By Ezaruku Draku Franklin
Kampala– A total of seven hundred fifty seven thousand six hundred and fifty four users logged in to access the free government Wifi in and around Kampala in the last one year. Dubbed MYUG, the free Wifi was launched on 30th September last year last year ahead of the Kampala festival.
At the launch in October last year, only 19 thousand users logged into the service, the lowest number. However, in the subsequent months, number kept on increasing until when it peaked in September this year, hitting the one hundred thousand mark.
The National Information Technology Authority officials say the log-ins show that the free wifi has been a huge success, disputing the claim by the users that the system has failed, with many log-in challenges hampering the access to the free wifi.
Officials from the NITA-U admit some of the challenges the users had to go through before accessing the free internet services, and say they have worked on it and the whole service will be launched again at the end of this month.
Vivian Ddambya, the Director-Technical Services at NITA-U says over the last one year, the log-ins have been impressive. She says at the beginning, they didn’t think the numbers would be in hundreds of thousands but their fears have been dispelled.
She however says they have had challenges particularly with logging in. She says with this experience, they have improved the system and a better version will be launched before the end of the month. According to her, the new version will include options for logging using social media accounts as opposed to the current system that only demands for your e mail and phone details.
“we had a challenge with the login option so we have improved that and by the end of this month we will be able to launch again with better login procedures for example, you will be able to log-in with your facebook account, with your instagram account, or with your different social media accounts, but also you could also do with a simple e mail” she said.
She says through the improved system it will be a lot easier for people to access the free internet services. She also says the plan is to encourage the use of internet among people and make government services more accessible. “For example if you log onto myug, during the day, you won’t be able to get internet, but you will be able to access all government services without internet”. She says
According to her since the service was launched, they have been able see the daily log-ins since every loggin detail is stored.
She however has dispelled the fears that the service was a ploy to track the opposition members and those who disagree with the government.
She says why they asked for so much information was to know the difference in accessibility between women and men and how best they would encourage those will less access to have more access.
“We wanted to know for example how many women verses men were accessing internet its usually for planning purposes and it is also for our national indices. You know as a country when they are trying to get you on national competitive indexes, e government indexes they ask such things how many women can access such services, how many men can access these services so we wanted to have that statistics so that’s why we still ask for the gender”
Mrs. Ddambya says over the last one year, the number of women accessing the facility has been disappointing. According to her out of over seven hundred thousand people who accessed the facility, only thirty percent were females.
“The number of women is very sad. It’s like the number of men to women is 70-30.percent. it’s a big disparity so we try to then figure out why there is such a big disparity maybe the timing, maybe at that time women are not out at night they are back home.so we want to find out that big disparity and how we can close that gap’, She said
What users say about the free wifi service
Several users however say logging into the system is tedious and tiresome, with several attempts made before successfully logging in. Mubarak Kisisira, who accessed the internet on the first day of the launch, says it had raised much hope when it was first launched. He however says with time, the system became slow and at some time stopped working. “I got disappointed and stopped trying when it failed to log me in and I had to start using my data I would buy from the telecom operators”, Kisisira said. To him, a programme that had promised so much ended up being a hot air.
Joseph Nsubuga, a resident at Bukoto in Nakawa division is equally frustrated by the failure of the free wifi to effectively address the issues of access to the internet. Nsubuga says the programme was much hyped, but failed to live to the expectations. “At the launch, we could access the internet during the day, but later they switched that off and started only offering the internet at night, which is not convenient for many of us. It also has limited hotspots where you can access the internet, yet at night majority of the people are at home”, he says.
Both cases are not isolated. Since its launch last year, the facility has had challenges ranging from failing to log in users, to frequent network outages and a string of other technical glitches. Rosemary Nakitende, a boutique owner at Kamwokya says since the introduction of the free wifi, she has never succeeded in logging in. she says she registered all her details, but on several occasions when she attempted to log in, it failed until she gave up. “I was disappointed by the frequent failures and I decided to abandon the free wifi”, Nakitende says.
However, not all has been gloom for the users. Geoffrey Masereka, a resident at Bukoto along Kisasi road says he has been using the facility on a number of times at night. Though he would have loved to use it during the day, he said “the internet speed at night when it would connect has been fast and you can access what you want easily.”
With the improved accessibility, it is hoped that more users will be able access the free internet facility.
Mrs. Ddambya says plans are under way to expand the hotspots to more places within the city and beyond, though she has not given a timeline for the expansion.