The Uganda Government has secured a US$106m (about sh180b) loan from the Chinese government to construct a national data transmission backbone infrastructure to foster the development of information and communication technology (ICT).

Edward Baliddawa, the chairman of the parliamentary ICT committee, disclosed that the Government was seeking approval of a sh4.6b (US$ 2.8 m) budget as counterpart funding for the project.

A Chinese firm, Huawei Technologies Co. Limited and Data Fundi and Bankshire, their local counterparts, would undertake the construction of the project. Baliddawa said the project would be built in three phases over a period of three years.

It would cover 2,500 kilometres countrywide. The first phase has started with the laying of fibre cables in Kampala, Entebbe Mukono and Bombo. It would ready in August.

MTN and uganda telecom already own fibre optic networks, covering some parts of the country. However, the Government wants a national infrastructure that would be utilised by all including the operators in providing the requisite ICT connectivity for national development.

The national data backbone would be the major line of transmission that connects different types of communications, Dr. Ham Mulira, the ICT minister, said.

"It is meant to complement the private sector and not compete with it so as to allow them concentrate investment on the value-added service provision rather than infrastructure. "We want to build infrastructure for the common good," Mulira explained.

The New Vision