Saturday, August 23, 2008

Uganda - rural connectivity

Uganda: Reviewing Rural Connectivity Policy

The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has commenced a review of the Rural Communication Development Fund (RCDF) policy, as well as the design of new technology projects to be completed between 2008 and 2013.

The first phase of the RCDF programme was a success, said Eng. Patrick Masambu, UCC executive director. The industry regulator spent over US$4.1 million establishing Internet points of presence in 52 rural districts, funding the development of district Web portals and completing other ICT projects to help narrow the digital divide.

The ongoing review and design of new projects follows the expiry of the first phase of the program under the current policy, which covered the period 2003 to 2008.

The UCC is mandated with ensuring equitable distribution of postal and telecommunications services throughout the country. It raises funds for the RCDF by taking 1 percent of the gross revenues of all licensed operators telecommunications operators in Uganda.

Facilities that have been established under the program include 1,704 public pay phones, 54 Internet cafes, 52 Internet points of presence, 55 basic ICT training centers and 78 district Web portals.

Another 24 POPs will be established in the regions not serviced by the first phase of the POP project, which was carried out by MTN Uganda, Masambu (pictured above) said.

Virtually every region of Uganda has benefited from the RCDF program, Masambu noted at the opening of a technology workshop for developing countries in Kampala recently.

In addition to the RCDF program, UCC is currently engaged in the establishment of computer laboratories in all government secondary schools, beginning with 80 schools this year, and the establishment of data centers in all health units, beginning with 43 hospitals this year, Masambu said.

"We are going to continue in the next financial year by installing ten PCs in every school's computer laboratory," Masambu said. "Beyond that, we will spend another $1 million to connect the laboratories to the Internet."

UCC is also working on setting up a pilot call center by the end of the year, he said, in order to help stimulate business process outsourcing, currently monopolized by India and Malaysia.

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