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THE Inspectorate of Government has cleared the controversial sh200b Government internet project. The project, which consists of three phases, involves building a 2,100km fibre optic cable network.

Ultimately, it is meant to link Uganda to the submarine cable on the East African coast and provide faster and cheaper internet access.

The Inspector General of Government (IGG), Raphael Baku, gave the go-ahead in a letter to ethics minister Nsaba Buturo earlier this month.
Last August, President Yoweri Museveni had tasked Buturo to oversee the investigations into complaints raised about the project.

Baku explained that the project was being implemented by the time the complaint was registered with his office. “The complaint which was raised was whether the second phase should go on,” said Baku.
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“We saw no problem with it if the damages (on the first phase) could be repaired concurrently.”

The IGG argued that the Government would incur more costs if it cancelled the project.
Baku also said the ICT minister did not have the capacity to monitor the implementation of the project, which led to the shoddy work.

The IGG clearance comes after the parliamentary committee on ICT issued a directive to suspend the second phase of the rpoject.

The committee vice-chairperson, Paula Turyahikayo, said they had not seen the IGG report but would hold a joint meeting with the ICT ministry and the Auditor General on the way forward.
The Auditor General in a December report found several anomalies in the implementation of the project and questioned if there was value for money.

The national transmission backbone infrastructure and E-Government infrastructure is a $106m (sh201b) project, funded by a concessional loan from the export/import bank of China.
The first phase was meant to provide connectivity to Government ministries and departments at a total cost of $30m (sh57b).

The second and third phases were meant to connect all major towns, covering 1,900 kms at a cost of $61 million and $15 million respectively.
However, investigations found that the selection of the contractor, Huwaei Technologies, was done without competitive bidding and no price comparisons were done to ensure value for money.

“By not subjecting the proposal to proper evaluation, the ministry exposed itself to the risk of high pricing and unfavourable contract terms,” read the Auditor General’s report.

The audit found that the cost of the project was inflated. The 24 core optic cable was quoted by the contractor at $3,200 (sh6m) per kilometer.

However, in a technology brief to the board of the National Information Technology Authority of Uganda, the price of the cable was quoted as $1,400 (sh2.6m) per kilometer.

In addition, the audit found that the 24 core cable is of lower capacity than what private companies such as MTN and the Government of Rwanda laid at a much cheaper rate. It also questioned the capacity of 24 core cables to meet the under-water bury standards.
The audit further found that there was poor supervision of the project and that key implementation guidelines were not adhered to.

According to the report, the cables were placed too close to the road. Also, the depth was less that the recommended 1.5 metre and the distance from the middle of the road was found to be less than the 15 metres recommended.

There were also serious delays in the project, the Auditor General noted. Implementation of the three phases was supposed to be completed in 27 months, or by January 2009.

“However, 38 months later, the first phase, originally to be implemented in six months, has not been fully completed.” The delay is expected to lead to further administrative costs.

Already, the company has claimed $2.2m in additional costs for repairs on the first phase. The permanent secretary of the ICT ministry argued that the damages occurred after the hand-over of the network and could therefore not be covered by the insurance.

But the Auditor General observed that there was no independent assessment of the extent of the repairs, and there was no evidence that the contractor had actually obtained an insurance cover.

Former ICT minister Ham Mulira, under whose tenure the deal was sealed, has defended the huge cost of the project.

He said factors must be considered such as terrain, geographical coverage, fibre capacity to meet the potential demand based on the size of the population, and the cost of civil works.

On the size and capacity of the 24 core cable, as compared to that of MTN of 48 core and Rwanda of 90 core, Mulira argued that once the fibre is laid, the traffic capacity can be increased by changing the devices that send the traffic.
From: New Vision

Jeremy Waterman, MD, Softline Accpac says that in his view the local ICT industry has proven that it will not be a victim of the recession and as a result, views 2010 optimistically.
"We are starting to see renewed interest in ERP and CRM systems from the mid-market. Companies which traditionally take longer to make decisions now realise that they have to reinvest in technology and are looking to implement modern systems to improve efficiencies and become more competitive," says Waterman.
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He says 2009 saw many of the bigger software vendors take their eye, and budgets, off Africa despite the potential of this burgeoning market: "When international budgets are cut, Africa is often a casualty. For us, Africa is always priority. We have grown and nurtured this market for over 25 years and believe in its potential today as much as we did in the Eighties. I believe next year (2010) will see continued growth up into Africa."

2010 is a big year for the company as it is launching new versions of all its flagship products Sage Accpac, Sage Erp X3, Accpac CRM and SalesLogix.

"I don't believe we will see enormous change but rather steady growth. The channel will need to ensure it spots opportunities as and when they arise and are ready to assist with a hassle-free implementation," concludes Waterman.

Some stakeholders in the ICT industry believe Ghana has the potential of leading Africa in ICT evolution and development.

The government has already initiated moves to make the country the continent’s ICT hub with several relevant plans.

This includes the establishment of ICT-Parks in the country beginning with Tema.

In furtherance to this, some local ICT companies are also expanding their operations to other African countries and one of such is Omatek Computers, a computer assembling company. Read More Though the company has its headquarters in Nigeria, the Board Chairman of the company and also a Former Communications Minister, Benjamin Aggrey Ntim says the plans to export assembled computers from Ghana to other African countries shows Ghana’s preparedness to lead in the development of ICT in Africa.

Mr. Aggrey Ntim, in an interview with Citi Business at the sidelines of the tour by representatives from Malaysian Open University to the factory of Omatek computers disclosed that Omatek already has the ability to produce up to 300 desktop, notebooks and laptop computers daily. 

Meanwhile, the President of the Accra Institute of Technology, Prof. Clement Dzidonu also believes Ghana has made significant strides in ICT development.

He implored ICT related companies to focus on capacity building for maximum impact to ensure that ICT is sent into homes, schools and universities.
Source: Citifmonline

Kenyan government is making frantic effort to construct a software program which is aimed at creating employment in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector, a top government official has said.

The Kenya is regarded as one of the fastest growing Information Technology (IT) and ICT nations in the African continent after South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt respectively. Read More Bitange Ndemo, permanent secretary in the ministry of information and communications for Kenya, said the East African nation had since identified software development, which has a potential of sourcing income for the country as well as creating jobs.

The software development, according to Ndemo, would help Kenya’s ICT industry grow fast as well as providing employment and generation of revenue.

Ndemo said Kenya’s ICT sector- under government drive recorded a whopping Sh500 million (about US$30.500) last year, which would be channeled towards setting up of incubation centre for nurturing budding developers.

Kenya is seeing increased growth in companies seeking different software solutions for their businesses, such as skills promotion and service delivery.
Source: IT News Africa

African postal service providers should not shy away from embracing information and communication technology (ICT) as it plays a major role in shifting market and customer needs, Tanzania's Minister for Communications, Science and Technology, Prof. Peter M. Msolla, said Monday, marking the Pan African Posts Day.

'ICT is expected to improve the quality and efficiency of service provided. It will also provide a platform for the development of other e-services,' Msolla remarked ahead of the opening of a two-day conference of African ministers responsible fo r communications at Arusha, northern Tanzania.
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The conference coincided with the inauguration of Tanzania's national addressing and postcodes, a project pioneering the implementation of a street-type addressing system with postcodes and the creation of a national address database.

Msolla said the system involves naming and identification of streets and numbering of all houses in accordance with new addressing standards.

Under the same system, Tanzania will be divided into postcode areas and a five-digit postcode system will be used for identifying areas. Postcodes will also be allocated to specific post office establishment and major customers.

Calling for the cooperation of all Tanzanians in developing the system, the minister said: 'Enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of universal postal services in the country is of concern to the government. Movement of letters, packets, parcels and finan cial services form part of the daily lives of people across the country, contine n t and the world.

'Postal services therefore have a critical role to play in our collective efforts to accelerate development ⦠and hence we need to continue to harness the po tential of postal services as an instrument of development,' he said.

The African Posts Day was observed under the theme: 'The Post, a veritable means to bridge the digital gap'.  Meanwhile, the Pan African Postal Union (PAPU) celebrated the day in line with the organisation's new vision, mission and strategic objectives, said PAPU Secretary General Rodaqh A. Masaviru.

"Our primary objective is to have an efficient postal network in Africa that effectively interlinks with the rest of the world and guarantees a wide range of qu a lity ICT-based products and services to meet and even exceed customer expectations," said the c hief of the Arusha-based specialised agency of the African Union.

"A truly integrated information society can only be a reality if the rural and urban, as well as the information-rich and information-poor communities are connected through modern communication infrastructure," said Masaviru, noting that the

21st century was increasingly being defined by phenomenal growth in the ICT sector, driven by the 'Internet explosion' that has created new ways of doing business.

According to a UN study in 2008, Internet users were five times less in Africa than in North America -- 51 million in Africa compared to 248 million -- whereas the African continent is three times more populated (955 million) than North America (338 million).

In Africa, more than half of the Internet users are in the Northern subregion and in South Africa. In sub-Saharan Africa only 3 percent of the population are connected to the Internet.

"The digital gap negates the building of a fully integrated, harmonious and equitable information society [in Africa]," said Masaviru, who urged stakeholders in the communication industry to take measures to mitigate the effect of this phenomenon.

At world level, the Post has about 660,000 post offices. In Africa, the post net work has 30,300 post offices widely spread in urban and rural areas.

Member countries of PAPU have been called upon to support the e-Post Africa project, so that it could successfully embrace digital integration on the continent.
Source: Afrique en ligne