PCs for Uganda
Pt. III   by Vanessa
This is the third in a series of articles informing TPC readers on the PCsForUganda project whose
aim is to supply donated computers to Uganda. The October article introduced the current state of the
IT industry in Uganda, examining acquisition and distribution problems of hardware, the existing
telecommunications infrastructure, and the basic economic realities the IT industry exists under. In
order to continue the final stage of this discussion, the Telecommunications Infrastructure and ISPs
segment is summarized for readers in this month's issue. The discussion will continue by examining
these current topics: Political Conditions in Africa, Political Conditions in Uganda, and Wireless LAN
Developments in Japan. Finally all these developments will be brought into tune with the aims of the
PCsForUganda project. Past articles are archived on the PCs4Uganda website. http://www8.general-
Infrastructures and ISPs Summary
UTL The once government owned phone company that supplied the telecommunications market solely until 1995.
Celtel A now defunct wireless hand phone company that was the first to move in on the Ugandan market in
1996. They were successful in providing services, but only in the capital region. Therefore, they did
not have an impact on UTL's business.
MTN A South African owned company that arrived in 1998. They brought down prices set by UTL's monopoly,
installed transmitters in all major towns outside of the capital, then bankrupted Celtel within a year
and captured the mobile phone market. They connected over 250,000 wireless phones in less than three
years. It took UTL over forty years to connect 56,000 landlines.
Africa Online A South African owned ISP, one of four operating in Uganda at this time. They have
brought down the prices and raised the efficiency across the board.
A French company has recently purchased UTL, supplementing landlines with wireless transmitters, and
providing internet services. They have provided healthy competition for MTN, and opened up
possibilities for IT industry development through improved services.
Political Conditions in
South African President Mbeki's recent visit to Japan brought with it a lot of information on the
economic relations established on the African continent. World efforts that began with end of apartheid
include the Tokyo International Conference for African Development held in 1993 and again in 1998. Such
efforts have enabled South Africa to build its economy through investments in the following sectors:
Telecom and IT                                 19%
Energy and Oil                                 17%
Food, Beverages and Tobacco                    12%
Motor and Components                           11%
Transport and Transport Equipment               9%
Mining and Quarrying                            8%
Chemicals, Plastics and Rubber Products         7%
Hotel, Leisure and Gaming                       6%
Metal Products and Mineral Beneficiation        6%
Other Manufacturing                             5%
(SOURCE: Business Map (January to July 1999)
In turn, South Africa, has itself invested in developing sub-Saharan regions including Uganda,
apparently in an effort to build sustainably and peacefully. The largest investment sector in South
Africa at 19% is Telecom and IT, relevant to PCsForUgandas aims. The statistics are further illustrated
in the explanation above on Telecommunication Infrastructures and ISPs currently existing in Uganda.
Among nations that surround Uganda are Kenya, Rwanda, Zaire and Southern Sudan. When considering all of
the turmoil that borders Uganda, the democratic stability the region has maintained since the late
1980's is commendable.
Political Conditions in
Recent elections have put Museveni into his fourth consecutive term as President of Uganda, bringing
his total years in office to 20 by the time the next elections are held in 2005. This will help to
maintain stability with foreign investors, particularly in telecommunications (i.e. Africa Online, MTN
and UTL), for at least the next four years.
The economic situation has not improved to any great extent since peace came to the region in the late
1980's. This is visible in the deterioration of upcountry regions, who have been cut off by neglected
The surviving population is mainly Christian through the British education system adopted during
colonial days. The Muslim population is estimated to be around 5%.
Under these flat political, weak economic, and relatively neutral religious conditions, energy has
returned to the region slowly as its newest generation, who recall little of the Idi Amin legacy are
exposed to technology through a competitive telecommunications expansion in the region. It is the
sincere hope of those involved in the PCsForUganda Project both in Tokyo and in Africa, that all of
these factors will keep the region out of harm's way as political affairs unfold effecting the lives of
people in Afghanistan now, and the rest of the world in years to come.
Wireless LAN Developments in Japan
This fall has seen the installation of wireless networks in a small isolated community in Japan, whose
population, industry and government aims resemble those of isolated villages in Uganda.
Agawa, Kochi Prefecture has a population of 3000. Local industry is agriculture and forestry. The
village with a limited budget needed reliable access to information and found the hardware and low-
maintenance of a wireless network the most economical way to remove the barrier of access that creates
the "digital divide" between economic groups and generations. With public access to computers in the
village hall, citizens are able to access information easily. (SOURCE: Kyodo)
With 64 constituencies to reach, Ugandan MPs looking for ways to rebuild communications with their
constituencies will be able to provide the support needed for the installation and maintenance of
similar networks, not only affordably, but with a sustainable goals in mind.
The Aims of the PCsForUganda Project
With professional connections he has maintained in Uganda, Richard Ochero reports that establishing
community access centers not unlike those found in Kochi Prefecture will be an essential tool in the
self-development of villages that remain unable to contribute to the economic growth of Uganda due to
extreme geographic realities. While the automotive trade has done its part by creating a need for roads
to these almost inaccessible communities, climate and distance still remain obstacles in maintaining
The fact is that what remains of these isolated villages are actually constituencies belonging to MPs
who reside in Kampala. Long ago, in Uganda's golden economic years of the 1960's and early 1970's, to
become Members of Parliament, politicians were elected from the rural constituencies. It was the
motorcar trade, partially based on donations, that established access to these rural areas at that
time. These villages were self-sustaining through the hard work of the inhabitants who provided for
the nation mainly through agriculture and in return received support to maintain their existence. The
economic downturn brought on by civil wars during the Idi Amin years ravaged the country in the 70's
and 80's and halted development in these rural areas. The roadways that were established prior to these
catastrophes have since fallen into disrepair and virtual misuse as lack of funding has reduced postal
services to almost nothing. Pressure is being put on MPs to rebuild their constituencies. Fully
cognisant of computer and mobile phone technology, politicians know that developing IT roadways is the
only affordable means of sustainable growth for them. And it is absolutely essential in the political
relations they have built in Africa.
Political acknowledgement of such technology, along with the presence of competitive telephone
companies (outlined above) who install antennae at any sign of possible market expansion, opens the
imagination to possibilities for positive community growth - communication, education and a stable
political environment for people who are living on the edge of existence at this very moment.
PCsForUganda hopes to
allocate a portion of donations to these communities in an effort to maintain the political stability
this country has so carefully maintained for so long. The benefits for Uganda are endless when
considering the drive in Kampala to implement a stable and sustainable economy alongside other African
Past articles are archived on the PCs4Uganda website.
About the Author
A five year resident of Japan in both the Kansai and Kanto regions, Vanessa Kratzmann has spent her
time between Kobe, Toronto and Tokyo pursuing interests in photography and design. With a multi-
disciplinary B.A. in Media Studies in Fine Art and Theatre and a year in fashion design in Toronto, she
has most recently worked professionally in production, press and marketing for fashion designers in
both Tokyo and Toronto. Past experience includes producing art, music and theatre events in Osaka and
Toronto. Currently, she is writing for the PCsForUganda group, writing independently on international
fashion retail and design for Canadian publication, and collaborating on photographic works in Tokyo.
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