James Saaka, Executive Director, NITA Uganda during the launch of the eCitizen Portal at Statistics House, Uganda in October, 27 2015. (Image Credit: ChimpReports)
James Saaka, Executive Director, NITA Uganda during the launch of the eCitizen Portal at Statistics House, Uganda in October, 27 2015. (Image Credit: ChimpReports)

Following up on the recent presidential directive on the provision of internet services to Government agencies, there have been a couple of ongoing meetings, led by the Ministry of ICT & National Guidance, to harmonize and provide guidance on how the directive will be implemented.

The discussions have involved officials from Uganda Registration Services Bureau, National Information Technology Authority (NITA-U) and Uganda Telecom Limited.

Sources inform us that NITA-U has demonstrated intent in implementing the directive by ensuring that the internet service provided to Ministries, Departments & Agencies (MDAs) is supplied through the channel that Uganda Telecom uses, West Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC). The internet supplied by WIOCC would complement the already superior internet service being consumed by the 322 MDAs that receive connectivity from the National Backbone Infrastructure whose current internet capacity supplier is Seacom.

To-date, it is reported that NITA-U has been able to maintain an SLA (Service Level Agreement) of 98% with its current MDAs that receive connectivity from the NBI. With the now characteristic ‘always on’ nature of online government services, efficiency has been observed in agencies across the board. This is attributable to the stringent SLAs that NITA-U has delivered thereby ensuring reliability and consistency in the on-ward services provision in Government agencies.

It is owing to this robust network that mission-critical government systems like Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS) from the Ministry of Finance, Planning & Economic Development have maintained an excellent uptime throughout the year.

It is expected that with NITA-U purchasing additional internet capacity from WIOCC, nation-wide connectivity of Government offices will improve as previously underserved MDAS/LGs that were in areas of the country where NBI hadn’t reached, would now get connected to the government network through this initiative.

Some experts have raised concern on the ability of WIOCC to provide internet services to UT to enable connectivity through the NBI to Government agencies at a price as competitive as NITA-U has been getting as a result of the strategic bulk internet procurement that NITA-U undertook from Seacom. Currently, as a result of the bulk procurement of internet, NITA-U has lowered the cost of connectivity for Government agencies from $1200 per Mbps in 2012, to the current cost of $70 per Mpbs. NITA-U has indicated before in the media that it plans to lower the cost further to $50 per Mpbs in July 2018.

Industry experts have raised concern on whether WOICC & UTLL can match the current competitive price point that is provided by Seacom.  Investigations reveal that WIOCC participated and was unsuccessful & expensive in the International Competitive Bidding procurement for the Provision of Bulk Internet Bandwidth for Government of Uganda bid under the World Bank funded project, Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (RCIP). If indeed WIOCC has competitive pricing that would benefit Ugandans, how come it was not able to provide a good price in the above bid? Below is a summary of both bids:

Bidder Bid Price
Seacom USD 4,745,000
WIOCC USD 5,254,740
Difference USD 509,740

WIOCC was more expensive by the successful awarded bidder, Seacom by an entire USD. 500,000.

More information on this procurement can be found on: http://projects.worldbank.org/procurement/noticeoverview?lang=en&id=OP00046131

We wait to see if indeed UTL, through WOICC, can match the current internet pricing being offered by NITA-U to Government agencies.