Ban On Used Computers Comes With Mixed Fortunes in Uganda

Computing

According to the recently read budget, used computers will no longer be seen in our shops after the three-month grace period has elapsed. Over the past decade, computer literacy has risen sharply. It is being taught in primary school, used in digital music and video businesses, in secretarial bureaus, and Internet cafes.

However, it's worth noting that most of these are used computers. Along the streets of Kampala, for every brand new computer displayed in a window, are 10 or more used computers piled up at another end. The cost of a brand new computer today ranges from Shs500,000 upwards while the used ones have been sold at as low as Shs100,000. It's this difference in price that Isaac Mutalya, who works at Net Café in Kireka, believes might discourage further starting up of similar ventures.

"We are all able to start these businesses because we can get computers at affordable prices. Now what will happen if everybody has to spend Shs1m if they are going to buy a computer? You need about 10 computers to start a café. Will poor people be able to open them if they don't have Shs10m?"

James Wire, an IT specialist, says the ban will affect business dealers who have been surviving on used computers. "Some people will lose immediate revenue; some of them get those computers, free of charge after they are dumped here. Some businesses will also have to close and some people will lose jobs," he says. Schools are set to be one of the most affected groups. Because they use many computers, they will now have to spend more to get enough computers that will serve all students. Mr Wire says it will be like a death sentence to schools which can't afford new computers. However, it is not all gloom that comes with the ban. Among the positive steps that will result from it is the fact that it will put an end to dumping of products deemed no longer useful in developed countries to Uganda.

"In most developed countries, there is a lot of electronic waste and the cost of disposing off this waste is so high so they dump them here under the guise of charity," says Wire. He argued that the computers do not have a long life and then leave the recipient countries to deal with the waste.

Dr Fabian Nabugoomu, the Dean of the Faculty of Information Technology at Uganda Christian University, says that, the ban now gives us a chance to move with the times. He argues that the technologies that applied in 2000 do not apply now. Instead of being held back by obsolete technologies that many secondhand computers use, we should embrace what is new.

Although secondhand computers might seem cheap at first, their subsequent costs are usually higher. Dr Nabugoomu says that, "When you buy a secondhand computer today because it is cheap, by the end of five years, you will have spent more money than a new one costs as you try to upgrade it."

Wire also notes that, "Used computers look cheap initially but after you get it, you will realise you cannot find compatible parts for that computer and in the end, you have to look for a similar computer to get that part, which is a waste of time and money."

Despite the benefits of using new computers, there is no denying the price is still high. Dr Nabugoomu says that, "The question we should be asking the government now is where the affordable new computers are coming from!"

The Monitor