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.
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
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.