The internet challenge in Uganda

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  The internet is obviously one of the biggest avenues that will solve the poverty problem in Africa.The internet will open Africa to markets.It is still a young and hidden treasure for most people in Africa but the possibilities of what one can achieve with the internet are limitless and inconceivable. “Yes, Africa needs capital; in some cases, Africa needs technical assistance; and yes,Africa certainly needs access to markets. But perhaps the biggest thing that Africa is going to need to unleash even more the potential that’s already there and the growth that’s already taking place is laws and regulations and structures that empower individuals and are not simply designed to control or empower those at the very top” said Obama. I totally conquer with Obama on this. In Uganda today where there are silent/no laws about internet usage,any thing can happen: A young talented person who has an idea can suddenly use the internet to disperse information without having to fill forms or visit a registration office or pay tax since URA doesn’t know how to tax internet products yet but also a terrorist can use the same internet to disrupt a country’s peace. That is the controversy that SOPA and PIPA once caused on the internet. Internet neutrality means that the internet should be left free for open access and publicity. There are going to be occasional tensions involved in terms of governments monitoring the use of the Internet for terrorist networks or criminal enterprises or human trafficking. But that can be done in ways that are compatible with maintaining an open Internet. Internet neutrality also means that there should not be different rates or charges for different content providers. I recently was shocked when i tried to get an MTN fixed internet line installed at our Rimpscom office in Mbarara. They told me that it would cost a person in Mbarara UGX 345,000 for a 256 Mbs monthly bundle while it would cost a Kampala person 250,000 for the same. The cost of installation in Kampala would be 250,000 while it would cost 1,000,000 in Mbarara. I understand infrastructure issues in this country but hey, what has the government done about internet infrastructure? I hear the president preach about roads and stuff but never heard about internet.So, the private internet service providers are feasting and enjoying because there is no policy to this internet neutrality aspect.What’s funny is that the private service providers have infrastructure in both districts but they make you feel like Mbarara is far so Mbarara should pay more. There are some countries like Rwanda that feel comfortable with the idea of controlling and censoring Internet content in their home countries, and setting up rules and laws about what can or cannot be on the Internet. And I think that that not only is going to inhibit entrepreneurs who are creating value on the Internet; I think it’s also going to inhibit the growth of the country generally, because closed societies that are not open to new ideas, eventually fall behind. Eventually, they miss out on the future because they’re so locked into trying to maintain the past.I hope UCC does not fall into any of this business. You want to leave the internet open so that the next Google or facebook can succeed…….