By Max Patrick Ocaido
Other than providing cheap and affordable internet to all government institutions, the National Information Technology Authority Uganda (NITA-U) has embarked on extending E-learning services especially to rural schools to foster academic excellence.
On Saturday, President Yoweri Museveni launched the extension of the ICT backbone in Katakwi District which is part of the Phase IV that was recently launched in Koboko. Museveni also launched a revamped ICT Laboratory at Ongongoja Secondary School in Usuk Sub County.
Speaking to James Saaka, the Executive Director, NITA-U, the new Computer laboratory will enable students benefit from E-learning services installed by NITA Uganda in partnership with UNICEF. Among the services installed include Kolibri, an educational software that provides world class content for students, plus examination simulators for a smooth learning curve of all students at Ongongoja Secondary School.
“This school is very far from the city and students here are disadvantaged; they do not have access to text books to compete with kids in the city. So we have enabled them through the E-learning system to have exactly the same services,“ Saaka said adding that this software is accessible both online and offline.
“We want to use the internet to bridge the digital divide by ensuring that these children can also compete with others in Kampala, Wakiso and so on.” Saaka said that their target is ensure that all schools that have access to internet benefit from the E-learning services. NITA-U is not the first institution to provide E-learning services in schools. Uganda Communication Commission, Ministry of Education and others have all embraced the program.
Peter Ogwang, Usuk County MP embraced the project saying it will allow their students to compete favourably. “Our students from Ongongoja SS in Usuk can now compete with other privileged Kampala schools after NITA-U installed an ICT lab with an E-learning software-Kolibri which enable them access universal reading materials,” he tweeted.
NITA-U with funding from the World Bank under the Regional Communications Infrastructure programme(RCIP), is implementing the National Backbone Infrastructure and e-Government Infrastructure (NBI/EGI) project to connect districts and towns across the country including Government offices via an optical fibre cable network so as to reduce the cost of the internet and public administration, support delivery of secure e-Government services as well as enhance communications services in the country.
NITA-U successfully completed the implementation of three phases of the NBI project which connected 39 districts, 60 towns and 400 Government offices. As a result of these connections the cost of internet of across Government entities has progressively reduced from USD 1,200 per Mbps per month to USD 70 per Mbps per month.
In May this year, Museveni launched Phase IV of the National Backbone Infrastructure Connectivity project for West Nile that is to be extended to districts of Pakwach, Nebbi, Arua, Yumbe, Koboko, Adjumani, Katakwi and the boarder points of, Oraba, Vurra and Mpondwe. Phase IV will provide new international connections to neighbouring countries including South Sudan and eastern DRC which will improve access, reliability and competitiveness of broadband services both domestically and regionally.