Category Archives: Infrastructure

Simple solution for local Development Cooperation

Countries, districts, counties, sub-counties, villages, communities… organizations. There are countless organizations (in Northern Uganda for this case) actively participating in development activities. Continue reading

Gulu visit I: BOSCO and ICT4D in Rural Uganda

BOSCO site volunteers Coope

BOSCO site volunteers Coope


22 years of internal strife by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people living in the northern part of Uganda. In 2007 a total of 31 IDP camps (which now are called Community Centers) with all together 214,908 people have been administrated to which food aid was being distributed. Now that the situation is stabilizing, many inhabitants are leaving the camps to return to the land that was once their home. But in doing so they encounter a new array of problems and difficult challenges to overcome. I visited two different IDP camps along with 2 different organizations that were active and carrying out projects to sustain the community and improve the lively hoods of the people i.e. BOSCO Uganda and SOVCO Uganda.

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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

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

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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

Boda Boda: popular transport in Kampala, Uganda

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

Visit Software Factory Uganda

Software Factory Uganda

Software Factory Uganda

Today I had the pleasure to meet Raymond Rugunda, the Director of Software Factory. Based here in Kampala, his company provides software development services to private and public companies based in Europe and North America. Started in 2007, the company now has 26 employees and includes graduates from the Makerere, Nkozi and Mukono University. 70% of his employees graduated with honors and needless to say he has some great talent amongst his ranks. 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.

Visit Makerere University Faculty of Computing and Information Technology

Makerere University Faculty of Computing and Information Technology

Makerere University Faculty of Computing and Information Technology

If your want CIT to be the best computing faculty in the world, change your thinking, if you want to be the best academic in the world change your thinking, if you want to be wealthy change your thinking. Stop thinking negative, defeated and having limiting thoughts. God can open doors for you if you persevere…From a letter written by Dean Prof. Baryamureeba Venansius

I had the chance to make two visits to the Makerere University Faculty of Computing and Information Technology. I was given a tour of their new building and I am absolutely blown away by what they have achieved and the plans they have for the very near future. There is nothing like walking into a room and seeing several hundred students hacking away on their laptops, exploring the internet, creating content and sharing thoughts and ideas. This open space is on the ground floor and realizes its exact purpose of sharing and creating. On the upper floors they have lectures halls, computer centers and dedicated laboratories ( including dedicated space for content creation, mapping and mobile programming). The building also plays host to the largest computer lab on the continent (800+ machines with many many more to come) and a budding call center that will produce thousands of call center professionals per year.

What happens when you combine hundreds of students with computers, Internet and dedicated IT professionals and educators? You get innovation! I had a chance to learn about some of the projects that have emerged from this school and can tell you that this is only the beginning. It’s hard not to get excited when you hear about students who have developed a mobile to mobile chat application, a mobile platform that facilitates elections electronically or a crisis response service. In the coming weeks I will be spending a lot of time in the halls of the Makerere digging deeper and getting to know more about the students, their projects and ambitions. These projects are part of the University’s tech incubator and I will write more about this in a later post.

The faculty has already attracting attention from IT companies around the world. Partnerships have been established with the likes of HP, Microsoft and IBM. Needless to say, these organizations see a long term potential in the development of local talent and are an important role in developing Kampala as a leading tech center. The government of Mauritius has also agreed to take 300 students a year in the effort to bolster their own ICT efforts!

Quick Facts about CIT

-Established by the University Council on December 15, 2004 by upgrading the Institute of Computer Science (founded in 1985) into a Faculty of Computing & IT.

-Has 4 academic departments: Computer Science; Information Technology; Information Systems; and Networks.

-Has several service departments that focus on the following: ICT services; Software Development and Innovations; Finance; Registration & day today concerns of students; Research; Human Resource; Examinations and Academic Programmes; International/Corporate/Public Relations; and Quality Assurance.

-Has a student population of 5000 – excluding those on different short courses.

-Has 250 academic staff and receives on average 30 International visiting staff every year.

-Has over 50 Local and International collaborations with Universities, Corporations, Private and Public Sector actors.

-Has participated in and won several international awards.

-Provides first class consultancy services, through its consultancy arm ‘ICT Consults Ltd’

-Has 5 undergraduate programmes (with one more programme under discussion at the University Senate level.)

-Offers 13 graduate programmes.

-Offers 10 regular short courses in ICT and other related areas.

-Runs a mid-night programme to cater for people who are time and financially-constrained.

-Hosts an annual International Conference on Computing and ICT Research (ICCIR).

-Hosts the International Journal of Computing and ICT Research (IJCIR), ISSN 1818-1139[Print] ISSN 1996-1065 [Online]

-Has $20 million worth of Investments in Infrastructure and other facilities

Next Silicon Valley in Kampala?

Silicon Valley In Africa? Is it possible, is it going to happen and where?

It is now my fourth day in Kampala and each day is more exciting than the last. The more people I meet the more I start to feel the emergence of a real tech scene here in the city. The incredible energy, drive and spirit is hard to ignore. It is exciting to see what kind of infrastructure is already in place and I am sometimes taken aback by the level of activity.

This is a posting I will be continually updating as I go along. What are your thoughts on the subject and how does Kampala compare to places like Nairobi, Lagos and Jo’Burg? As always, I invite any feedback, thoughts and ideas on the subject!

What is the Market potential?

The global market for IT services is worth one trillion US Dollars. Uganda has the potential to attract some of this business and offers a number of advantages i.e. preferential access to the European Union, United States of America, Canada and Japan for the ‘generalised system of preferences.’ Bilateral trade and investment agreements have also been signed with the United Kingdom, Italy, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Egypt, India, China, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Denmark, Mauritius and Switzerland. These agreements create a viable market opportunity for IT products from the country.

At regional level, Uganda is a member of a number of economic bodies. Uganda is a member of the East African Union and a member of the common market for eastern and southern African states (COMESA). This represents a market of 20 countries and over 380 million people. The trade volume of COMESA alone is in excess of US$ 90billion (2005). 47% of this market value is comprised of exports. Uganda has worked to reduce barriers to entry, tariffs and other legal hurdles that increasingly make the country conducive to investment.

Also exciting, is to see venture capitalist already here in the country busy searching out opportunities. I will be conducting interviews in the coming weeks and look forward to reporting more on this. Needless to say there is a lot of movement in this space and the timing of my project could not be more critical. I am eager to learn and see more!

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.