Ugandans are hours away from accessing free Wi-Fi internet in select Kampala hotspots starting 3PM today. Brought to you by state-owned National Information Technology Authority, NITA-U, the project dubbed #MYUG was announced last month August. Ugandans are still divided, unsure on what to expect hence the equal parts skepticism and excitement for the free internet. Well from today, we will get to experience the internet and see how it goes.
NITA-U invited Dignited along with other bloggers yesterday for some face time in preparation for today’s launch. We took the opportunity to throw some queries their way and gauge NITA-U’s replies. This post covers the NITA-U’s attempt at demystifying this whole free internet project.
The biggest issue Ugandans have pointed out happens to be the signup details NITA-U requests. Dignited was informed that this information is for analysis purposes only. This information can only be used when requested by Government, a situation which not even telcos can avoid unfortunately. As for having to give in all this information when Government already has it in the National Identity database, NITA-U’s Allan Kyazze had this to say:
Quotable: We are working on integrating all the available databases and soon as we go forward we would just ask you for one piece of information, for your National Identity number and we will have all the other information. Allan Kyazze, Network Manager, NITA-U
We realise we have covered a good deal on the subject but it doesn’t hurt to recap some of the important facts in easy-to-read bullet points. Check them out below:
What you need to know about NITA-U’s #MYUG Kampala Wi-Fi internet
- Free Wi-Fi internet in various hotspots in Kampala and Entebbe. [See coverage map]
- One time sign-up on login interface after which you use your own password. Then you [See sign-up details]
- Internet speeds capped at 2 Mbps with a 99.7% resilient network uptime.
- Internet will be accessible for free on Wi-Fi networks labeled #MYUG from 6PM to 6AM weekdays and from 3PM Saturday to 6AM Monday morning.
- Certain online content will be blocked due to fair usage policy. These comprise video streaming sites, VOIP sites, pornography, e.t.c. Media and software downloads are also restricted.
#MYUG Kampala Wi-Fi internet restrictions
Being a free service, courtesy of the Uganda Government, certain content will be restricted, as per fair usage policy. The end-goal is to have as many people with internet devices connect to the service. Therefore, users won’t be able to get access to pornography, websites promoting violence or those blacklisted for malware. Unfortunately, users won’t be able to update/upgrade their operating system and software either. Much as VPNs are included on the list, for the meantime, users can access them normally. Below is a list we pulled from NITA’s #MYUG: Frequently Asked Questions
- Pornographic websites
- Terrorist/Violence inciting websites
- Bit Torrents sites
- All Video streaming content (YouTube, Instagram videos, online video advertisements)
- MP3/Music downloads
- Mobile Phone Updates / Application updates
- Websites blacklisted for Malware
- VOIP (WhatsApp, Viber, Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangout etc)
- VPN Bypass
Nevertheless, much as VPNs are in theory blocked, they actually won’t be. Paul Serunkuma, Manager, Computer Forensics & Incident Management at NITA-U clarified that initially VPNs will not be blocked unless it becomes an issue. What this means is that you can get access to restricted content if you fire up your VPN. NITA-U will be aware that you have a VPN activated but if you don’t consume a big enough volume of data to raise suspicion, you will probably be alright.
NITA-U has also partnered with the Research Education Network of Uganda (RENU) to connect over 50 campuses across the country for Universities and Research Institutions. This project is part of the planned program to connect targeted user groups to the National Backbone Infrastructure. These institutions will receive internet bandwidth at about Ushs. 440,000 ($130) per Mbps.
NITA-U will also provide free Wi-Fi internet for the entire day tomorrow at the Kampala Capital City Authority Street Carnival.