Archive for the ‘Challenges’ Category

Catching Up

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

We’re almost two days behind with all of the doctor visits, so today we played extreme catch-up. InterConnection’s Grand Opening is going to be on Friday, so this place has to be uber clean and organized by that time. We need to make a good first impression.

I set to work organizing all the internal components on the parts shelf, the keyboards, and mice. In the meantime, M.T.A.C., the management and technical educational institution that’s allowing us to use the warehouse space, came today for their share of computers (our barter for the warehouse).

At one point the power went out, and we attempted to get the generator hooked up.

Starting the Generator

…but we failed miserably.

Later, Fredrik, Rudi, and I had dinner with the Katahoire family at a very nice Indian resturant. Dr. Katahoire is the Chairman of the Ugandan Communications Commission. We discussed our plans for InterConnection Uganda and then about Fredrik’s idea of intergrating Microsoft SmartPhones with PCs to collect data from SMS messages sent from normal “dumb” phones. But we’ll talk more about that in time.

Going to…The Surgery.

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

Jackie has been quite sick all weekend, and she has become very sensitive to smells (with the burning trash pile nearby that certainly is not a good thing). She has been throwing up rather regularly for the past few days and hasn’t been keeping much water down, let alone any food. Her mother has been calling—she’s quite worried.

We took her to “The Surgery,” a medical center that is supposedly endorsed by the U.S. Embassy. Since Brenda was at work today at the South African Embassy, Fredrik had to drive us around in Kampala. I was actually quite impressed with his driving. When we had to make a major right turn (like a left turn for all of you who drive on the right side of the road) he just busted right through two lanes of cars. Oh yes, they backed off. They were probably thinking, uh oh, a Muzungu driving…better get out of the way!

The container is coming! The container is coming!

Monday, June 25th, 2007

It’s already Monday, and no computers have reached InterConnection Uganda. The CFU team is getting nervous. How can they install 10 labs now? Time is running out.

We spent the day making minor preparations.

Oh my goodness...

Or rather, watching with our fingers crossed as the carpenter put up the foam-covered boards to block the very intense sound coming from the metal shop next door.

Trouble…oh, dear.

Monday, June 18th, 2007

Oh boy, guess what?

Hon. Nsambu has been calling Mombasa for the past two weeks. Every time they have told him, “Oh, yes, the computers are on their way…any day now.”

Today he calls and they tell him, “Oh, yes, the container is still here.”


And he totally lost it…

It turns out that the computers were held up in the port. The ship carrying the container was just sitting there for two weeks because there was a huge backup in getting everything on the trucks.

Now…what do you suppose the CFU team is going to do? At least the InterConnection Uganda grand opening is on July 2nd.

Anyway, the container should be here by next Monday. It should arrive at the border within the next few days, and once it hits the border, it will be escorted to Kampala. This is a big deal for CFU since they’re installing a lab in one of the first lady’s chosen schools. As for InterConnection Uganda, we’re not as hard pressed for time, but we would really like to see some computers in that warehouse and get some tools for that place.

Update on the Internet Access Troubles…

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

So I received a quote from one of the satellite companies…eh, no thanks. I figured the equipment prices would be insane, and they were. I guess we’ll have to go with U.S. $100/month for 64kbps. It’s a start, no? And most of the equipment they require is something I already have, or I can at least ask the CFU team to bring it from the U.S. at a cheaper price.

But there is good news because this insane price is temporary. Very temporary.

John informed me today that the Chinese were actually close to finishing the National Internet Backbone. I thought they had just started recently, but apparently they’re working very quickly. Not all things are on African time here. Anyway, the backbone should be finished in about two months! The prices for Internet access should go down dramatically within the next year now that companies outside of MTN and UTL aren’t forced to use those privately-owned backbones. MTN saw this coming. They were crying foul at the Ugandan government for putting together this project—”It’s a waste of money, we already have a backbone!” Oooh, I just want to smack the CEO in the face for taking advantage of the Ugandan people. I won’t really—I’m not that violent…but, sheesh. Anyway, MTN will get their retribution.

So let’s focus on what’s ahead!

John has some excellent plans for this country. First, I’m very glad that he pushed hard for the National Backbone. Infrastructure is number one, then you can address the rest of the issues. I really like his idea of opening up free wireless access points for people—perhaps that will spark a greater interest in IT. He should also open up a very cheap Internet cafe as soon as the backbone is installed for people who don’t have laptops, as the cafes now are much too expensive for the average Ugandan to visit at any sort of regular basis. Oh, this is getting exciting (as if it isn’t so already). The computer refurbishment center, the first of its kind here, will be an excellent addition to what will soon emerge in this country.

I am outraged…

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

So talk about a monopoly…

The refurbishment center is looking at Internet access…no wonder they were waiting for me to help them decide, the prices here are outrageous.

The main Internet backbones in the country right now are owned by two telecom. companies: MTN (Mobile Telephone Network), and UTL (Uganda Telecom). The monopoly that these two companies currently have on Internet access should hopefully change once the Ugandan government finishes their own Internet backbone within the next year or so.

Anyway, I’m looking at prices from UTL
US $300 per month for a 256 kbps connection.
Oh, and along with the fixed IP (which is nice) you can register a domain name for $50/year! Wow, I can register a domain name without their help for $8.

Plus they have all sorts of ridiculous equipment fees.

So I knew that these prices were very high before, but these companies are just robbing these people. No wonder no one can access the Internet easily.

This needs to change. You’re going down MTN and UTL. Down, down, down.

/end rant

State of the Center

Monday, June 4th, 2007

I spent most of my day in John’s old office, testing out the incredibly slow Ugandan Bureau of Statistics’ Internet connection. My top speed got around 5 kB/sec. And it certainly doesn’t help after being spoiled by MIT’s insane Internet connection. Since John’s Ministry (ICT) is brand new as of last year, they had to construct a new building, and right now everyone is in the process of moving. John tells me that he hopes to get a faster connection in that building…no one really wants to deal with the mess at the Bureau of Statistics. In any case I tried out a few tools in Linux which I think could help out with the annoying connection.

John's Office

John also showed me the new Inveneo computer which the Ugandan government has already placed an order for quite a few of them. The PC is extremely light in terms of power consumption, which will definitely help with Uganda’s current electrical power situation. In fact I’m writing this on my laptop which is currently running on battery because the power went out…yet again.

Also, I know many of you are probably wondering if Uganda will ever address their infrastructure issues so that an Internet connection is more accessible. Satellite is currently one of the only ways to get the Internet here, but last year the Prime Minister of China visited Uganda to talk about installing a countrywide fiber backbone and laying down undersea cables which will supply Uganda directly. The construction for this is currently underway (you can see all the empty tubes for the cables waiting to be installed at most of the construction sites), and it should be finished roughly within a year or so.

Yesterday evening I got the chance to go up to M.T.A.C. to visit the InterConnection Uganda refurbishing center and take note of what I have to do. From the pictures I saw earlier this year, it was clear that the staff had done a lot of work cleaning up, but the center is still pretty bare. There’s a lot of work left to do.