Uganda to Roll out Free Internet Access in Refugee Camps

By Mark Kawalya

Uganda is taking steps to provide Internet connectivity to refugees living in refugee camps within the country’s boundaries. This development follows a collaboration between the Ugandan government and the World Bank, to launch the Universal Digital Acceleration Program. Launched on July 1, 2023, the five-year program aims to equip refugees with essential digital skills.

The initiative seeks to establish a new educational framework that will teach new language skills to refugees, boosting their employability prospects. Uganda, which currently hosts numerous African refugees fleeing from neighboring nations such as South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Rwanda, Eritrea, and Burundi, plays a crucial role in providing this support.

Data from the United Nations in April 2023 shows that Uganda hosts over 1.5 million refugees, with the districts of Adjumani and Yumbe in northern Uganda accommodating around one-third of this population.

Amina Zawedde, the Permanent Secretary for ICT and National Guidance in Uganda, expressed enthusiasm about the program’s potential benefits for refugee camps, particularly emphasizing the value of granting them access to the Internet.

Zawedde shared her views about the program during an event organized by MTN Uganda, the Uganda Small Scale Industries Association, and Centenary Industries Limited. During the event, 15 million Ugandan shillings was collectively raised to expand the computer lab at Refugee and Hope International-a non-profit refugee home located in Kampala. Refugee and Hope International provides entrepreneurial training, language studies, and counseling to those affected by post-traumatic stress disorder due to crises in their home countries.

“The expanded connectivity will also strengthen the digital inclusion of host of communities and refugees by improving the availability of digital infrastructure,” Zawedde said.

The digital transformation wave across Africa has been steadily gaining momentum, with various nations securing grants and financing to advance their digital programs.

Uganda, for instance, has been working towards nationwide connectivity. In May 2023, the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) initiated the process of soliciting applicants for the sale of 5G spectrum, with plans to conclude the process by mid-August.

It’s worth noting that Uganda is not the sole beneficiary of the World Bank’s efforts to bridge the digital divide. The world bank has approved financing for digital projects in Kenya, Senegal and Ghana.

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