Optic fibre Internet project is long overdue
BY MOSES SSERWANGA
One of the major challenges Uganda is facing today is the slow speed of the Internet or absence of the service in most parts of the country. Unlike Rwanda where the authorities are determined to ensure that our neighbours become an ICT hub in the region, in Uganda no serious efforts are being made to challenge this competition. The UN has established that there is a direct link between the spread of Internet and economic growth. The International Telecommunication Union found that every 1 per cent increase in Internet penetration results into a $593 (about Shs1.4million) increment to GDP per capita.
Indeed its very encouraging that one of our leading universities - Makerere - through the Faculty of Computer Science has taken the lead to not only train students but also develop software solutions that can be suitably deployed to address many technological challenges that face the country. It can thus be argued that Makerere’s contribution to the development of the ICT industry will to a great extent help Uganda to remain at the same level or even exceed other players in the region like Rwanda. It should also be noted that Rwanda is set to establish “on-line Campuses” throughout the country to benefit an estimated 50,000 students in higher institutions of learning.
This will not only allow almost all students in Rwanda to attain higher education but it will also significantly reduce on the cost of education. There are a number of bottlenecks to Uganda’s development of the ITC industry and the major one being access to the Internet.
The optic fibre cable project being implemented by a Chinese company - Huawei Technologies Company - has been slowed down by disagreements over cost and quality of work . These issues need to be sorted out because its the fibre cable network that will allow Internet providers to spread these vital services to most parts of the country. It’s claimed that Rwanda paid to Korea Telecom and Horizon $38 million to cover a distance of 2,300km as opposed to $61 million paid by Uganda for 2,100km.
Yet according to Rwanda ICT Framework presented by the Rwandan Minister in the Office of the President in charge of Science and Technology, Prof. Romain Murenzi, the country’s National Broadband was to cost $66 million for a distance of 2,300km and not $38 million.
Therefore, Rwanda is spending $66 million, out of which $38 million is for equipment and the rest for civil works. On the other hand, according to the agreement between Uganda and Huawei, government is investing $61 million for a distance of 2,118.6km including the fibre construction with 28 transmission sites and two protective rings. The component will also have access to 28 government departments and network security system. The other investment of $44 million, which brings the total cost in Uganda to $106 million, is for E-Government infrastructure.
Looking at the Uganda-NBI project Investment Comparison analysis with that of Rwanda, its clear that the unit price of the Rwandan project is a meagre variation and yet the Uganda project covers more components. These development projects which are vital for the provision of essential services to the majority Ugandans need to be supported to make us competitive in the global market.
It is encouraging that after wide consultation involving the ICT ministry, the national information technology authority, MPs and Huawei Technologies, members of the parliamentary committee on information technology have okayed government to go ahead with the second phase of the Optic fibre project to speed up the process of extending these services to the countryside where the majority of Ugandans live. The Committee chairperson, Mr Nathan Igeme Nabeta has rightly noted that the more time the cable lies incomplete the more Uganda will lose .
The writer is a journalist and an advocate
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