Category Archives: Telecom

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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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

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.

First impressions on iCT in Kampala

On the plane from Cairo to Kampala I met a young Ugandan guy of 19 years old who just flew back from a tennis match in Egypt. He was a real cosmopolitan; he had traveled already all over the world for tennis matches, he studied as well in Uganda as in South Africa and he got a scholarship for next year to study in the USA. He told me laughing he might do some economic studies too, to help us in Europe with our crisis. He uses the laptop of his brother to surf on the Web for news and downloading music.
I asked him if could do an interview with him later on in Kampala and he gave me the phone number of his sister: ‘Ask for Duncan..’ He himself changed too often of simcard to be reachable.

Once in the country it is not only the humid air taking the attention of your senses. The country is filled with massive advertisement and billboards of telecom companies: ‘connect yourself’…

telecom-ad2

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Visit AppAfrica

Appfrica.org facilitates, mentors and incubates entrepreneurs in software in East Africa and Uganda.

Appfrica.org facilitates, mentors and incubates entrepreneurs in software in East Africa and Uganda.

This past week I had the opportunity to visit with Jonathan from AppAfrica. I have followed his blog from day one and it was great to actually be in the office and to see the beginnings of an innovative tech incubator. In the coming weeks I will be spending considerable time with Jonathan and his team and look forward to mapping out both the opportunities and challenges present here in the country.

Appfrica.org facilitates, mentors and incubates entrepreneurs in software in East Africa and Uganda. We offer 24 hour facilities with a solid internet connection, servers, software and computers that will students and entrepreneurs a safe place to develop their ideas in a constructive environment alongside industry professionals outside of school. Student projects are refined and prepped to help them secure funding from venture capitalists, investors and financiers from the private sector. This project is better known as Appfrica Labs.

Ben

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!

Mobile phones make a great gift in Uganda

What do you bring as a gift to family you havent seen in a long time? You guessed it! A mobile phone:) I recently visited a family outside of Kampala and I can tell you that the Samsung phone was well received!
mobile_phone_as_gift_low

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.

Fake Mobile Phones in Kampala

Fake Nokia N95

Fake Nokia N95

Fake Nokia N95 - Back

Fake Nokia N95 - Back

Kampala – April 7th, 2009

Today I found someone with what looked like a Nokia N95. Looking at the phone I realized that it was bigger then the ones I have seen in Europe. I asked to see it and was surprised by how lightweight it was. The size of the screen was also larger than the N95 I am used to. I didn’t quite realize what was going on until the owner started laughing. He told me the phone was actually what he calls a ‘Nokia N95 China.’ Otherwise a complete knockoff on the original:) He was able to buy it second hand and mentioned the retail price was about euro 100. I asked about the quality and he mentioned he has some problems with the phone. Sometimes people call him and the phone doesn’t pick up the call. Other times the calls are simply dropped.

Still, the quality is surprising and the phone offers full functionality. I wonder how many phones on the streets of Kampala are fake and how big of an issue this might be for the hardware companies like Nokia. Anyone have some more data on this? Will see what else I can find out!

Mobile Everywhere in Kampala

ict4entrepreneurship-zain-poster-2

Kampala – April 6th, 2009

I have just arrived in Uganda and can tell you that the presence of the mobile phone is felt and seen everywhere! Just some notes from my trip from the airport. Upon arriving the first thing you notice is the Orange signs welcoming you to the Entebbe airport. They are now the fifth operator to start up here in the country. Despite the competition they must see a lot of business opportunity. Will double check but heard their initial investment was around 200 million USD (MTN is the largest network in the country, others include Zain, Uganda Telecom and Warid).

Driving from the airport you see nothing but advertisements for mobile networks, phones and services. As in many other countries, Zain has come to Uganda with a mission to paint as many buildings as possible in their bright fucia red and turquoise blue. Have to say the combination stands out when compared to the more neutral Orange and Red of the old Celtel brand. Apparently, Zain and the other companies offer to paint your building for free. Of course you have to be willing to live and work in their colors!

Our driver also had sim cards waiting for us. We had to try a couple of the networks before we could find one with good reception. I thought it was interesting that he has three sim cards (none with any credit) and two mobile phones. Our second friend who came to pick us up had 5 sim cards (one for each network) and three mobile phones (two pre paid). He still has to activate the Orange account but has it on hand just in case!

Ben

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