Archive for March, 2009

By Kato Mivule | March 30, 2009

This month saw a number of I.T related events in Uganda that will have an impact on Uganda’s I.T industry in the future. From the launching of Orange Telecom, MTN Mobile Banking, exporting of Uganda’s I.T ‘Know How’, and the growing opposition to the Phone Tapping Bill. Uganda’s I.T development is accelerating at a pace faster than both locals and politicians can handle.

However, the Phone Tapping bill tends to pour cold water on all these monumental developments if the current bill in its form is passed as law in Uganda. The Information Technology infrastructure will only serve to the meet the needs of ‘the powers that be’ rather than serve Ugandan locals.

Information Technology is rapidly changing the way of life and business in Uganda especially when it comes to voicing opinion and is one reason why the government of Uganda is pushing the unpopular ‘phone tapping’ bill so as to control progress in the I.T sector before it is too late.

However, the Ugandan Government is coming in too late and the speed at which I.T infrastructure development is progressing in Uganda is beyond the ‘policy net’ that the Ugandan government is trying to set up.

This is good news for the locals in a sense that the Ugandan government has no capacity to control new technology from the populace in fear that opposing politicians will borrow a leaf from US President Obama and his campaign in the use of Technology.

Rather than go the Obama way to enhance technology positively, the Ugandan government seeks to employ Chinese tactics in controlling what the general populace can access.

The passing of the Phone Tapping Bill is going to be an ongoing legal battle. Information Technology is to become part and parcel of any legal proceedings in Uganda… The protection of such an infrastructure from ‘Big Brother’ is in the interest of Lawyers, Human Rights Activist, and any God fearing person…  “A lawyers’ body has added its voice to the growing opposition to a proposed new law that would legalise phone-tapping by security agencies. The Uganda Law Society, which has a membership of more than 1,200 lawyers spread across the country, says phone-tapping is unconstitutional.”
Lawyers oppose phone tapping Bill
Daily Monitor | March 7, 2009 |Mercy Nalugo

The point is that locals do not trust the Ugandan Government with their privacy and for historical reasons. Ugandans have endured abuse from Governments meant to protect them but instead turn to witch-hunt, harass, and torment any who offer opposing views.

Uganda’s Telecom Governing Body, the Uganda Communications Commission has voiced its opposition to the bill… If the bill is passed as law, the constitutional court will get involved as the bill contradicts the Ugandan Constitution.

UCC not consulted on phone tapping Bill
Daily Monitor | March 26, 2009 |Mercy Nalugo

The proposed Phone Tapping Bill hit yet another snag yesterday when officials from the national communications regulator told parliamentarians that it is in conflict with several sections of already existing laws governing operations in the sector. The Uganda Communications Commissions officials also revealed that the body was not consulted during the drafting of the Bill, further raising questions about the motives of the brains behind it. The UCC becomes the latest organisation, after the Uganda Law Society, a section of MPs, telecommunication service providers, and human rights groups like the Human Rights Network (Hurinet), which have strongly opposed the enactment of the Bill into law.

Human Rights groups have voiced their fears that the Bill would give powers to the government with leverage of abuse. This is not far fetched as it may sound. The outcry from the Human Rights body is based of the current government and its history of Human Rights abuse.

How can they be trusted with Powers to virtually control communication and the privacy of Ugandans? If the Ugandan Government has not respected the individual rights of Ugandans before the advent of the current Information Technology infrastructure, how can they be trusted now with powers to listen in on every one’s call, read everyone’s emails, and know everyone’s movements?

Phone tapping contradicts Constitution – watchdog |New Vision | March 25, 2009

“…Appearing before the same committee, the Human Rights Network requested powers of the minister to intercept communications be shifted to the courts of law, adding that the minister could abuse the powers…The Uganda Journalist Association officials argued that the Bill, if not amended, would remove the confidentiality of their sources contrary to the Media Act.

However, Ugandan Government officials are trying to use fear mongering and playing the 9-11 card in snatching away the right to privacy for Ugandans. However, such arguments have been fearlessly fought against in the USA and not even President Obama can make the argument that he will Phone Tap because of 9-11…

ICT minister backs phone tapping |New Vision |March 26, 2009
“The Government has been tapping phones, but now wants to make a law. The opposition should actually applaud the Government for the development,” Awori added. The minister said even the September 11 attack on the World Trade Centre in the US occurred partly as a result of not having a law on phone tapping. Awori said the American government, even after knowing about the attack, could not stop it since they did not have such a law.

There is no doubt that criminals exist and that government has to do its part in protecting her citizens. However, there are no studies or even reports that when governments wire tap phones, criminality rescinds, or terrorists stop their attacks.

Wire Taping does not stop any criminal activity and neither is it a hindrance.  For the most part criminals go ‘low tech’ and communicate without the dependence on phones.

Secondly, there might be cases when government will need to wiretap and monitor any cyber criminal activity. However, in such cases the government should seek a court order to gain a warrant and government should be forced to account for its warrant activities to avoid any illegal actions like listening in on people’s private conversations.

Rather than deliberate on how to Phone Tap conversations and read people’s emails, Uganda’s legislative body would better serve their constituents by protecting people’s privacy while enhancing Cyber Security in Uganda and heavily holding Uganda’s government to account in the process.

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Kato Mivule | March 23, 2009

There is a lot happening when it comes to information technology in Africa but no one can ignore the Telecom revolution in Africa. There is no doubt that the Cell Phone has revolutionized communication and business in Africa.

Image Scource: www.mtn.co.za

Image Scource: http://www.mtn.co.za

The Total Telecom subscribers in Africa has grown to 340 million users outnumbering Mobile phone users in the USA, and making Africa the fastest growing Telecom market in the world.

The current Global Economic Crisis is not doing much to curtail this growth.  Maybe Western Telecom Conglomerates could borrow a leaf from the African Telecom Success. I believe Wal-Mart is watching, at least…

Image Scource: www.ug.zain.com

Image Scource: ug.zain.com

Image Scource: orange.ug

Image Scource: orange.ug

Mobile Telecom companies have made cell phones cheap that those with low income can afford to subscribe and own a mobile phone head set.  Most of the subscribers are the ‘Pay As You Go’ clients and Telecom companies make money with ‘Air Time’ that clients purchase now and then. This Model is far different from the American Model were subscribers have to sign contracts and pay monthly bills.

Image Scource: www.utl.co.ug

Image Scource: http://www.utl.co.ug

In the initial stages Telecom companies in the early 1990s only catered to the wealthy and affluent urban populations in Africa. In Uganda for example, the Cell Phone then was considered a “rich man’s thing’. Subscriptions were low as only the wealthy could afford high monthly bills, contracts, and expensive headsets. Telecom companies then saw the opportunity to sell their products to low income earners minus ‘strings attached’ and at the same time made customer service priority so as to retain clients.

Most recently Europe’s Orange Telecom seized the moment and has invested in the African Telecom market, targeting the unreached African Populations, according to a recent interview done by Orange’s Telecom Executive with New Vision, a Uganda Government Daily Newspaper. Orange projects itself gaining 40 percent of Uganda’s Telecom market, targeting mainly the unreached – rural areas…

The question is how Uganda can use this current Telecom boom to implement growth and development, and alleviate poverty. How can the current Telecom Revolution be translated to other areas and sectors of Uganda’s economy? Will this Telecom boom last? Will it be sustainable? I believe it will Plateau at a certain point and the success of Telecom companies in Africa will depend on the unique products and services that they will offer across the current Telecom infrastructure in Africa.

Cell phones power financial revolution in Africa
McClatchy | February 10, 2009

African mobile subscribers reach 280m
Wireless Federation | May 2, 2008

Africans get upwardly mobile in cell phone boom

CNN | August 14, 2008

Orange eyes 40% market share

New Vision | Sunday, 22nd March, 2009

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Kato Mivule | March 17 2009

Uganda’s I.T sector saw some good news this month with the launch of Orange Network, a European French Telecom company in Kampala Uganda. The Orange Network adds to the already existing four Telecom companies in Uganda, MTN, Zain, UTL, and Warid.

Orange Logo, Image Scource: Orange Website

Orange Logo, Image Scource: http://www.orange.ug

It will be interesting to watch the price wars between the Telecom companies as each competes for new clients and struggles to keep existing subscribers. Uganda has a population of about 30 million. Current Telecom subscribers are about 8 million.

Orange still has a short to become the top Telecom Company in Uganda but their products and services will determine their success in Uganda…

“For Ugandans, the telecoms carnival has gotten merrier and the juices won’t stop flowing. Orange Uganda, which has been putting its act together for two years since it got a license in 2007, finally commissioned its mobile network yesterday promising higher standards of quality. The network is the fifth in the country after MTN, Zain, Utl and Warid. Company executives were not, however, clear about the current size of their coverage in the country during the launch function in Kampala yesterday. They said they were present in much of the South and Southwest and that they were expanding daily with additional base stations…”
Orange Telecom launches in Uganda, By Elias Biryabarema, Daily Monitor, March 12, 2009

However, Orange Network will have to do things differently from all the other four competitors. For Orange to succeed they will have to focus on a new market rather than compete for the urban population already circulated with the other four major networks. This will mean reaching out to the other 22 Million Ugandans who have no access to cell phone technology. These Ugandans are mainly in the rural areas and it is in this ‘unreached’ territory that Orange must focus. This will mean spending more on infrastructure and human resource especially in the area of Customer Service.

Orange has had troubles in Europe with Customer Service in the area of Broadband Services and will need to ensure that the already established Telecom companies do not ‘steal the big fish’ from the Orange net.

Orange being a global company with operations in far more nations than any of the four Ugandan Telecom companies is at great advantage with expertise and advanced technology from the ever advancing European nations. The challenge for Orange is how to bring some of these Technologies to the Ugandan populations such as Banking and other Financial Services, e-Medical Services, e-Commerce, and Broadband Services.

Orange has the capability to move beyond simply making phone calls and totally make a revolution in Uganda’s Telecom sector. The four Telecom companies in Uganda, MTN, Zain, UTL, and Warid have not really broken out of the Box of just ‘making Phone Calls’. Orange can give them a ‘run for their money’ and out compete them in what has come to be an area of weakness for these four major Telecom networks…expansion into the unreached 22 Million Ugandans and offering new services other than making phone calls…

However, it will remain a challenge to the Orange Network to see if they can hire, train, and retain local Ugandan Talent. Companies like MTN and Zain have invested in the retention and personal growth of local talent.

Still Orange has made its début in the Ugandan and Kenyan Markets at a very strategic time when SEACOM, a  marine fiber optic high speed Telecom company is about done with its undersea fiber optic cable connecting East Africa to the rest of the world. The Ugandan Government has also heavily invested in a fiber optic backbone cable all across Uganda. This infrastructure is a plus for Orange and its Broadband services.

Orange will have to make heavy initial investments in WiMax infrastructure in rural Uganda so as not to depend on infrastructure already laid by Zain, MTN, and UTL.

However, Orange must deal with local environmentalists, as some lawmakers are already complaining about the “overcrowding” of Uganda’s landscape with Telecom towers. The thought among some environmentalists is that many of the Telecom towers could cause unknown long term diseases like cancer due to microwave radiation emissions.

Orange East Africa Operations, Image Scource: www.orange.ug

Orange East Africa Operations, Image Scource: http://www.orange.ug

Orange can offer to become a people’s network in Uganda that seeks to provide solutions to their everyday needs. This includes protecting the privacy of Ugandans as Information Technology expands in Uganda.

Currently Ugandans can be wire tapped at will by Government officials without warrant or court order. Orange should become a people’s network and make it difficult for Government agencies to simply ‘steal’ people’s privacy by tapping into Ugandan Phone conversations and Data transactions.

The ‘value’ of Data security and integrity will give Orange a competitive edge above the other Telecom companies that are still struggling to find ground to thwart government’s infringing on people’s privacy when it comes to phone and data transactions in Uganda.

Overall Orange Network has a clear short at becoming the number one Network in Uganda should they capitalize on reaching the unreached 22 million plus Ugandans, offer new Services beyond the Phone Call Model, strategize to capitalize on the new fiber optic cable services with companies like SEACOM, and become a people’s network.

Official Orange Website

Orange launches mobile telecommunications services in Uganda

Uganda: Orange Launches in Country

Orange broadband hit by outages

Orange admits to capping 3G speeds in France

Concern over mobile security

MPs resummon Mbabazi over phone tapping Bill

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Kato Mivule | March 11th 2009

Though Uganda is experiencing a Telecom boom coupled with an increasing young adult middle class and college graduates, the Political establishment sees this as a threat. The young population is very inquisitive and ever learning, thanks to Internet Technology.

Dictators in Africa are scrambling to find ways to control and gag this young adult population by placing control on information. The recent Press Media Control laws in Kenya are testament that control of information is priority for African Dictators.

Uganda’s Parliament is debating on a new bill that would allow Mr. Museveni’s Government to spy on Ugandans by tapping and monitoring private phone and email communication.

MPs on the Information and Communications Technology Committee are right to put Security Minister Amama Mbabazi to task over the Regulation of the Interception of Communication Bill, 2007, which seeks to legalise the tapping and monitoring of private communication. Through the proposed Communications Monitoring Centre, the security minister wants to be authorised to intercept and monitor private mail and phone conversations among others in an effort to “fight terrorism” and bolster national security…
Do not sacrifice civil liberties| Opinions | March 4, 2009

The debate is serious that the Western Press picked on the story. Issues of privacy have continued to be a concern especially after 9-11, 2001 when passed ‘decrees’ to wire tap on Americans and their phone usage…

Opposition MPs in Uganda have condemned a bill to legalise phone-tapping by security agents. They say they fear it will be used by the government for political reasons…The BBC’s Joshua Mmali, said many people in the capital, Kampala, were concerned about invasion of privacy…”Suppose I’m discussing something private with a boyfriend?” one woman said. A banker said he said he did not want business deals being overhead. “I’m 100% against the phone-tapping bill,” he said. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7926367.stm

However, for African Dictators and African leaders who see themselves as infallible and life presidents, technology brings fear of a populist movement and revolts. Therefore most African dictators will unashamedly borrow a leaf from China and how the communist leaders have controlled telecommunications in China.

While china has allowed the growth of internet usage, it has at the same time placed stringent controls on Chinese citizens as to what they can access across the internet. China in such a way had stifled down political and social oppositions that would have used the internet.

Interestingly, it is China that has turned out to be one of the largest financers of Uganda’s Fiber Optic Data Transmission Lines being currently installed in Uganda. I worry about China’s continued multi million investments in Africa, especially in the area of Technology.

While the investments are good, China is not a friend to democracy and freedom of speech. China is found of striking deals with some of Africa’s worst dictators with the latest example being Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

While Africa struggles to help itself bridge the digital divide by investing in Telecommunication Technology, African Dictators are dreaming about using technology to stripe away the little privacy that African citizens have. To African Dictators, Technology is now seen as a tool to control, manipulate populations, and create a police state in the name of “fighting terrorism”.

It was former US president GW Bush who came up with the term “fighting terrorism” and went to the extent of rescinding US civil liberties by tapping into phone and email communications of US Citizens. However, the Obama Administration seems to be taking a different approach and hopefully they can pressure African Dictators not to use the pretext of “fighting terrorism” in their war against free speech and democracy on the African Continent.

However, I do not have hope in Uganda’s legislative body, the Parliament. The largest majority are members of the current President Mr. Museveni. A few years back Mr. Museveni managed to ‘bribe’ a number of members of parliament in Uganda with 5 Million Shillings (about 3000 US Dollars) in what he called a “Facilitation Fee”, as they deliberated on extending Presidential Term Limits. At the end of the day, the Members of Parliament, the majority being from his own party, removed Presidential Term Limits and thus made President Museveni, a Life President.

How can such a Parliament preserve freedom of speech in Uganda? What credibility do they have? Who knows if they have received another “Facilitation Fee” to help pass a new ‘Big Brother’ Legislation so that Mr. Museveni can employ the power of technology to spy on own country men? The new proposed Bill is nothing but a killing of Free Speech and civil liberties in Uganda.

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By Kato Mivule | March 2, 2009

Uganda’s Largest Thrift Market was set on fire by suspected arsonists, destroying merchandise worth millions of Uganda Shillings. Owino market deals mainly in second hand clothes and other used merchandise imported largely from Europe and the USA. Many poor people make their living in this market by trading in used items.

The conditions at the market were not conducive as all of the stalls are make-shift timber structures with plastic coverings that made Kampala’s premier shopping center a good friend to fires.

The Government had a Fire Rescue Team that is stationed about 500 meters from the market but the Fire Engines lacked water and as such could not put out the fire. The other nearest Fire Rescue Team is stationed at Entebbe International Airport and had to travel about 30 miles to get to Owino Market. By the time the Fire Rescue Team fro Entebbe arrived, the market was already in ashes.

Image Scource: Daily Monitor www.monitor.co.ug

Image Scource: Daily Monitor http://www.monitor.co.ug

The most troubling of all the Owino Fire tragedy is that traders at Owino market store their goods in the Make-Shift Wooden Stalls and with the fire burning, most traders lost all their goods and including millions of Uganda shillings in cash that many of the traders for some reason keep locked up in the wooden stalls.

This begs the question why traders at Owino Market do not trust the banking System in Kampala. Why would traders keep millions of paper currency in wooden stalls outside in the open at the mercy of few armed guards?

It is also known many traders had borrowed money from Micro Credit Finance institutions in Kampala yet the same traders would not dare keep money in the Banks or even store it in the same Micro Finance Credit Unions.

However, the good news is that one of the largest Microfinance Credit Union had insured the loans and they simply announced that they were going to forgive the debts of the traders who had borrowed from them. However, that left out many who have just borrowed money from relatives and friends, with no one to help them restart their businesses.

The President of Uganda pledged 1 Billion Uganda Shillings to help the fire victims restart their business with new fresh capital. However, this is where the trouble is going to come… The Market Managers at Owino Market keep records in paper books and most of the books were burnt in the fires.

It is very difficult to legitimately establish who was a trader and who is not. It is going to be very cumbersome to establish who was a Vendor and is not. The Kampala Owino area is full of traders and also folks who do nothing from pick pockets, idlers, and unemployed youth looking for a quick buck.

The situation is made worse because Kampala City Council has no real records of Traders and Vendors at Owino Market. Kampala City Council for the most part outsources its Tax Collection duties to third parties who simply collect taxes from the Traders and issue paper receipts with not legitimate ‘recognition details’ of the Tax paying trader. Tax Collection at Owino Market is not advanced in the form of the computerized Uganda Revenue Authority – URA, Uganda’s main tax collection body.

Astoundingly, almost all the traders and vendors at Owino Market own a Mobile Phone and make numerous calls all day. Most of the traders and vendors are of the ‘Pay As You Go’ Subscriber group. The Telecom sector in Uganda heavily relies on such consumer markets to drive up sales. It is no wonder that when one walks around Owino Market, you will see that the ground is littered with thousands of Telecom used ‘Air Time’ Cards. The Owino traders and Vendors are at least not technologically ‘cut off’ and we cannot for sure state that they are totally suffering from the digital divide.

However, for most of the traders, Technology stops at using the Mobile Phone to call friends and maybe make verbal ordering of goods. The Surrounding area around Owino market is filled with Bank Branches yet one wonders why the traders and vendors stored their money in the wooden stalls and not across the street in the Banks.

I am of opinion that Technology is still seen as an ‘elite thing’ in Uganda. Computers and computerized transactions are not trusted by the majority of poor people who still view such systems as belonging only to the rich and affluent. Kampala City Council has not fully utilized Technology in its efforts to manage the City of Kampala when it comes to collecting city taxes from traders.

Uganda’s Telecom companies are doing a very poor job when it comes to the utilization of the wireless communication infrastructure in the nation. There is no reason why the traders cannot carry out banking transactions over their Mobile Phones. Telecom companies seem to be caught up in only providing ‘Air Time’ Cards without providing any other services that locals can use for business.

The Owino fire showed that traders still don’t trust the banks. However, it is banks that have done a very poor job at reaching out to the traders and vendors at Owino market. Why not reach out with ‘Mobile Banking’? Why not open up Banks late evening so traders can deposit cash during late evening hours? What about ATM machines that can act as ‘deposit’ booth?

Amazingly almost all financial institutions, including Micro Finance Credit Unions in Uganda offer Bank Debit Cards of the Visa brand. This would be an opportunity for Ugandan Financial institutions to offer possibilities for their clients to make payments using Debit Cards.

It would be more feasible for Owino Traders to have a Mobile Payment Terminal installed at one of their stalls that used cloth clients would be able to make payments using their Visa Debit cards. All Thrift Stores and most Farmers Markets in the USA accept Debit Card Payments, Uganda can do the same.

The costs of maintaining such facilities would go to the consumer but at the same time offering security to the trader and creating jobs for the Customer Service sector that would manage the transactions in the Banks and Credit Unions. This would avoid the necessity to keep huge sums of paper money in wooden stall at the danger of thieves and fires. The Telecom sector in Uganda has already laid the wireless infrastructure and enough security to implement such a measure.

The Ministry of Information Technology has a long way to go in educating Ugandans that Computers are not just some fancy toys for the rich but that these computers can help even the least of traders manage their business and keep and maintain records. The days of keeping records in paper books are over, as it is unsafe and unsustainable…

These few things can be done at Owino Market in Kampala…

  • Computerize Trader and Vender Records at Owino Market…
  • Computerize KCC Tax Collection Efforts in Kampala Markets…
  • Computerized Tax collection at Owino Market…
  • Mobile Banking, Fully Utilization of ATMs, Visa Debit Card Payments in Owino…
  • Invest in Telecom Financial and Business Innovations and solutions…
  • Educate locals of the advantages of a Computer…
  • KCC fund its own Fire Rescue Team…

Owino fire shames the nation again

President gives Owino traders sh1b


HARSH WEDNESDAY: Owino Market goes up in flames

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