Government agencies battle for data services deal

Wednesday February 21 2018

Fruit venders walk past Uganda Telecom customer

Fruit venders walk past Uganda Telecom customer service centre recently 

By Jonathan Adengo

KAMPALA. The president in a January 18 letter to the Prime Minister directed that all government agencies and departments (MDAs) use Internet from Uganda Telecom (UTL).
The directive comes in the wake of efforts to save the troubled telecom company after it was put under receivership. However, experts are questioning the telecom’s capability to provide Internet services given that some of its infrastructure and equipment has not been updated since 2008.

Mr Otuhumurize Otaremwa, the acting managing director at UTL, says the telecom is ready to supply the government data because it owns the Internet, necessary fixed network and dedicated and experienced workforce.
Mr Otaremwa says UTL unlike National Information and Technology Authority of Uganda (NITA-U) owns Internet by virtue of the fact that it is one of the biggest shareholders in a submarine cable company West Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC).

“With this government will be able to consume what it owns instead of buying from foreign companies. The government will not only avoid draining the economy by getting money from taxpayers and paying it to foreign companies but also benefit from the dividends as the owner of UTL and more so provide employment to Ugandans,” he said.
Before NITA-U came into the picture, UTL was supplying MDAs with Internet, however, while some ministries, agencies and departments stayed with it, others crossed to NITA-U.

Mr Otaremwa says the telecom was supplying MDAs with more than 2Gbps of Internet before the directive. Now with the presidential directive, he says this will grow because the telecom in partnership with WIOCC has recently upgraded the Malaba – Kampala transmission backhaul to a capacity of 12Gbps with modern equipment.
Whereas speculations have been on going about the telecom’s capability to connect the government institutions, Otaremwa said the telecom owns the richest last mile infrastructure across the whole country that includes fibre, copper and microwave.

What does this mean for NITA U?
Mr Steven Kirenga, the communications manager at NITA-U, says they have no qualm working with UTL.
“As per the presidential directive, we are working with, under the guidance of the Rt Hon Prime Minister and all concerned stakeholders to agree on the modalities of procuring internet bandwidth from Uganda Telecom (UTL) WIOCC,” he says.