Uganda developer offers local search engine

Computing

As the drumbeat for the development and use of locally generated African Internet content gets louder, a Ugandan developer has created a search engine that indexes all available local content.

Reinier Battenberg, the brains behind the search engine, says it is limited to searching Web sites hosted in Uganda. The search engine can be found at http://search.mountbatten.net.

"It lets you search Uganda-based Web sites. People say there is no local content but we have indexed all Ugandan Web pages," Battenberg said. "There are just over 100,000 pages and that is quite substantial. So the argument that there is no local content is not entirely true."

Battenberg, who is also the director of Mountbatten Ltd., a local Web hosting and site-development provider, says the ability for local hosting in Africa is underestimated and a lot of Internet users are not aware of local content.

"It could be your local lawyer, accountant, dentist -- all these people need Web sites and if they are targeting audiences in Uganda, there is no reason for them to host their Web sites outside the country," Battenberg said.

Battenberg says hosting a site within the country comes with various advantages -- including faster site downloading and cheaper prices. However, he says many ISPs (Internet service providers) don't encourage local hosting because their networks are not configured well.

The trigger for Battenberg's search engine, he said, was a copy of Wikipedia he was hosting locally. The copy was static -- it could not be searched. "So I decided to make it searchable and after it finally worked, I was like, 'Why don't we do the entire Ugandan Internet,'" he said.

The search engine, which started as a weekend hobby, has taken him a few months to create over the weekends. "Using the free Internet crawler Nutch, I developed the search engine," Battenberg said.

Mountbatten's core business is building intelligent Web sites for any type of customer and providing local hosting services and training. "We also foster discussion by raising a few issues on topical ICT matters and that helps create awareness of ICT's potential," Battenberg said.

Computerworld