Uganda’s national data backbone makes good progress


The construction of Uganda's $106m national data transmission backbone has entered its second and third stages simultaneously and a fourth stage is being planned, the ICT minister Ham Mulira said last week.

The second phase that includes wiring up much of the country with about 1,500km of telecommunication cabling at a cost of $61m is underway and is expected to be completed just in time to join up with routes to the undersea cables on East Africa's coast in Kenya in Q2, 2009. The funds are provided through a Chinese loan to Uganda.

Recently, Mulira appended his signature to the framework agreement on the provision of a concessional loan by the Chinese for the national data transmission backbone and e-Government project. Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Yang Jiechi represented his country.

"The undersea cables are becoming a reality. There are now four of them instead of the one that people made a lot of noise about," Mulira said at his office recently and noted that Uganda plans to take full advantage of developments surrounding the coming undersea cables.

It is planned that when Uganda's national data transmission backbone is completed, it will be connected to the undersea cables through Kenya's western border at Malaba and Busia.

The first phase of Uganda's backbone, completed one year ago, included laying 183km of optical fibre cables to link Kampala, Entebbe, Jinja and Bombo and to install basic e-Government infrastructure, which is currently used to link all major ministries and government departments with an enabling video telephony link among other information communication technologies.

The second phase will see 20 districts connected to the national backbone, data and voice services rolled out on e-Government infrastructure and a government data centre set up.

Mulira says most of the third phase had been handled by private sector. However, in addition to the cables laid by the private sector, the Government will lay more cables for redundancy and both will complement each other.

The third phase cables that are being laid between Busia/Malaba to Jinja and between Katuna to the south-west and Kampala are an important part of the backhaul system that will connect countries like Rwanda and Burundi to the undersea cables on the East African coast.

The planned fourth phase was, according to Mulira, brought up in consultation with Parliament. It will focus on future aspects of the backbone. At the end of the day, the second phase cabling should have also created a possible connection to Southern Sudan through Nimule border, according to project maps at the ICT Ministry.

The New Vision