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Archive for February, 2009

By Kato Mivule | February 24, 2009

The Ugandan Government is moving a step forward in the right direction by proposing to set up policy to manage and curb e-Waste that flows into the country through the thousands of used electronic devices from computers to cell phones.

Parliament’s committee on ICT has finalized a new policy that will regulate the importation and disposal of electronic gadgets in the country. Committee chairman Edward Baliddawa says the Policy is contained in the draft, National Information Technology Bill that is now before the committee for scrutiny. He explains that there is No effective e-waste management system, and this has caused Uganda to remain a dumping ground for all kinds of computer scrap that come into the country from the developed economies. According to Baliddawa, the bill seeks to minimize the impact of second hand electrical gadgets whose impact on health and the environment cannot be underestimated.
“New Policy against dumping of used computers Thursday, 19th February, 2009”
http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/10/10/671964

Most of the used computers and cell phones are sent as donations to Africa in hopes that some how African Techs will fix those that they can and throw away the rest. Computers and PCs that fail the African Tech Test are then sent to the dumping grounds and become part of the garbage heaps all across Africa.

According to the Independent Publication in the UK, the UK alone produces 2 million tons of e-Waste and most of the disposal is sent to Africa. The same newspaper reported that 400,000 used computers arrive in Nigeria alone and 75 per cent of then cannot be used and end up on garbage heaps…

The UK generates almost 2 million tons of electronic waste. Disposing of this in America and Europe costs money, so many companies sell it to middle merchants, who promise the computers can be reused in Africa, China and India. Each month about 500 container loads, containing about 400,000 unwanted computers, arrive in Nigeria to be processed. But 75 per cent of units shipped to Nigeria cannot be resold. So they sit on landfills, and children scrabble barefoot, looking for scraps of copper wire or nails. And every so often, the plastics are burnt, sending fumes up into the air.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/toxic-shock-how-western-rubbish-is-destroying-africa-416828.html

DanWatch a European based corporate watchdog that documents consequences of investments and trade in third world countries, reported on its website that despite tough European policies on disposal of e-Waste, Africa still remains a dumping ground for the millions of used computers and cell phones discarded in Europe and the USA. Nigeria seems to be the largest recipient of such waste.

Despite new European regulations to prevent electronic waste from being dumped in Africa and Asia, a hidden flow of end-of-life electronics is threatening to drown West Africa. Local experts are calling for the EU to tighten control with the highly toxic waste. Every month, hundreds of tons of obsolete computers, televisions and other household consumer electronics are arriving at ports in Ghana and Nigeria.  From here, these second hand electronics are distributed via local networks of dealers throughout the country. According to local sources, only 25 per cent of the imports are working, while the remaining electronic waste, known as e-waste, often ends up on dumpsite fires.
http://www.danwatch.dk/index.php?id=54&option=com_content&task=view

However, the problem of dumping is not just limited to the European and American corporations and consumers who seek to discard unwanted computers and cell phones. African governments have of the past had robust trade with the East, especially China and India.

China in particular has taken advantage of the African market by dumping fake goods that for the most part work for only a very limited time and then are discarded off to garbage heaps. From cheap cell phones to fake computers, radio sets and fake TV sets, China is turning Africa into a major dumping ground and only adding to the already existing problem of Western Toxic Waste.

African governments need to not only to deal with e-Waste from the Western world, they need to deal with fake electronic goods that come from China and put a stop on that flow. Human Right groups, Watchdogs and Environmental groups need to tackle the problem of Chinese fake goods that are finding their way unhindered in Africa.

While most watchdog groups are focusing attention on the West, China is busy sending toxic waste in form of fake and bogus electronic goods across Africa.

The Ugandan government is taking positive steps in setting policy to curb dumping of e-Waste in Uganda but the policy seems only to deal with used electronics yet ignoring the threat that comes from fake electronic goods from China.

Ugandans would be well served if the new e-Waste policy includes a provision that deals with e-Waste in form of fake goods from China.

NOTES
New: Policy against dumping of used computers
http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/10/10/671964

European electronic waste in Ghana and Nigeria
http://www.danwatch.dk/index.php?id=54&option=com_content&task=view

Toxic shock: How Western rubbish is destroying Africa
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/toxic-shock-how-western-rubbish-is-destroying-africa-416828.html

Chinese president to visit Tanzania over the weekend
http://www.eturbonews.com/7761/chinese-president-visit-tanzania-over-weekend

TANZANIA: Counterfeit drugs put lives at risk
http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=82374

EU-China summit to be overshadowed by trade rifts
http://euobserver.com/9/25227

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By Kato Mivule | February 19, 2009

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni ‘reshuffled’ his cabinet, dropping some Ministers while bringing onboard new and old party loyalists according to the Ugandan Press. Among those dropped in the reshuffle was the I.T Minister Dr. Ham Mulira, one of Uganda’s top I.T experts.

Replacing Dr. Ham Mulira is a Harvard Graduate, Aggrey Awori who has had a history of contentions with Ugandan Dictators, including the present Museveni Regime but recently he surprised everyone when he crossed party lines and joined the Museveni ruling party.

Reasons behind the dropping of Dr. Ham Mulira are not known but most likely are political as President Museveni sought to reward his surrogates with positions of power in his regime despite the fact that most of the latest appointees are totally incompetent and lack the merits.

The most telling of these political appointments was President Museveni dropping Dr. Suruma, Uganda’s Economic and Finance Czar and replacing him with Syda Bbumba, who now becomes Uganda’s first female Finance Czar.

She has experience of only being a Banker in relation to Economics and named as one of the worst ministers of the year 2004 for the power shortages during her tenure as Energy Minister. What should Ugandans expect during her tenure as Finance Minister?

However, the dropping of Dr. Ham Mulira is a set back to the Ugandan I.T Sector. He led Uganda’s first I.T Ministry and oversaw the structuring of Uganda’s I.T Governmental Body.

The appointment of Aggrey Awori brings a lot of questions because Aggrey Awori is simply a political appointee and Mr. Museveni engaging in patronage and rewarding his surrogates.

However, the I.T. Ministry requires expertise and ‘Technical Know How’, but President Museveni seems to have gone with the ‘Technical Know Who’ ideals in appointing Aggrey Awori as Uganda’s Chief I.T Officer.

Mr. Aggrey Awori might not even know the lingual involved in I.T though he is a Political Economist from Harvard. Will it be that Dr. Ham Mulira will give Mr. Aggrey Awori a Computer 101 Class before he hands over the Powerful I.T ministry to him?

The same can be said of the new Finance Minister, Syda Bbumba, she has no knowledge and experience of economics and her profile shows that she totally mismanaged Uganda’s Electric Power Sector while she was Energy Minister.

On the other hand Dr. Suruma is an economics expert; despite some set backs he had in Uganda with the NSSF (National Social Security Fund) Funds debacle, Dr Suruma is an expert in his own field.

President Museveni is found of appointing his friends, cousins, and relatives to very technical government posts, only for the relatives to fail to deliver, the latest example is when he appointed his brother Salim Saleh as Minister of Micro Finance who totally failed to extend Micro Finance Credit to Uganda’s Poor.

Uganda’s Government I.T Department risks setbacks because of political appointees who have no technical and managerial expertise to deliver. Ugandan Parliament should scrutinize these new appointees and put them to task to deliver, withdraw their appointment, or resign and avoid the embarrassment.

Uganda cannot afford more years of political games as designed and orchestrated by President Museveni with his political appointees and rewarding of incompetent surrogates.

The I.T. Ministry is very critical to Uganda’s development, from the Agricultural sector, Immigration, Finance, Banking, and Education, information Technology has proved to be a very powerful vehicle in fostering growth and development, thanks to Dr. Ham Mulira’s efforts in laying the infrastructure needed.

Poverty, Diseases, and Illiteracy will still haunt Uganda as President Museveni continues his political games by appointing officials who know nothing about their fields and will only foster mismanagement and corruption.

NOTES
Museveni reshuffles cabinet
http://www.monitor.co.ug/artman/publish/news/Museveni_reshuffles_cabinet_80005.shtml

Aggrey Awori
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aggrey_Awori

Syda Bbumba Worst Minister of the Year
http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/9/38/408859

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By Kato Mivule
February 16, 2009

African countries along the Indian Ocean coast are set to get a boost with high speed broadband internet connection with the progress that SEACOM has made. SEACOM is a service provider for fiber optic bandwidth along the East Coast of Africa to Southern Africa, Europe and Asia.

According to the Company’s press release, SEACOM has successfully laid cables on ocean floors in both the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. The target is to have the fiber optic cable laid right from South Africa all the away to the UK in Europe before the 2010 World Cup Games to be held in South Africa.

SEACOM has also embarked on recruiting African talent in the Telecommunication and Networking Fields. This is a plus for Africa as most investors tend to bring their own “experts” abroad to Africa, ‘curtailing’ off all opportunities in developing local talent. The Company is 77 percent owned by a consortium of African countries and other investors.

However, African countries along the Indian Ocean and Red Sea will benefit before countries like Uganda that are land locked and still have to invest in laying fiber optic cable from Kampala all the way to Mombasa seaport on the Indian Ocean in Kenya.

Countries like Kenya and Tanzania will have the competitive edge as landlocked nations like Uganda and Rwanda still have to figure out the logistics involved in getting connected to the SEACOM Grid.

SEACOM Africa Out Reach on the East African Cost

SEACOM Africa Out Reach on the East African Cost - Image Source: http://www.Seacom.mu

However, Uganda has made significant progress with the Government funded Fiber Optic Grid being laid inland Uganda and funded by the Chinese Government. MTN a South Africa based Telecommunication company has also made inroads by laying cable from the Uganda Kenya Border to Rwanda.

Though SEACOM is a fully backed by a number of African investments, there have been disagreements between some African governments when it comes to the EASSY – East African Submarine Cable System, a main competitor to SEACOM.

EASSY has full backing from the Kenyan Government. However, the dilemma of EASSY with African Politics seems to give SEACOM a lead in bridging the digital divide in East Africa.

Uganda and Rwanda, being landlocked stand to gain from the competition; unless otherwise, SEACOM is set to make its mark in the East African Telecommunication Industry.

Notes
East Africa: Seacom’s Cable Reaches Two Ocean Floors
http://allafrica.com/stories/200902160001.html

SEACOM’S CABLE REACHES TWO OCEAN FLOORS
http://www.seacom.mu/news/news_details.asp?iID=57

NEPAD Infrastructure Projects Behind Schedule
http://english.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_view.asp?at_code=378362&no=333216&rel_no=1

EASSY Project Overview
http://www.eassy.org/project.html

Fibre-optic undersea cable construction on track
http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/fibreoptic-undersea-cable-construction-on-track-2008-07-11

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By Kato Mivule

Much is being talked about Microsoft’s new OS, Windows 7 and how it is supposed to be the ‘Dream OS’ for all those who chose to stick with Windows XP and rebuffed Microsoft’s overrated Windows Vista.

While some blogs are giving half-hearted praise for the Windows 7, much of sub-Saharan Africa will not benefit, and might stick around with Windows XP or even totally migrate to Ubuntu as is the case in Nairobi, Kenya, where most Internet Cafés have moved to Ubuntu after government crack down on pirated software.

Microsoft’s new OS will not do much to help ‘Bridge the Digital Divide’ but actually will only widen it. Windows 7 is largely provides a smooth transition from Vista to Windows 7. However, much of Africa still utilizes Windows 2000 largely because of it downgraded license requirements, and many entities still use Windows XP.

Windows Vista in this part of the world has only remained an item for the ‘elites’ due to its costs and also need for connectivity for license verification. Only a few corporate entities and well to do multinational corporations could afford the price and ‘strings attached’ that came with Windows Vista.

Secondly, hardware costs also count, apart from the few Corporate entities, the costs of a simple computer with the latest hardware configurations to run Windows Vista well is just beyond the reach of ordinary ‘middle class’ folks who rather will buy a cheap imitated brand name computer from China and run a pirated version of  Windows XP.

There has not been any monumental transition from Windows XP to Windows Vista for much of poor Africa.  A pirated version of Windows XP is what remains as the standard OS on most of Poor Africa’s Desktops. Therefore, most of Africa might not take the leap from XP to Windows 7.

Even Government Departments with Pre-installed versions of Windows XP could not afford the Price Tag involved in upgrading systems to Windows Vista. Therefore Windows 7 is most likely to mark the beginning of an end of Microsoft’s domination of Africa’s Tech World.

Recent developments and user-friendliness of Ubuntu make it the most likely place that Africa’s Techs will migrate to as one can witness when they visit Internet cafés in Nairobi, Kenya.

However, for most African Techs, Connectivity still remains an impediment in falling in love with Ubuntu, as one cannot get the constant upgrades that come with it.  However, with the robust growth of the Telecom sector in Africa, Connectivity is becoming just an issue of price. African Techs will find it far much cheaper to install Ubuntu and pay the Telecom guys a few bucks for connectivity than paying Microsoft a hefty price plus ‘strings attached’ for Windows Vista and Windows 7.

Windows 7 is coming out at a very bad time when the world is experiencing an economic downturn. Given that sub-Saharan African countries have half of their budgets sponsored by mostly European Donors, I foresee cost cuts when it comes to Information Technology spending.

Most European Donors, whose countries are not that very friendly to Microsoft, will demand Open Source Initiatives when it comes to Information Technology Spending in Africa and Ubuntu will be a favorable OS, given that the originators of the Software are based in the UK.

Therefore, Windows 7 might be the last of what we see as Microsoft’s dominance in Africa even if Microsoft gives it out for free.

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By Kato Mivule

This past week Bill Gates surprised his audience at the TED – Technology Entertainment and Design annual Conference in California by releasing a swarm of harmless mosquitoes into the audience.

Bill Gates was sending a message to the audience that they should have empathy and ‘feel the pain’ that folks in ‘Third World’ nations face with the plight of Malaria.

Among Tech Executives, Bill Gates is one of the best Ambassadors we have so far concerned with helping alleviate Poverty, Diseases and Illiteracy in Developing Nations, and employing technology and philanthropy in the process.

If there was anything good from this conference, it was Bill Gates driving the point home that Technology should not be detached from reality.

I give Bill Gates a plus for this despite his ‘high priced’ software costs with strings attached on unending license renewals at Microsoft, which makes it look like a ‘what Bill Gates gives, a Bill Gates takes away’ venture.

When Bill Gates gives a Million Dollars in Grants to fight Malaria to None Governmental Organizations – NGOs in Africa, they in turn have to pay huge amounts of money in purchasing Software applications from Microsoft not to mention annual renewal costs which they get at reduced prices…then, more mosquitoes continue to bite more Africans…

Bill Gates did drive the point home to many of the Tech Executives who seem to live outside reality and their technological ambitions seem to be disconnected from the many social ills like Poverty, Diseases, and illiteracy faced in much of the poor parts of the world.

However, Bill Gates might have sent mosquitoes into the Audience at the TED Conference in California and many of the Tech Executives might have felt the pain of mosquito bites, but surprisingly many of African Executives are far placed away from reality of the mosquito bites that their people face in Africa.

I wish Bill Gates would carry a larger container of Mosquitoes and release them in a conference of African Leaders, Presidents and Dictators, most probably the African Union – AU, who of recent went out of their mind to elect Dictator Gadaffi as President of the AU.

These are the folks who best need not just harmless mosquito bites but those infected with Malaria so that they would get the feel of the plight of their own people who suffer from Malaria.

Most recently, funds meant to fight Malaria in Uganda from the Global Fund were squandered and stolen by High ranking Ugandan Government officials and as such a number of lives lost. Up to this day no one has been sent to jail for stealing money meant to help fight Malaria.

It is such folks who best deserve a swarm of Mosquito Bites from Bill Gates, but this time mosquitoes infected with Malaria. It is Africa’s Corrupt Leaders who need the best reality check.

Notes
Bill Gates Releases Mosquitoes at TED – BBC
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7871210.stm

Bill Gates Unleashes Mosquitoes on Tech’s Elite – Information Week
http://www.informationweek.com/news/industry/technology-telecom/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=213201784

Global Funds Stolen – All Africa
http://allafrica.com/stories/200805260836.html

Libya’s Qaddafi Is Elected Chairman of African Union
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601116&sid=azJBmzOWm1jQ&refer=africa

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By Kato Mivule

Uganda Press reports that the government has rolled out the second and third phase of a Fiber Optic Cable that is supposed to stretch across the country. Uganda is land locked and depends on Kenya and Tanzania seaports for accessibility to sea ports.

Uganda's Fiber Optic Grid

Uganda's Fiber Optic Grid

With the successful installation of the nation’s Fiber Optic Data Transmission Backbone, Uganda will defiantly be a step ahead of many African nations when it comes to I.T and Connectivity.

The ‘Fiber Optic Backbone’ will then connect to the undersea cable through Kenya… Uganda will then enjoy fast internet connectivity just like India or South Africa. This will for example translate to Uganda being positioned in terms of infrastructure for Outsourced Jobs like ‘Call Centers’ if the current Global Economic Crisis does not dictate otherwise.

…The second phase that includes wiring up much of the country with about 1,500km of telecommunication cabling at a cost of $61m is underway and is expected to be completed just in time to celebrate the landing of undersea cables on East Africa’s coast in Kenya…It is planned that when Uganda’s national data transmission backbone is completed, it will be connected to the undersea cables through Kenya’s western border at Malaba and Busia. The backbone will enable fast and cheap telecommunications. Currently under construction are the $256m East African Submarine System cable (EASSy) to cover east and southern Africa and the $650m SEACOM that will also cover East and Southern Africa, the $82million East African Marine System (TEAMS) from Kenya to the United Arab Emirates…
E-GOV’T: WHY WE NEED IT – New Vision
http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/9/32/670346

However, the Ugandan Government must look beyond the simplicity of attracting investors to setup ‘Call Centers’ in Uganda. If this becomes the goal, then this enormous I.T Infrastructure will be a waste of time and tax payers’ money.

With the recent opening of an I.T Center at Makerere University, Uganda is most likely to see herself in a position as an I.T Hub and leader in the Great Lakes Region. Currently Uganda enjoys some of the best higher education institutions in the region. The completion of the Fiber Optic Data Transmission grid will enhance research and collaboration with other Universities.

However, there is still a very big problem in Uganda when it comes to utilization of I.T resources for both private and public sector development. Most Ugandans are still very reluctant to make basic investments in I.T despite what the government is doing in laying an I.T infrastructure.

This is one very big job that Mr. Ham Mulira, Uganda’s Government I.T Czar has to do…educating Ugandans on how they can utilize and benefit form I.T, and especially the current I.T infrastructure the government has laid.

Most Ugandan Small businesses still keep records in paper books. Many small businesses don’t see any need for an office computer, other than ‘surfing the net’ at a local internet café in Kampala.

I did visit some hospitals in Kampala and medical records are kept in paper books and old files, often an officer is assigned the duty of digging through old files to find records of a returning patient.

However, there is reason to hope as press reports indicated that Uganda’s Telecom subscribers have reached 8 million during the past three years. It shows an increase in the appreciation of Technology in Uganda. It is a great achievement but Uganda’s Chief I.T Czar must take it upon himself to launch an educational drive to Ugandans, especially small businesses on the benefits of I.T and that it is just beyond making phone calls to loved ones…

Interestingly, there are a sizeable number of trained I.T personnel in Uganda, many of them moving around the streets of Kampala without any jobs… Many local businesses don’t see any need to hire some folks as the businesses don’t see any need for having a computer in the first place… Computers are still seen as a luxury rather than a necessity by local businesses in Kampala.

Roads are built with purpose that they will enhance trade and commerce… Mr. Ham Mulira has that task of educating reluctant Ugandans that they would benefit from the new I.T Infrastructure.

It would be a waste of resources to have a highway that is not utilized at all… We hope that Uganda’s Fiber Optic Grid does not become another waste…a highway built that no one uses.

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