Category Archives: Research

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

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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

Ekimeeza, the Peoples Parliament on Radio One

By: Wouter Dijkstra

ekimeeza12I arrived around 2.30 at club Obligato, where the massively popular radio talkshow ‘Ekimeeza’ was about to start. I was welcomed by a series of middle aged men, who directed me to the man sitting at the head of a table. The table was about 12 meters long and seated around 16 people; an audience of about 150 people was surrounding this central structure. ‘Ekimeeza’ is the Ugandan word for ‘big table’; it is the place where Ugandans can speak their mind about issues concerning social and political issues and where they will be heard by the thousands of people tuned in at radio one. Continue reading

Ethnographic Research Approach

I think now is a good time to explain a little more about my research in Uganda and my ethnographic approach to this process. In short, ethnography of (ICTs) can look in detail at the ways in which the technology is experienced in use.

Pay Phone Operator in Kampala

Pay Phone Operator in Kampala

Christine Hine explains, “At the most basic level, (ICTs) are used as a way of transmitting bits of information from one computer (or mobile) to another. The architecture of (ICTs) provides ways for addressing the information that is sent, so that it can be split up into packets, sent out across the network and recombined by the recipient. All kinds of information are in theory equal: bits are transmitted in the same way whether they represent text, audio, images or video. The meaning of the bits comes from the patterns which they make, from the software which is used to interpret them, and of course from the users who send and receive them.”

Ethnography of (ICTs) can look in detail at the ways in which the technology is experienced in use.

For my research I plan to spend 2.5 months here in Kampala. Its not a great deal of time, but I do hope it gives me enough space to appreciate some of developments taking place here on the ground. I will use this time to deconstruct the relationships, activities and understandings of the different actors here in the country. I will also spend considerable time updating my blogs with small observations. As described by Christine Hine, ‘the aim is to make explicit the taken-for-granted and often tacit ways in which people make sense of their lives.’

Needless to say, it is important I get close enough to the culture here that I can really understand how it works. At the same time, I need to keep a certain distance if I am going to be able to objectively report on it. In this way, ethnography is used to develop an enriched sense of the meanings of the technology and the cultures that enable it and are enabled by it.

Ethnographic Methodology

Thomas Molony, in his case study Trading Places in Tanzania, describes ethnographic research as extensive ‘Hanging Out.’ I like this description. Spend time with people and learn from them. To observe and document impressions as they emerge and to explore their meaning in depth. The ethnographic research approach stems from the social sciences. Otherwise the sociology of science, technology and media.

It is suggested that we can usefully think of technologies and media as having interpretive flexibility: ideas of their sensible user are developed in context. Local contexts of interpretation and use therefore form the ethnographic field. Christine Hine

My research approach will consist of direct, first-hand observation of daily behavior. The research will focus on the ‘end user’ experience and will make use of the following research methodologies.

• Conversation with different levels of formality – This can involve small talk and long interviews. Also seek out local government officials, managers of multinationals and other groups that can give addditional insight into the macro economic developments.

• Detailed work with key consultants about particular areas of community life – From previous UvA related research, its clear that experts and local consultants hold a wealth of knowledge as they deal with these issues professionally and on a day to day basis.

• In-depth interviewing – Conduct in-depth interviews with local actors and stakeholders who can give an overview and broader insight into the behavior of individual user groups i.e. the owner of a large internet cafe, the manager of a local radio station, the local governor and so on.

• Discovery of local beliefs and perceptions – Via extensive interviewing (chit-chat, short and long) uncover some of the local beliefs and perceptions. This is fundamental to better understanding different views and approaches to technology.

• Problem-oriented research – Recognize local problems specific to the location and how users work to overcome these hurdles. I.e. flooding, electricity outages, elections or other anomalies that are unique to the local environment.

• Team research – Compare the field research to see where there are commonalities and where there are differences.

• Case Studies – Projects or activities that fall into the research category. These examples can be used to support our observations.

Regards,
Ben and Team

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!

What percent of your income do you spend on mobile phone credit?

Rashid spends 40% of his income on mobile credit

Rashid spends 40% of his income on mobile credit

Kampala – April 8th – Interview with Rashid

Today I had the opportunity to interview Rashid. He grew up in Kampala and is a student at the Makerere University. He is 27 years old and used a mobile phone and Internet.

Mobile Profile: Unlike other users I have met he has only one mobile phone. But he does have three sim cards (MTN, Zain and Warid)! He subscribed with MTN in 2000 because it was the cheapest at that time. He took a second subscription with Zain in 2006. He took the second subscription mainly because he had a friend who could give him the same phone number as he has on MTN. He took Warid because a friend got him the number and the company was offering free calls in the evening. From about 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM. The company doesn’t offer this service anymore and he doesn’t really use the sim card all that much anymore. What really surprised me was to learn that he spends about 40% of his income on mobile phone credit. His other big cost is fuel. I asked what he spends on food, clothes and other things but he gets most of these things through family.

Internet Profile: He uses Internet once a week. His family has a laptop (Dell) at home but the adapter is broken so they can’t use it. A new one is about 80 euro and this is too expensive to buy. Instead he makes use of his uncle’s wireless connection and laptop. This is also not easy as he has to compete for Internet time with his three sisters. He complained that his sisters use most of their time for social networking. He mentioned they use Facebook, Hi5 and e-mail. He mention that he only uses Facebook but can’t keep up with some of his friends. One posts images all the time. But more importantly he uses his Internet time to find articles for school and his research. He spends most of his time on Emerald Insight, a database for publications and research. He also uses e-mail to communicate with friends and professional contacts.