Uganda’s District Web portals soon available in local language
In an effort to popularise Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in rural areas, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) through the Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF) has decided to provide translated versions of each District Web Portal across the country, after realising that the absence of local languages has hindered the usage of these websites.
"Now that we appreciate that language is one of the limitations for usage of the District Web Portals among other ICTs, we have provided a translated version of each Web Portal into the respective local languages," the RCDF, Fund Manager, Mr Bob H. Lyazi said.
He added, "This means that someone in Soroti District can log on to the Internet wherever he is and is able to access all information concerning his district like agricultural activities, health, education, tourism, economic activities, product prices, district administration, among others.
"The inclusion of local content will go a long way to increase participation of Ugandans especially those in the rural areas," Lyazi noted. He added that this will be in two areas, translation of the available content into local languages or uploading appropriate content and translate it in a local language for a given community. "That way, we will be able to cause increased usage of ICTs in rural areas."
"We have acknowledged that ICTs are not integrated into what the local people do in their everyday life, so that is why they do not go in for ICTs. For example farmers will need agricultural information related to the particular activity they are engaged in," Lyazi said.
"Every user has his or her unique circumstances or demand. Some users are able to read and write but they just lack computer skills. Then you have those who have no formal education. But to everybody there is a communications need so each one of the users must be provided with appropriate assistance," Lyazi said.
Lyazi observed that Uganda is actually lagging behind in development because ICTs are currently the driving force for social and economic development. "Therefore the failure of Ugandans to embrace ICTs means we can't realise social and economic development in the short term."
Lyazi said: "ICT is now the way to cause development. It reduces the distance between people. It means that a local person in Arua district can sell his products to somebody in Mombasa just like if he would be selling to someone in the local market in Arua.
There is very low demand for services in the rural areas meaning that the business operators can't make business sense out of these investments," Lyazi observed, adding that: "All these challenges mean that sustainability of ICTs in rural areas is indeed a big challenge in itself. We encourage the creation of ICT projects next to other businesses catchment areas like schools hospitals and banks. Our schools intervention programmes are to encourage students because they are the ones to demand for the services later on."
"The other problem we have is the very high cost of bandwidth in Uganda and Africa generally," Lyazi noted. "This forces many users to opt to purchase less than adequate bandwidth. Consequently, you get poor quality services meaning slow speeds and sometimes you can't download big documents."
Like all other facilities in Uganda, the Batud ICT Training Centre found in Mayuge district in eastern Uganda has to contend with unreliable power is its major challenge and a generator and solar as an alternative sources of power are very expensive. It also has to contend with high Internet tariffs and an unreliable service by the providers.
"It costs me between Shs30-50 per minute to access the Internet at the Batud ICT Centre. Imagine If I was to spend an hour it would be costly for me," Deogracious Kiganira Kijambu said.