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<nettime> The Internet in Uganda
Steve Cisler on Sat, 25 Jan 2003 23:49:28 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> The Internet in Uganda

Internet news in Uganda

I am assessing an educational connectivity project in East Africa.  
I'll have a report in a few weeks, but here's a bit about the Internet 
in this country of about 30,000,000 people. It has a decent economic 
growth rate for Africa, but the population is increasing rapidly.

The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC: the govt. regulators) 
estimate that there are 6,500 office, business, NGO, and individuals 
with Internet connections in Uganda. All the bandwidth comes in via 
satellite and is redistributed through land lines and wireless.  
Bushnet has gone outside of Kampala, the capital, with a network that 
extend to six towns around the country. There are still about 40 more 
districts in need of POPs.  These six are the towns where the 
Connect-ED project teacher training schools are located.  Bandwidth is 
very expensive. a dedicated 64 Kb line is $900 per month.  The outlying 
towns are running at that speed but are paying about $400 per month, 
and they get much faster data bursts if the E1 line is not saturated.

In town the rate for a walk-in user at an Internet cafe is about $1.00 
per hour, payable by the minute. Outside of town it has been as high as 
$18.00 an hour (at the Nakaseke telecenter about 90 minutes from the 
capital.)  Charles Musisi of Computer Frontiers and Gizmo Brew of 
Bushnet believe that the price will drop drastically if and when fiber 
is deployed and Africa is encircled with the off-shore fiber ring.

Wireless is very popular here, but there is not enforcement of the 
regulations on power, and one ISP said the situation was "Amp Wars" 
causing a big drop in bandwidth on some connections. They hope the 
interference won't be so bad as it has been in Nigeria.  There are also 
problems with power surges destroying equipment, and that raises costs 
to the consumer. Lightning is another hazard for networkers here, so 
UPS and arrestors are very important.

I visited a couple of the Internet cafes in Kampala before I leave 
tomorrow for the rural areas.  One was a little hole in the wall off 
the main street. They offered phone calls for 15 cents locally, copy 
machine, fax, and Internet access.  Many people can't type but they 
want to send messages so usually one of the employees helps them open a 
mail account and type a message or compose a letter for 1000 shillings 
or a little over 50 cents, in addition to the connect time.  At the 
YMCA there were computer courses and a bank of six PCs running Windows 
98 and 2000. The YMCA has a shared 56 kilobit line, and the other three 
subscribers don't use it too much.  Besides the regular price, they 
have a subscriber rate of 30 cents an hour if you purchase about $6 
dollars worth for a month.  On Saturday morning there was a line of 
boys waiting to spend their money on the machines.

The World Bank is offering some matching funds for a set-aside account 
being collected by the UCC. It should be used for a number of project 
for telecenters, extending access, and kiosks of some sort. No 
companies have been awarded the bid yet.

An Internet exchange point is being established in donated space at the 
UCC, and most of the work is in coming to an agreement between people, 
rather than any issues over technology or money. That should be 
functioning very soon this year, and it will mean that mail is not 
routed through the US or Europe and back to Kampala, so it should save 
some of the expensive satellite resources.

Steve Cisler

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