The Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF) – Project Brief

RCDF III (2017/18–2021/22) 

Broadband Connectivity and Access

Rural Broadband Sites

UCC in partnership with MTN Uganda under the Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF) recently launched 22 3G base stations in the government bid to ensure broadband service coverage for the whole country with government taking the lead in the rural unserved and underserved areas that are not economically viable for the private Telecom operators.

Currently, the 3G population covered  in Uganda is about 78% with most of these services in the urban centers and town. The rural unserved areas commissioned were Kikuube (Kiswazi); Kyegegwa (Munsambya); Kamwenge (Kabuga); Ntungamo (Nyakyera); Bushenyi (Ryensibo); Kibingo (kabutsye); Bwera (Bikunya); Kabale (nyakihanga); Kibaale (Kakindo); Ibanda (Rwengwe); Kisoro (nyakarambi); Mityana (Butagunju); Kumi (Ongino); Kalangala (Kalangala); Abim (Nyakwae); Buhweju (Nsiika); Buikwe (Senyi); Kalangala (Bubeke); Kotido (Nakapelimoru); Kiruhura (Kitura); Jinja (Busede); Katakwi (Usuk).

UCC -RCDF Director Hon. Nyombi Tembo,, MTN Uganda Official,
Ms Hanifa Kaladi the Jinja RDC and local residents of Busede at the
Base station at the launch of the 22 Broadband Sites

The 22 base stations connect over 700,000 people in economically unviable, underserved or un-served areas of Uganda. This Broadband is expected to enable easy and timely access to information as well as be utilised in business and social services such as E-Health, E-Education, E-Government Services, E-Commerce, etc which will lead to increased rural employment and subsequent social-economic transformation.

Integration of ICT into Education

School Computer Laboratories, Internet Connectivity to Schools, User content (software) installation, ICT teacher retooling, Local communities ICT skills training

Mukono High School Students utilizing a 40 Seater ICT Laboratory funded by UCC/RCDF
ICT Computer Laboratories

In 2001 when RCDF I was first launched, no government secondary school had an ICT laboratory, and so no school was teaching Computer Studies as a subject. To date, UCC through RCDF has implemented ICT Computer Labs in over 1000 Secondary Schools, Tertiary institutions and Universities.

All these schools currently teach the ICT subject either at O level or/and A Level, and UNEB results have shown tremendous improvement in ICT performance over the years. An ongoing initiative is now in place to provide these schools with reliable Broadband connectivity.

President Yoweri Museveni at the lauch of the UCC/RCDF funded ICT Computer Laboratory in Ntare School, Mbarara District.

Internet Connectivity to Schools

The RCDF previous provided a dedicated Internet-Link of 256Kbps to Secondary Schools, but with changes in technology and development of new services in education, this ceased to be enough. RCDF has now partnered with Research Education Network and Mobile telecom operators to provide a dedicated Internet connectivity Link of up to 5Mbps to schools while meeting the costs of installation, 100%, 70%, and 50% cost of  bandwidth for the first, second and third years respectively before exiting for the schools to sustain the project.

This again is intended to enhance easy and quick access to information, drive research, enable teaching using ICT, and enable the building of skills in ICT and other areas through access to information. The RCDF has also partnered on projects with other stakeholders such as the Electricity and Fiber to the Village project with other partners like REA, NITA, ADVA and Conning to connect Buhesi Secondary School, Kigorobya Sub-county and Buhesi Town Council with Computer Laboratory facilities, Internet and content.

Director RCDF Mr. Nyombi Thembo joins Students of Millenium High School Arua at the Launch of the School ICT Computer Laboratory

Digital Science Content

Uganda Communications Commission and the Ministry of Education signed a memorandum of understanding in which UCC through the RCDF agreed to support the Ministry of Education and Sports through the provision of ICT services in selected schools by establishing ICT laboratories in the schools together with appropriate content.

The Digital Science content is currently the approved content approved by the Ministry of Education and supported by RCDF. The objective of this content is to enable the teachers and students to easily teach and learn science subjects with easy and precise simulation of practical scenarios. This content has been procured and installed on all the over 1000 secondary schools where RCDF has supplied computers.

Teacher Retooling Program

Under this program, all teacher training institutions have been provided with ICT infrastructure and all associated support services to get ICT fully integrated into the teaching of teachers. However, because it would take time before adequate numbers of such trained teachers are turned out, a stop-gap measure of retooling at least two teachers from each of the schools who champion ICT integration in those schools was adopted by the Ministry of Education and Sports supported by RCDF. Retooling of teachers is carried every year from the SESEMAT teacher the in-service training centre at Kololo Secondary School.

Community ICT Training

The schools with Computer laboratory infrastructure have also acted as a platform to provide digital literacy skills to the communities around the schools, which has dramatically reduced the digital divide in the country. A training programme for the communities in practical ICT skills was developed. The project seeks to enable communities around schools with ICT laboratories to acquire ICT skills.

The programme is run during school vacations. Schools contribute the environment, the ICT laboratory and the teachers; UCC provides logistical support, meals and technical guidance; and Local leaders such area MPs provide the required mobilisation for the trainees. The main objective of this training programme is to enable the trainees to become people who can work for ICT facilities and operate ICT facilities as a business venture. To date, over 50,000 community people have been skilled.

ICT Clubs in Schools

The Commission in partnership with Kisubi Associated Writers’ Agency, KAWA has so far launched 45 ICT Club Secondary Schools in Uganda. Some of the schools in which these clubs have been formed include:- Bishop Kivengere Girls’ – Kabale , Arua S.S, Dabani Girls’ School – Busia, Mary Hill Girls’ School – Mbarara, Nabisunsa Girls – Kampala, Mbale S.S, Mbale S.S, Mbarara High, St. Joseph’s College, Layibi – Gulu, St. John S.S., Nadera – Luwero, Rwenkobwa S.S.S – Ibanda, Nyero Rock High – Kumi, Nalinya Lwantale Girls School – Luwero, Masaka S.S, Gulu High, Lira Town College, Bishop S.S Mukono and St Mary’s College Rushoroza, Kansanga Seed S.S, Nyero Rock High Kumi, Rwenkoba S.S – Ibanda.

Activity to Launch ICT Club in one of the schools
The key objectives of these clubs are:-
  1. Building in the students the skills of using ICT more effectively and responsibly.
  2. Building communication skills and confidence in the learners
  3. Enabling creativity and innovation
  4. Developing critical thinking and problem-solving mentality
  5. Being able to integrate ICT in mainstream disciplines, other clubs and schools’ activities for learning purposes.
  6. Engaging learners in programs and activities that develop a sense of global citizenship
  7. Being able to purposefully network, collaborate and work as a team.
  8. Becoming peer learners that guide and support fellow students in learning and effective use of ICT in education.
  9. Empowering learners to address real issues affecting their communities and finding solutions to them through innovative learning projects.
  10. Developing a sense of ownership of and taking part in the maintenance of equipment of their respective ICT departments.

Analogue to Digital Migration

The Commission under the RCDF facilitated and funded UBC to carry out the Analogue to Digital Migration. Digital migration was about more efficient use of available radio spectrum for broadcasting and the associated benefits to the broadcasting sector like the provision of more services, better quality picture and sound.

Very importantly, the Digital Dividend spectrum was made available after the migration, and this spectrum is already contributing to the availability of more Broadband services enabled by 3G, 4G and the yet to be implemented 5G. Increase in penetration of these services, especially broadband, will spur employment and country’s GDP. (World Bank Research shows that a 10% increase in mobile Broadband services penetration creates a 0.5%-1.5% increase in the country’s GDP.)

ICT in Business – Digital Literacy for Small and Medium Enterprises

The RCDF, in partnership with the Federation of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises-Uganda (FSMEU), has been conducting ICT Literacy training for the small and Medium Enterprises. Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in Uganda are said to employ an excess of 3 million people, account for more than 90% of the private sector and contribute more than 70% to our national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In this way, they play a catalytic role in creating low-cost jobs, alleviating poverty, rapidly industrialising and in fostering economic growth.

Unfortunately, MSMEs are faced with numerous challenges, which cause between 70 to 80% of them, to fail within two (2) years of establishment. Some of these obstacles include; the inability to harness and leverage Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sufficiently to improve their operational performance and profitability. The project seeks to address the digital illiteracy that is pervasive among Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in Uganda, especially Kampala.

SME Graduands at the completion and Graduation of one of the SME Trainings at the Uganda Institute of ICT Kampala recently 

The MSMEs are assisted in understanding and harnessing the opportunities that ICT offers their businesses, through improving their skills and capabilities in basic ICT functionalities. Ultimately, these digital skills will foster entrepreneurship, innovation and boost the competitiveness of these MSMEs. These trainings have so far been conducted in the districts of Kampala, Gulu, Mbale and Mbarara.  

Public ICT Access at Post Offices and Libraries

The RCDF has been supporting Post office in setting up state of the art public ICT centers. This effective last year was also extended to the National Libraries. In Financial Year 2017/18 4 post offices at Kitgum, Kasese Moroto and Mubende; and three libraries, i.e. Hoima, Pallisa and Nakaseke, were renovated and equipped with public ICT facilities fully equipped with Internet.

Eight post offices in Arua, Busia, Entebbe Main, Gulu, Hoima, Lira, Luwero and Masaka are planned for renovation and installation of ICT centers for the financial year 2018/19, and this will be an ongoing project until all post offices are fully equipped. This project again is aimed at driving broadband connectivity. These facilities will serve as public ICT facilities to build digital literacy for communities in the proximity of the post offices.

Javira Ssebwami a PML Daily reporter using the newly launched ICT cener in Kitgum (PHOTO/PML)

E – learning Project Pilot in SMACK, Nabisunsa, Mwiri and Gayaza Schools

The RCDF has created a collaboration with a team of four educators to implement a holistic eLearning Project for schools. The project will be piloted in four secondary schools; with St. Mary’s College Kisubi as the lead. The other schools are Gayaza High School, Nabisunsa Girls School and Busoga College Mwiri. The project aims at building the capacity of schools to provide better quality teaching and learning.

The Holistic eLearning Project has the following objectives:-

  1. To avail quality teaching and learning resources to teachers and learners of the participating schools, anytime, anywhere.
  2. To develop contemporary eLearning skills among teachers and students of the participating schools.
  3. To facilitate learning together on everyday tasks for students from the participating schools.
  4. To facilitate networking and collaboration among the participating schools (teachers and students).
  5. To provide in-service teacher professional development in the participating schools that is; developing teaching & learning resources and using teaching methods that promote High Order Thinking skills, in particular, Project-based learning.
  6. To develop quality digital education content, learning objects and activities for participating schools.
  7. To share best teaching and learning practices and strategies among participating schools.

The expected outcomes include:-

  1. A narrower urban-rural disparity in terms of access to teaching and learning resources and quality of teaching.
  2. More Teachers using learner-centred methods, which develop both Low Order Thinking Skills and High Order Thinking skills in project-based learning.
  3. More collaboration among schools on joint learning activities (learning together)
  4. Continuous teacher professional development through both face-2-face training and eLearning.
  5. More ICT integration in different subjects across the curriculum.
  6. Teachers putting more emphasis on application of concepts taught in class to daily life applications.
  7. More students exhibiting employable skills and competencies (critical-thinking, problem-solving, innovation, creativity, teamwork, collaboration)

Research

The Commission under the RCDF fosters research in the other sectors of the economy to drive the integration of ICT in these sectors as an enabler. Some of the research works that have been conducted by RCDF include the following:-

ICTs in Agriculture

The study sought to establish the current state of ICT4Agri innovations in the country. A review of local initiatives in ICT4agriculture focusing on improving agriculture productivity through several interventions aimed at; access, advice, surveillance, diagnosis, information dissemination, as well as a focus on market linkages and marketing, and mobile money was done.

Case studies on some widely mentioned innovations such us; ERIGNU, JAGUZA, AKORION, E-voucher system, SUFACE model, Kudo, VIAZI system, Kudo among others were done.

The specific objectives of the study were as follows:

  1. Highlight the current state of ICTs in Uganda’s agricultural sector;
  2. Collate quantitative data on ICT innovations for agriculture; and
  3. Assess the ICT in Agriculture policy and its regulatory environment
  4. Highlight some critical lessons from countries in the region on their approach to ICT4Agric
  5. Develop a framework of ICT integration in Uganda’s Agriculture sector

ICTs for People with Disability (PWDs)

The Commission under the RCDF undertook a study on access and usage of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) by people with disabilities (PWDs) in Uganda. The overall objective of the study was to collect and analyse up-to-date data relating to access, awareness, attitude and usage of ICTs by PWDs in Uganda at households and individuals as well as businesses and institutions levels.

Stakeholder validation and dissemination workshop of the study on access and usage of Information and Communication

The study discovered that Awareness, access and use of ICTs by PWDs is extremely low. The most accessible and used ICT device amongst PWDs is a radio (70.1%) followed by mobile phone at 69.4%. 8% of PWDs are using computers whereas internet usage stands at 16% amongst PWDs. Regarding Assistive Technologies (ATs), only 5% of PWDs have ever heard of these technologies. Also, 1% have ever used ATs while less than 0.5% of the 1% currently use these technologies.

Using the $2 per day poverty line threshold, 43.6% of PWDs are living in poverty compared to the national average of 36%. Despite the existence of Universal Primary Education (UPE) and Universal Secondary Education (USE), slightly more than half (55.7%) of individual PWDs interviewed have not gone beyond senior four (S.4), 26.2% did not complete any grade, while approximately 2.6% have completed bachelors or postgraduate levels.

RCDF has now already put in place a strategy to assist in averting the existing challenges through targeted initiatives to the PWDs.

ICT Textbook for Schools

The Commission under the RCDF, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, developed curriculum content and published a book on ICT. The book will be distributed in phases to Government public schools. The first phase of the distribution has already been effected with a supply of 45 textbooks to 500 secondary school schools. This is supposed to enhance student and Teacher ICT knowledge, which will subsequently build the required skills in areas such as Programming, Networking, Computer maintenance, etc.  

UCC/Intelsat – ITSO Rural Broadband Connectivity Project

This was a joint project between the Commission and International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (ITSO) which ITSO is an intergovernmental organization with 149-member states is established to ensure that communication by means of satellite should be available to the nations of the world as soon as practicable on a global and non-discriminatory basis;  Intelsat and Gilat Satellite Services providers.

This project aimed at providing broadband connectivity to two remote locations in Uganda on a pilot basis and as a proof of concept on the use of satellite technology. The connected communities are the Communities of Bufundi in Rubanda and Kibuku in Ntoroko, and this was done to enhance Economic and Social Programs. The objective of the remote connectivity project is to demonstrate the ease of deploying the satellite solution and study the commercial viability and sustainability of the solution.

This effort is instrumental in helping to accelerate the Uganda government’s broadband strategy, particularly its goal of achieving minimum broadband speeds of 3 Mbps and coverage of 100 per cent of Uganda’s rural areas by 2020.

The overall objectives of the project were:-

  1. Demonstrate the technical feasibility and ease of deployment of satellite in addressing the identified needs;
  2. Investigate the commercial viability and sustainability of a satellite-based solution;
  3. Demonstrate the social – economic value to individuals, government and business realised from providing broadband connectivity to rural areas;
  4. Identify the bottlenecks to sustainable broadband connectivity to rural and remote areas;
  5. Create an opportunity for capacity building in satellite communications.

Other Projects implemented in RCDF I & RCDF 11 (2003 – 2014)

  • ICT in Health – Computers and Internet to Hospitals and Health Centers
  • ICT in Local Government – District Web Portals and Computers and Internet for RDC’Public telephony infrastructure (Public Payphones)
  • Internet POPs and wireless access
  • Internet Exchange Point (IXP) initiative
  • GSM Voice Network in 90 Rural Sub County Areas (Partnership with MTN)
  • Postal Telecenters (Public ICT Infrastructure facilities)

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