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Archive for the ‘Kato Mivule’s I.T Commentary’ Category

Kato Mivule | July 20, 2009

Ugandan Press has been reporting of ‘The Broadband Company’ that claims that they will offer faster affordable internet services to Ugandans. The British company headed by Arvind Knutsen has not invested in any infrastructure but rather is a ‘middle man’ type of company looking to make ‘fraud’ profits in Uganda.

Arvin Knutsen claims that his company will charge Ugandans about 70 US Dollars to 140 US Dollars per month for a 64k to 512k Internet Connection. One wonders what the goal and purpose of the Ministry of ICT is.

If the Ugandan Government has heavily invested in the Fiber Optic Broadband Infrastructure, then why allow unknown “investors” to set outrageous prices for internet access and deny Ugandans a chance to access information on the net?

On the other hand in the USA the new Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission – FCC, Julius Genachowski is seeking to make Broadband accessible and available to all Americans and that means lower prices. Americans have seen economic development with High Speed Internet.

“WASHINGTON — Julius Genachowski has laid out a major mission for the Federal Communications Commission: making affordable high-speed Internet available to all Americans. But how the agency’s new chairman goes about achieving that goal has Internet providers watching nervously. Mr. Genachowski, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, confirmed his commitment to widespread Internet access, saying the Web has been perhaps “the most successful driver of economic growth” in the country…”
The Wall Street Journal |JULY 20, 2009
| New FCC Chairman’s Agenda Includes Broader Internet Access, More Transparency

On the other side of the Atlantic in Uganda, Broadband is being hijack by avid middlemen who have invested nothing in the nations fiber optic infrastructure but fly from Europe to come and set exploitative prices.

The Ugandan ICT Ministry has done nothing to challenge such companies as the British ‘The Broadband Company’. What will result is that development will be impended and Ugandans will never benefit from High Speed Internet.

Uganda’s government ought to take tougher regulations to protect its Internet Infrastructure from insatiable businessmen. Uganda’s High Speed internet should cater for schools, hospitals, and farmers in villages. Tougher Prices regulations should be a welcome so as to speed up economic development that comes with Broadband Internet Connection.

Notes

The Independent | July 20, 2009 | The benefits of fast Internet in Uganda

The Observer | July 8, 2009 | INTERVIEW: Broadband company to offer faster internet

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By Kato Mivule
A British Broadband Internet Service Company launched services in Kampala and will be offering services at a price range of about 73 US Dollars to 750 US Dollars for 64 kb to 512 kb, per month, while offering 3G to 2G services for a prices range of about 140 US Dollars per month. One wonders where Ugandans will get such money to have access to the internet.

This is outrageous and any Ugandan who loves free flow of information will no doubt see this as a ‘gate keeping ‘process in which some ‘elite’ western companies seek to place impediments before Africans as they endeavor to access information on the web. This will not only stifle the free flow of developmental information to millions of Africans but will act as a setback to I.T development in Uganda.

Ugandan Government and especially the Ministry of Information Technology should come out and set prices controls for the interest of Ugandans and not some companies looking for a ‘kill’ in Africa. Such outrageous prices for internet services are higher than in some Western Nations… Take for instance, with the same Broadband infrastructure, the USA offers relatively lower prices than what the “New” British company is offering in Uganda.

The interview and Press Report of this “new” ISP Company in Uganda made it sound like they will offer cheap prices yet the facts are the “new” ISP Company will offer very unaffordable prices for their services. Uganda’s Government invested in infrastructure for High-speed Internet by laying hundreds of miles of Fiber Optic Cable, Ugandans should hold the ICT ministry accountable to stop the outrageous prices hikes.

It would not be a surprise that even with the latest High-speed Fiber Optic Broadband infrastructure in Uganda, Prices might continue to widen the Digital Divide in Africa.

Below is the interview that the CEO did with a local Ugandan daily on the launching of his company in Uganda…

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Business Power | July 14, 2009
Broadband for good speed, customer care

Broadband Company, a new internet service provider and subsidiary of PME Infrastructure, a London-based firm, unveiled its services in Uganda last week. Walter Wafula interviewed Mr Arvid Knutsen the managing director about the company’s strategy.

What drew the Broadband Company to Uganda?
Broadband Company is owned primarily by PME Infrastructure, which is a United Kingdom- based Fund. They have explored and checked out the market in East Africa, and in that process, several countries have been evaluated and many projects have been considered. The conclusion has been that Uganda has good market possibilities in the broadband area. The market drew us to Uganda.

What is broadband because many Ugandans don’t know what it is?
I suppose most people know what internet connection is. You can have fast or slow internet, low or high capacity internet.  The definition of broadband can be internet connection with good, fast, and sufficient capacity to make a user happy, as a working tool in a job or private use.
The speed of bandwidth or internet offers here are very slow compared to other markets.

Consumers are hungry for fast and high capacity broadband what is the state of your service?
If you were at our media launch you can tell how good the speeds are. That is what we consider a broadband solution.  People must try it out and see what we offer. However, we can deliver any capacity or speed on our lines whether you are a private or corporate customer. Our technology allows us to deliver any speed.
braodband.jpg

GEARED FOR NUMBER ONE POSITION: Mr Knusten. Photo BY EMOJONG OSERE - Daily Monitor

GEARED FOR NUMBER ONE POSITION: Mr Knusten. Photo BY EMOJONG OSERE - Daily Monitor

Can you break it down into figures?
Normally, the broadband solutions start at 128kilobits or 256kilobits (Kb) per second. We can deliver below that but we have preferred to start at 128kilobits. The company currently offers up-to 512 kilobits but plans to provide 2,045 kilobits. The 128Kb costs Shs147,000 when shared and Shs483,000 for a single user.

And what have you done to ensure that you sustain the fast speeds and high capacity, no matter how many clients subscribe to your service?

We are a specialised broadband operator. We only deal with internet and broadband. We don’t mix with voice or with other solutions. Our WiMAX technology enables us to monitor, control and send whatever we do for our customers and we are producing our services ourselves. We have our own satellite gateway and ISP platform, so we control our value chain. This guarantees that customers will get what they are paying for.

Your company’s vision is “to serve customers beyond their expectations.” Many firms have come up with almost similar taglines but delivered below expectations in the end. How will you do it?
More than you expect, does not only refer to the speed. It also refers to the way we are going to treat and handle our services. We are going to provide the best customer service we can.

When I compare your pricing to that of other players, I notice a slight reduction in rates. Shall we see the rates go further down with the launch of the submarine cables?
We are not a high price company. We are in the middle, we try to be affordable and I think the market deserves some competition on the pricing side. Yes, you will definitely see a downward trend on the prices.

How soon will this be?
I am not quite sure if we will see any effect this year. May be late this year but I assume we will see considerable reduction in the prices of broadband next year.

Do you intend to deliver mobile phone call services similar to what is offered by GSM operators like Zain and MTN?
We are strictly a broadband service provider but we are also providing the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service, which has limitations compared to GSM. However, it has huge advantages if deployed correctly and it is extremely cheap – I don’t want to mention prices right now but I can be a fraction of Shs50.

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Business | July 9, 2009
Broadband firm to offer cheaper internet
Walter Wafula | Kampala

The BroadBand Company, a new Internet Service Provider, is expected to unveil its services to Ugandans at prices lower than what most of the current players in the market are offering this Friday.

According to the Managing Director, Arvid Knutsen, the Kampala-based firm will be formally launched by the Vice President Gilbert Bukenya at the Kampala Serena Hotel tomorrow.

The firm will start off its services by offering internet at speeds between 64 Kilobits (Kb) per second and 512Kb per second at between Shs147, 000 and Shs1.5 million per month on its shared packages. For internet that is not shared with other users, the prices range between Shs483, 000 and Shs3.4 million. For individual use, the firm will offer the 3G portable  modems with internet at Shs283,500 compared to the average of Shs320,000 offered by other service providers with the exception of Warid Telecom, which offers 2G devices at  about Shs240,000.  The cost of accessing the internet and voice services is expected to drop further this year, with the launch of the three submarine cables that are under construction from the coast of Mombasa in Kenya.

Speaking at the media launch held at T1 Club, Mr Knutsen said the Broadband Company is the first Internet provider in Uganda to offer services under the latest wireless internet platform called WIMAX E going beyond the current offerings of WiMAX.

“This ensures a faster and more reliable connection and ultimately a more satisfactory Internet surfing experience for our customers,” he said, adding that the company is committed to giving customers “more than what they expect”.
“BroadBand Company will be taking you into a world of increased accessibility and endless possibilities,” he told the press on Tuesday.

BroadBand Company, which was licensed by the Uganda Communications Commission over a year ago, operates under mother company TMP Uganda Ltd, whose majority shareholder is PME Investment Fund, a London based company. The other shareholders are TMP Management, a Norway based company, and a local consortium, Suubi Services Uganda Limited.

Currently, the company’s services are only in Kampala. The company is, however, rolling out its infrastructure to the districts of Jinja and Entebbe. Mr Knusten said their services will be available in the districts in the coming months. According to Mr Knutsen, the company also plans to introduce Voice Over IP service, which will reduce the cost of making calls, as well as offer  IP video conferencing, Data Warehousing, Domain Name servicing and more.

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By Kato Mivule | July 6, 2009

With Google’s launch of an Information Supply Blitz in Uganda combined with recent developments of Uganda getting connected to the Undersea Fiber Optic Cable Network, Africa is readying itself for an information revolution never seen before.

Google's Logo

Google's Logo

Google recently launched a new Mobile Phone Service – Google SMS involving the users in Uganda accessing a wide range of information on the web tailored to Uganda. This is a remarkable development and one that has the potential to transform Ugandan society.

“…Google SMS Tips provides health information and clinic location assistance to mobile phone users. It also provides agricultural and weather information to farmers… Google worked with the Grameen Foundation, MTN Uganda and several local organizations to develop and test these applications. “We believe it’s important to reach users wherever they are, with the information they need most, and in areas with the greatest information poverty,” said Payne…”
Google Fights Information Poverty In Africa |Informationweek | June 29, 2009

In a continent that surpassing both Europe and the USA is Mobile Phone subscription, it makes sense to have mobile phone users in Africa have access to the internet yet tailored around their needs.

However, Google’s goal is a little too ambitious in the “fight against information poverty” in Africa. The trouble with Africa’s telecom growth is that mobile phones are simply seen as devices to make phone calls.

It is Africa’s Middle Class that goes beyond the ‘phone calls’, yet many of the poor who can now afford a Mobile Phone find no other use for the mobile phone they carry. The Internet is still seen as something ‘exotic’ and ‘a thing for the wealthy’.

However, Google in her ‘war on Information poverty’ can actually borrow a leaf from the success of Telecom companies in Africa in hopes to drive the point home to many in Africa that Information Access is as important and useful as making the ‘phone calls’.

What Google has done in her ‘War on Information Poverty’ in Africa is flood Africans with ‘lots of info money’ only to be spent on nothing…too much unutilized technology…

This is the biggest challenge that Uganda’s Information Technology ministry faces…how to get folks to actually use this technology and then measure ‘success’ in whatever form it is deemed.

One of the best places to start would be Universities in Uganda. Universities would demand that every student own a Mobile Phone (Laptops are still too expensive), which almost all University students in Uganda own anyway.

The goal would be that Students would access educational information and communicate using their hand held devices with professors on various research projects. The next level would be High School Students and then on and on…

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By Kato Mivule | June 29, 2009

This past week has seen yet another maneuver by Microsoft’s fight against Software Piracy in Uganda but leaving observers as to what the real motives of Microsoft Corporation are in Africa. Press reports in Uganda showed that Microsoft has hired local legal teams to file charges against Ugandan Locals involved in the illegal acquisition of Microsoft’s Products.

“MICROSOFT, the world’s leading software manufacturer, has contracted Kampala Associated Advocates to fight software piracy in Uganda. Dr. Charles Kallu Kalumiya, one of the firm’s senior partners, said over the weekend that Microsoft sought their services to enforce intellectual proprietary rights. “Microsoft hired us after discovering a loss of billions of shillings,” Kalumiya said. “Time is up for these pirates, who hitherto operated with impunity,” he stated…”
Microsoft hires city lawyers| 21st June, 2009| http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/13/685485

There is  no doubt that Software Piracy thrives in Kampala, Uganda’s Capital and that Software companies and vendors almost make no money through the sale of proprietary software.  However, the trouble with Microsoft’s approach is that they are not dealing with the root cause of the problem of Software Piracy in Uganda. The trouble with with Software Piracy in Africa is largely a Microsoft self created and self inflicted problem.

Microsoft Windows Vista Logo

Microsoft Windows Vista Logo

I am in no way agitating for the “freedom” of Software Piracy, nor do I condone any kind of theft of Proprietary Software. I do design Databases, and while in Uganda, I found it very difficult to market or even sell any Database System to anyone simply because folks would get one free for pay little fee for a pirated copy.  Secondly, you would design and develop a Database System for one entity, only to find it distributed free across town.

The problem is economical and larger than just Software Piracy of Microsoft’s Products.  Microsoft has made their products very expensive to purchase and market their products in Africa as if selling to America’s Middle Class.  No one in Africa is willing to pay 450 US Dollars for just a Copy of Windows Vista or Microsoft Office for use at home or in a small business office.

Though there is a growing Middle Class in Africa, the earnings of such a class cannot afford a 450 US Dollar proprietary software. 450 US Dollars is some one’s monthly Salary in Africa’s Middle Class. Yet still Microsoft has targeted schools and institutions of Higher Learning in Africa by “forcing” poor parents and students to pay as part of their tuition for Microsoft Proprietary Software on school computers. This is the same Microsoft that is sending out donations to Africa’s institutions in so-called efforts to “bridge the digital divide”…and the public outcry against Microsoft’s practices in Africa is just beginning…

“…Microsoft tried Nairobi and lost to a computer dealer having sued for $2m. Now it has come to Kampala. Almost everyone in Uganda uses pirated software! This is a poor country where the basic income for most people is way below a dollar a day. Uganda had to cut taxes on computers to enable our people in the rural areas benefit from the new computer era at an affordable price. Now in their wisdom, Microsoft think they can force Ugandans to buy software at $300 per user when Government-aided schools pay $50 to install the same software on 20 computers used by over 1,000 students!… If Microsoft cannot reduce the prices to poor countries’ standards, they are wasting their time bullying these countries. Thank you for trying to monopolise software development over the world, but let the poor be.”
Microsoft, give the poor a break | 23rd June, 2009 |http://newvision.co.ug/D/8/21/685689

While I deplore the acts of Software Piracy and what that means for hard working businesses, I have less pity for Microsoft as I think that Microsoft should change their business model in Africa to encourage a culture of respect for intellectual property and make Software products affordable in the African market. Microsoft should borrow a leaf from the successful African Telecom companies that are reaping ‘big time’ form high Cell Phone Subscriptions that are made very affordable to locals.

Microsoft 'Bing' Search Engine Logo

Microsoft 'Bing' Search Engine Logo

Still Microsoft’s efforts in Uganda will stall as Uganda’s copyright and interllectual property laws are full of flaws and generally outdated.  Another fear is that Microsoft could use it’s legal and Dollar powers to bribe government officials into signing binding contracts with Microsoft for her products thus defusing competition fom other Software developers. Microsoft’s Software Policing in Africa is being viewed with suspision.

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By Kato Mivule | June 23, 2009

The Elections in Iran not only caught the eyes of the local Iranians but the world has watched with awe as local Iranians bypassed all impediments to freely express themselves and the choice of their candidates without fear and trepidations of the Mullahs and Religious Theocrats who rule Iran with fear and terror.

Twitter Logo

Twitter Logo

Technology has left no doubt that dictatorial Governments cannot put the freedom of choice and expression by the masses to silence. Iranians took to the streets to campaign vigorously for their candidates of choice and employed Technology such as Twitter and FaceBook to express their choice of leadership.

However, the dictatorial regime of the Theocrats placed a ban on all Internet Media Outlets and also clamped down on the use of Cell Phones and Satellite TV net works.

Twitter

Twitter

Yet still the courageous Iranians found ways to bypass the Internet and Technological blockades placed by the Theocratic regime and shared their stories to a worldwide audience via the internet on sites such as Twitter and FaceBook.

With the Iranian Election being marred by large scale cheating and theft of votes, Iranian citizens took to the streets to protest while documenting events and using Technology via the internet to share their stories with to the rest of the world despite the Internet Blockage by the Theocrats.

One thing that the Iranian Government could not do and that is largely beyond their control, is that they cannot control the Internet…they cannot pull the plug on the Internet and that is a very good thing. They can control access and Transit to and through their Iranian Domain but cannot control the web.

The Iranian Lessons are certainly being studied by Ugandan Politicians especially the young generation. There is a huge growing discontent in Uganda’s Social Political Set up and most folks are tired of the current Museveni Administration that they see as full of nepotism, favoritism, and outright corruption and theft of Uganda’s resources.

Yet Uganda’s Opposition Political Groups are still disorganized, disunited, lazy, and always procrastinating… However, 2011 is not that far and they could borrow a leaf from the Iranian citizens on how best to employ internet technology to advance their causes.

President Museveni faces similar Iranian Government challenges in Uganda come 2011, a young well educated generation, discontent among the populace, poverty, harsh economic times, advanced Internet Technology, wide Cell Phone subscription, wide Satellite subscription, and a populace hungry for change.

Yet still, there is one thing that President Museveni cannot control, and that is growing advanced Technology. It is something that his party cannot contain but the well educated young opposition politicians in Uganda can take advantage of.

However, Ugandan Opposition Politicians had better start acting now, they had better start coming up with innovative ways to employ technology in an aggressive and antagonistic political climate. They must find ways to keep their documentation alive in an environment where the political persecution is the order of the day.

Yes, President Museveni is not sleeping, he is thinking about how best to deny access to Cell Phones, Satellite TV, Internet Access, Twitter, FaceBook and other Technologies comes 2011, and Ugandan Opposition Activists must stop procrastinating and wake up to the challenge and perhaps hire Technology Officers for their Campaigns if they ever want to at least beat a ‘Clever’ President Museveni in 2011.

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Kato Mivule | April 6 2009

The current Global Economic Crisis is forcing governments to cut unnecessary spending and the ICT sector is not exempt from this process. This is understandable especially when it comes to African countries in sub Saharan Africa with budgets financed mainly by European donors also reeling back and forth from the global economic melt down.

Take Uganda for instance, donors support 50 percent of Uganda’s budget and in such cases Uganda cannot escape the pains that have come with the global economic recession.[1] Uganda and much of sub Saharan Africa will have to cut back spending on none essentials in their budgets.

However, there are number of ICT Open Source solutions that the Ugandan Government can implement without curtailing ICT growth in Uganda even as the ICT Department suffers budget cutbacks.

Africa Going Open Source

Africa Going Open Source

The overall ICT infrastructure investment is somewhat ‘secure’ from the global recession in Uganda as Government had already secured loans from China for the Fiber Optic Data Transmission Cable across the country. [2] Telecom companies have already invested and laid Wireless infrastructure.

If there is any area that African governments can cut funding during this recession, it is in the ICT Procurement Departments. The problem comes with Software Licenses and agreements that have to be renewed annually in most cases. This places enormous costs on governments that have to spend thousands of dollars just to upgrade and keep up to license agreements for all governments departments, local governments, schools, hospitals, etc.

Microsoft Corporation for example makes some good hefty sales when it comes to both operating systems and software applications in Africa. Microsoft has been one of the biggest proponents of Proprietary Software in Africa and was late last year named in a corruption scandal in Nigeria in which they tried to bribe some government officials into signing up for their proprietary software according to the Wall Street Journal. [3]

The price for proprietary software in Africa is way beyond the incomes levels of many. As of 2003, South African Government alone spent 352 Million US Dollars on licenses and software. [4] This means that other African nations much poorer that South Africa cannot keep up with the price tag that comes with proprietary software.

Ugandan and other African governments can use this current economic crisis to push for the use of Open Source Software and perhaps pass legislation requiring government departments and schools in the education sector to employ Open Source technologies to cut costs.

As African Governments seek to cut spending in budgets due to the current global economic crisis, ICT innovations and developments don’t have to be put on hold. There are numerous Open Source options that ICT managers can turn to and in the long run free African Governments from having to spend millions of dollars paying Multinational Corporations in Software fees and Licenses.

Rather a small percentage of the money being spent on Procurement of Proprietary Software can be channeled for I.T Training, and support services as needed with new Open Source Software Installation and services.

NOTES
[1] New York Times: Uganda’s Presidential Elections, Mary Crane, February 23, 2006
http://www.nytimes.com/cfr/international/slot2_022306.html

[2] IT News Africa: Uganda legislators approve US$75 million for data backbone, Mobile and Telecoms, December 11, 2008
http://www.itnewsafrica.com/?p=1965

[3] Wall Street Journal: Microsoft Battles Low-Cost Rival for Africa, Technology, October 28, 2008
http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB122332198757908625-lMyQjAxMDI4MjIzODMyMjgxWj.html

[4] Infoworld: South Africa, Nigeria move on Linux adoption, John Yarney, July 08, 2003
http://www.infoworld.com/t/platforms/south-africa-nigeria-move-linux-adoption-173

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By Kato Mivule | April 3, 2009

Image Scource: Reuters/Financial Times

Image Scource: Reuters/Financial Times

This Picture speaks a lot… The photo was taken at the recent G20 London Summit by a Reuters Photo Journalist but posted on the Financial Times Website… The picture shows a demonstrator throwing a Dell Flat Panel Monitor at the RBS Bank…

The Reuters Photo Journalist did a good job of capturing the Dell Logo and the disgust with which the angry anti capitalist demonstrator threw the monitor at the RBS Bank window. Interesting picture indeed that speaks lots about Corporate America and European Banks.

Is Dell doing enough in  helping bridge the Digital Divide especially in Poor Africa? Is Dell helping out with alleviating poverty and illiteracy across the globe? To be fair Dell is doing a great when it comes to ‘going green’ but have the Dell Publicists failed to connect with the larger ‘Climate Change’ and Green Movement?

Or is it that Dell is simply viewed as simply a ‘For Profit’ Capitalistic Company with no conscience when it comes to issues like poverty, illiteracy, and diseases across the globe?

NOTES

Financial Times: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6d531e78-1e96-11de-b244-00144feabdc0.html

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