be connected to the broadband network. However, the SEACOM cable is  just the backbone of the connectivity. The Last Mile is the final leg of delivering connectivity from a communications provider to a customer. The actual distance of this leg may be considerably more than a mile, especially in rural areas in Africa.  

The hunger for information and communication technologies can only be stilled by these last mile services which prove to include considerable challenges. Laying cables trough the vast space of the African continent would take forever, fortunately wireless technologies are meeting the african demand. WiMAX is brought up as the solution and investments are well underway. 

But there is a new kid in the town of wireless connectivity. This kid might delay the process of widespread broadband connection in Africa. A big battle appears to be between WiMAX and a technology that doesn’t yet exist, LTE.  This new technology is making investors weary of investing in WiMAX because they believe it is already outdated. The WiMAX industry has been bragging about its time-to-market advantage over LTE. Mobile WiMAX networks are rolling out this year. LTE networks aren’t expected to become commercial until 2010 or 2011.

It will be interesting to see when the new technology will be introduced and how it will affect the leapfrog Africa is about to make.