Category Archives: Uncategorized

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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Accountability starts with Countability

By: Wouter Dijkstra

mathsIn Uganda, even at the peoples parliament of Ekimeeza, where intellectuals are supposed to be gathered, there is a substantial lack of numbers, statistics and measureable facts. People have not mastered advanced counting and have no logical perception of values and numbers. 2000 – 500 = a big problem for a lot of people. So how can they understand context? Continue reading

Ekimeeza 2.

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This week, the topic of the Ekimeeza was on elections in South Africa and how Uganda could learn or take examples for Ugandan elections in 2011. Again, no position was taken and no preliminary explanation or overview of key concepts concerning elections or South Africa were made. Again, the MP of the day came in 15 minutes after the show had started making the appearance of some kind of god or movie star. He brought his wife and both wore immaculate white casual clothing. Continue reading

New Vision’s Vision Revealed

Ali Balunywa in Kampala, Uganda

For the first time since travelled to Uganda for my research, I woke up with a purpose. I was invited to attend the editorial meeting at the New Vision Newspaper to meet all journalists. Editorial meetings take place every day at 8.30am. The meetings are meant to map out activities for the day, deploy journalists and to do a postmortem of the previous day’s newspaper. Continue reading

Media Students Embrace digital culture

On Wednesday 8 April, I escorted Ben to Makerere University Faculty of ICT. During our discussions with the deputy dean, we were introduced to the communications manager. After explaining our fields of study, I was requested to make a presentation to the final year class of mass communications on the subject of the new Media. I could not let such an opportunity go by, so I immediately accepted. Continue reading

New Media at the New Vision

Ali Balunywa in Kampala, Uganda

After finalizing the formalities with the administration, the human resource manager of the New Vision handed me over to the Mr. Ben Opolot, the Chief sub-editor. She made for me an appointment to meet him (Ben) on Monday 20 April 2009 at the New Vision head office.

I was there at the agreed time of 10.00am. I explained to Ben how I wanted to do my research. Since all permissions had been granted, he thought all we needed was to let the editor in chief know and off I start. Continue reading

New Media meets old Media

Ali Balunywa

I started working on my research proposal last year. By the beginning of this year, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. And that is to research on the impact of ICT use on the print media journalist. I started establishing contact with the New Vision, the largest print media organization in Uganda. Continue reading

The 45-hour flight to Africa!

Ali Balunywa in Kampala, Uganda

Ben and I booked the same flight to Uganda. We booked Egypt Air. The flight was supposed to take off at 3.30pm from Schiphol airport (Amsterdam) on Saturday 4 April 2009. We were to transit through Cairo in Egypt lasting one hour and proceed to Entebbe in Uganda.

We boarded the plane in time and sat for almost an hour. The pilot had realized that the altimeter was not working and it needed repair. We were asked to disembark and given vouchers for a meal at any restaurant at the airport.

We waited for almost 5 hours before the fault was repaired. We again went through the airport security to board the plane. Like the first time, I was searched thoroughly and asked by the customs officers how much money I had! Ben was angry and wondered whether it wasn’t discrimination since no white person had been asked a similar question!

We arrived in Cairo at around 3.00 am. Egypt air organized the Sheraton hotel for us. We were allocated rooms and informed that we would fly the next day in evening via Nairobi in Kenya for Entebbe.

We had a good morning’s sleep and next day after breakfast decided to visit the pyramids at Giza. We hired a taxi and off we went. Foreign currency is not accepted, so we had to look for a machine to draw local Egyptian pounds. At the entrance to the pyramids there is a local bank whose ATM was not functional. Electricity had gone off and the teller could not change our money. Nobody had any idea when power would return!

Later we identified a man who changed our Euros. He certainly cheated us, but we had no choice. We were 4 people having met a German lady and her daughter who too were travelling to Uganda. We paid the equivalent of 12 euro each to enter the pyramid area. We took some photos and bought some trinkets. We were mesmerized by the sheer size of the pyramids and the history it stores. The Sphinx stands proud in front of the biggest pyramid. One might assume it is the custodian of history.

Later we visited the famous 5 star Oberoi hotel in Cairo for refreshments. Back at the hotel we had dinner and returned to the airport. To Ben’s dismay, I was again thoroughly checked at the check in counter, yet he and the Germans made their way through without being checked.

After an uneventful flight, we arrived in Nairobi at 4.00 am. Our Entebbe flight was departing at 8.40 am, so we had several hours of waiting. We collected our boarding passes and went to the departure gate. The expected was done; another thorough check on me was conducted again to Ben’s disgust. He actually commented that this was the worst discrimination case he ever encountered!

Our sense of humor was restored when we were offered seats in the first class section of the plane! A welcome drink; Champaign, water, juice or soda was offered. The region’s newspapers and international magazines were offered to us. A wide variety breakfast was offered. This time real steel cutlery and china crockery are used. We were pampered and spoilt by the hostesses who were at hand to satisfy all our needs. Unfortunately we did not enjoy for long as the flight took only 50 minutes.

At Entebbe airport we paid for our visas with so much ceremony. Ben had US dollars that were rejected because they were manufactured before 1990! His pleas that he was American and that dollars were genuine fell on deaf ears. He instead used Euros to pay and we proceeded to collect our baggage.

Not to disappoint at the exit, I was again singled out and my luggage searched again by the customs. But finally, we had arrived in Uganda at 10.00 am on a Monday morning having left Amsterdam on a Saturday afternoon!

Telecom giants fight to paint Uganda in all colors of the rainbow

The field of color psychology attempts to identify the effects of color on human emotion and activity.

The field of color psychology attempts to identify the effects of color on human emotion and activity.

It is amazing to see rural africa painted in the colors of telecom companies. I wonder if people have an opinion about this? Is this a positive or negative development? What are the implications for the people living in these buildings and surrounding communities? If you spend 40% of your income on mobile phone credit, live in a house painted by your telecom provider and depend on most of your income from selling scratch cards, its fair to say the communications industry impacts your life. And is this simply a creative way to make some money and get your building painted or has it somewhere crossed the line?

I will post additional photos as my collection grows! Will also work to add some interviews and impressions from people across the country. Till now I have heard some people say they liked it or didn’t mind. Others have said they were bothered by the colors. Needless to say its time to dig deeper.

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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

How many file cabinets do we need to replace?

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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

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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

Learn more about my research!
ICT 4 Entrepreneurship

“There is no short-cut to development”

Last week Marcia Luyten wrote an criticle article on development in the Dutch newspaper NRC. She argues that the main problem of the failure of development in Uganda is in fact a mentality problem. On the one hand she boldly states there is lack of an inner will to progress within the people, e.g. men are ‘busy’ drinking beer and women don’t get up early enough to make their children a breakfast. On the other hand they are all part of a system that doesn’t allow for efficient development, e.g. profit that is made is not properly invested, and education in a corrupt society isn’t the requisite for a good job.

According to Luyten this is to a large degree due to the Dutch development policies. The huge amounts of money that the Netherlands are donating each year to assist in reaching the Millennium Development Goals, made possible for free education, free health care and an omission of local taxes. But the counter effects are serious. People are less motivated to earn money because crucial things are paid for. And, no taxes for the poor majority means difficulties questioning the spendings of government money. The advantage of paying tax is that the people in charge can be accounted for their spendings, and exactly this is the accountability that is necessity for a democracy.

The point here that Luyten makes is that we have a wrong idea of the complex workings of this other society. We are imposing our liberal democratic perspective on a society that isn’t an open society, but a closed society that derives its stability from a system of patronage. This doesn’t mean that it is a wrong system, but it is different, and this should be taken into account when Western modernization policies are being shaped. We should have more realistic expectations about what our ‘help’ could establish.

Luyten states that the real change should come from within, but that we also should not forget that most development countries are trapped in a system where they can’t get out of by themselves. Therefore we shouldn’t stop with development aid, but we should transform the development focus on quantity into a focus on quality. The principal of ‘do no harm’ is essential in this, not only in aid, but also in trade. African countries need to be able to export their products without having to open their borders for the mean machine of mass production from the West. Then, the development workers we send to bring about change have to be professionals, not students accomplishing their internship. This is simply because African societies aren’t simple; because of this complexity, we need a sharp focus on initiatives already going on that do work on the ground. Step two is to try these ‘change agents’ out elsewhere to see if it will work or not. Trial and error, step by step.

If we, the ICT4Uganda group, put our research in context of Luyten’s argument, we have to admit that for now we still belong to the students finishing their internship more than to the professionals. But a start is to be made somewhere. Our blog is not only accessible for students, but functions as a platform for professionals too. Effort in sharing knowledge over time without restrictions is our tool in getting a better insight in the complex society and the ways in which projects rise and fall.

Our bottom up approach is in the light of the argument a very useful manner in understanding the society as opposed to the top down perspectives of large NGO’s and Western governments. The anthropological fieldwork that we will conduct in spring and summer 2009 will encompass the experiences of the local people. The assistance of the Makerere University represents the will and input of local organizations accompanying us in the direction of the local needs.

Now the fact that we have a focus on ICT seems odd. We are missing a lot of steps one might argue. Fact is that these steps in between are not taken and new forms of media are implemented massively by telecom corporations, knowledge of the effects though are nihil. Citizen use of new media could be a strong tool in establishing an open and democratic society. Though we have to keep in mind that these tools can and will be used in ways we cannot imagine. This in mind we focus on specific groups in specific areas in effort to create small insights in complex issues.

Let us know about your projects !

Taxi Park Kampala

The ICT 4 Uganda Research group is ready for the trip to Uganda. We plan to be there April, May and June. If you have an interesting project we would certainly like to know about it !

We would invite the opportunity to meet fellow researchers and practitioners in the field. If you have an interesting project or initiative that would be relevant to one of our research trajectories feel free to contact us.

As a group we are interested in the following:

1) Scheduling a meeting and interview with you
2) Making a visit to your project to learn more about your activities
3) Introductions to people and projects that would fall under the scope of our research project
4) Any background information, reports or data that you feel would be useful or helpful to our project.

What can we do for you?

We are open to suggestions and to establishing partnerships in which we can work together. As a group we will be speaking to many individuals from across the ICT spectrum. We are pleased to share our contacts, network and any information that might be useful to you and your project.

Alternatively, feel free to send us your request or suggestions. We are happy to see how we can incorporate your needs into our project and in the effort to help you in any way possible.

In the meantime, we remain available to answer any questions or to share ideas.

Kind regards,
Ben, Wouter, Ali, Guido and Kai