By Mark Kawalya
The Ugandan government is planning to set up 2,000 public WiFi hotspots around the country in the final segment of the Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (RCIP).
This is a core part of the Uganda Digital Acceleration Program to extend the internet to some of the low developed areas in the country.
In August 2016, Frank Tumwebaze, who was then ICT Minister, during a meeting with a team of parliamentarians, announced plans to roll out free wireless internet in Kampala and its environs starting in October of that year.
The RCIP kicked off in 2016 with funding to the tune of $75 million from the World Bank to augment the government’s plan to boost Uganda’s geographic broadband connectivity. Since then, 600 WiFi hotspots have been set up, with 300 of these installed in regional cities and the other 300 in Kampala.
The initiative has enabled the government to add 764 kilometers of fiber optic cable to the National Backbone Infrastructure.
While giving remarks during the final review of the RCIP, Hatwib Mugasa, the National Information Technology Authority (NITA) Executive Director, said that the internet will be used by both the government and the public.
“We would like to provide free internet to selected areas at selected times. The internet that we are providing will be utilized by government during working hours, and by citizens after working hours, and on weekends,” he said adding that the internet will also be used during emergencies for people applying for government services such as national identification registration.
Mugasa further noted that the ‘free’ internet will enable the public to easily access and signup for government e-services. The hotspots are currently located in major cities, but with the roll out, more districts will be covered.
“Right now, we have free internet hotspots in Kampala, Entebbe, and Jinja. But we now want to spread it across many other districts,” he noted.
However, no additional information on the reliability of the internet from these hotspots was offered, with reports from local media indicating that the internet around the Kyambogo area had reportedly been unstable.