Colin, our contact person on the Makerere University of ICT, shows us enthusiastically around in the massive building. There are six floors, each filled with hundreds of modern pc’s. Most of them are not yet in use, because they are just installed, he explains. In two months all hardware will be ready to serve the new educational programs. There is an intranet connection under construction, so that multiple classes can learn from only one teacher.
This whole project with a budget of 30 million euro is funded by the Dutch organization NUFFIC. Everybody is waiting for the final step of the Seacom connection being ready to offer everybody a fast connection. The deputy dean told us that their university is already assured to receive this connection as one of the first in the country. They have a deal with MTN to supply connections. What rests is to see if Ugandan society is really ready for such a huge and modern project and to make it into a real success.
We find a good start in the huge hall on the ground floor. There are hundreds of students making use of the wireless connection with their personal laptops. In Uganda this is not a common sight, but it luckily is in the ICT faculty of Makerere University. I am told that they use the connection to go on Blackboard, to do research, to send mails, but also to use Facebook, do chatting and simply surf around the Web. Actually the teachers and deans are a bit annoyed by the students using Facebook and chat, because ‘they eat all the bandwidth’.
He tells me that the use of these students is different than the use of the non students who have to visit cybercafe’s to get online. The students have a free connection and thus have more room for activities that have less priority like chatting. The cybercafe’s charge between 0.50 euro up to 1.25 euro per hour depending on the speed of the connection. Since in Uganda this is not considered as a small bit of change, people have more focus on certain activities that they feel have more priority. Students from other schools than the Makerere have to go to Internet cafe’s to write their essays and do printing. Besides the school related activities, there is a lot of email traffic, news reading, googling and Facebook.
Collin told me that there is not much online dating. He explains it is still too expensive and he actually laughed at me when I asked about it. But I think different, so I’ll find out myself, what means….I will have to subscribe!