The Uganda Government announced plans to roll out free Wi-Fi internet to people in Kampala a few weeks ago in August. DIGNITED wrote about it and lambasted Government for not providing substantial information regarding the project before the announcement. Now NITA-U (The National Information Technology Authority-Uganda), the body concerned with I.T-related services in has released some information, proving that indeed, the project is a go.
According to NITA-U, free Wi-Fi internet will be rolled out in two areas: Kampala Central Business District and Entebbe town. This is not a city-wide roll-out, but rather in a few hotspots. Starting October 1st, whoever happens is in those areas can scan for Wi-Fi hotspots broadcasting the Wi-Fi name: #MYUG. Nevertheless, particular hotspots to look out for have not been disclosed. The access time will be between 6 pm in the evening to 6 am in the morning.
Personal Information Requirement
What we found very disturbing and peculiar was the amount of personal information required to access the internet. By the looks of things, there’s a price to pay after all for accessing the proffered free internet. Would you like to know how much? How about all your sensitive private information? The Government wants your full name, email address, mobile number and date of birth. And how about you throw in your gender (NITA calls it sex) while you’re at it?
Imagine going to an internet cafe and first having to provide the above mentioned information before checking your mail. The telecom companies already took that information once and many people were not so happy about it. Government would in one swoop know who you are, what you are surfing about, where and how to reach you. No more petitioning telecom companies for that information. In contrast, Roke Telecom which offers cheap internet in Kampala only wants some pocket change and the internet is yours for the day.
How To Access NITA-U’s Wi-Fi internet (#MYUG)
1. For access to the service look out for hotspots broadcasting #MYUG
2. Simply Sign-Up via the access page with the following details:
a) First & Last name
b) Email address
c) Mobile Number
d) Preferred Username
e) Access Password
f) Date of Birth
Is it necessary?
While everybody loves free stuff, we are wondering, is all this information necessary? Why on earth would NITA want to know somebody’s email, mobile number and gender just to access internet? The Uganda Government doesn’t inspire confidence when it comes to surveillance and people’s privacy.
Understandably, it is within Government’s capability to obtain, but seriously, why would I make it easy for them? This reminds me of one of the few times I had the opportunity to visit the Parliament of Uganda. A friend warned me against connecting to the Parliament Wi-Fi. He was certain that the minute I did, all my private conversations would be tapped. My browsing behaviour would be monitored from here on out. My life would be over, in other words. And I saw a truth to his words which I heeded.
And then lastly, this free Wi-Fi internet itself has not yet been vetted. We do not know what speeds and whether the internet is capped. We do not know where the hotspots will be located and why access is only at night. Picture the disappointment of filling out all this information only to access internet so slow that you would immediately go back to your Facebook Zero. Nevertheless, it’s too early to tell how feasible this NITA-U free Wi-Fi project will be. We would love to have free internet, who wouldn’t? We just need certain assurance that it’s the real thing and not some government surveillance ploy or a slow connection which will be a waste of our time. Fingers crossed.