Gov’t to provide 2 Mbps free Wi-Fi internet in Kampala, Entebbe. NITA-U explains why it’s from 6 pm to 6 am

The National Information Technology Authority – Uganda (NITA-U) just won me over. We know we have written about how Ugandans shouldn’t be too excited about the promised free Wi-Fi internet in Kampala, blah blah blah. We also mirror Ugandans’ fears as  NITA-U requests disturbing personal information to access free Wi-Fi internet. But as you are well aware, there is always two sides to every coin.

NITA-U has come at us kicking and boy, do we love it. In a NITA-U FAQ tucked somewhere on their website, the government parastatal has clarified on certain aspects of Government’s #MYUG free Wi-Fi internet Ugandans may be wondering about. We have to admit, as one of the first naysayers, we are finally getting on board. NITA-U might just pull off this free internet crusade. The logic is sound. Makes me wonder: could the Uganda Government finally be doing something altruist?  Well, never mind my philosophical musings. These here are frequently asked questions about the #MYUG free Wi-Fi internet. We borrowed these from the NITA-U website, we hope they don’t mind.

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The Backbone Infrastructure

According to NITA-U, the National Backbone infrastructure has two rings that offer b-directional protection to traffic carried on the network. This provides redundancy and reliability. NITA-U also runs a Network Operations Center (NOC) that has a 24/7 view of the entire network. Network issues will be immediately identified and mitigated. This is internet used by Government offices countrywide. It goes to figure that if the Government uses it, then it is passable at worst. It is good enough for the rest of us, at best. Internet at 2 Mbps speeds is really good internet and is at par with what ISPs offer. This ought to silence the doubters.

As the Government plans to roll out the free Wi-Fi countrywide, NITAU will place priority on universities, schools, hospitals along with other public places. These places are easily accessible to most people in need of information off the internet.

Why between 6 PM to 6 AM?

So here’s the thing. After 5 PM is when most Government offices close. Give or take one hour for the workaholics finishing up assignments on deadlines. So it figures, 6 pm is the perfect time to unleash this redundant internet to the masses. Makes perfect sense, no? Why the #MYUG initiative might work is because some people do stay in Kampala late into the night. Especially students. Institutions in Kampala include Makerere, Victoria University, Aga Khan University, Cavendish University, ISBAT, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, KIU, the list goes on. What’s to stop these students finding a good place in town to finish up their research before heading home?

Related story: NITA-U requests disturbing personal information to access free Wi-Fi internet in Kampala and Entebbe

In big enough numbers, Kampala might just turn into a city that never sleeps. Ironically, the sea of people sticking around in town might just make it safe enough to actually work. On that note, we don’t imagine people will be Wi-Fi hunting all over Kampala in the middle of the night. NITA-U will communicate Hotspot locations on social media beforehand.

Internet Usage Policy

Government has wisely put a caveat on the free Wi-Fi we believe to promote fair usage. In that regard, torrent-downloading pirates are out of luck. Websites which will automatically be blocked comprise: torrent sites, adult sites, websites flagged for malware and extremist websites. NITA-U  will not set download limits initially until they work out the usage patterns. So in other words, it’s unlimited internet at 2 Mbps. This would be no different from Vodafone’s unlimited 2 Mbps bundle before they scrapped it. And that’s not even the best part. You can stay online for the whole of 12 hours if you are a night owl and got the stamina to brave the night chill in Kampala and Entebbe.

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Personal Data Required

We raised alarm at the amount of data the Government is requesting to create a personal account. NITA-U’s response did not fully convince us but here it is anyway:

  • Information gathered will be treated as confidential.
  • As per industry best practice, user registration is mandatory for authentication and for access to Government services.
  • The information gathered during registration and use of the service may be used internally to improve the #MyUG service. It will also help NITA-U on how to develop more services and rollout special offers to the Public
 -U went on to say that users will access internet through a firewall to protect end-users against online threats. On top of that, login sessions will be monitored to flag suspicious usage patterns. Well, NITA-U, the security threat we had in mind isn’t from outside, per se, but rather from within.

A better approach

Ugandans are not very trustful of Government and with good reason. Police arresting bloggers, blocking internet and repeated threats have alienated Government from internet users. All that personal information in the hands of Government honestly makes some people jittery. Our advice would be to ease up on all that information gathering. You already have people’s National ID details. Better yet, why not simply ask for the National ID number? Countries like Singapore provide Nation-wide services like free Internet this way. Otherwise, kudos on the transparency.

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