The Monitor (Kampala)
24 September 2008
Posted to the web 24 September 2008
The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology's (ICTs) laptop ownership programme that initially targeted the civil service has moved onto school teachers and their students.
The Civil and Corporate Employees Computer Ownership Programme (CICOCO) is intended as a head start in the country's e-government program. So far, the program has seen 4,000 government workers purchase the laptops.
State Minister for ICT, Alintuma Nsambu, said the initial phase of the five-year project will see one million laptops imported into the country to meet the needs of both the civil and student/teacher programs.
"Uganda is becoming one of the richest countries in the areas of ICT," Nsambu said while handing over laptops at Statistics House Kampala on September 19.
"We have been sleeping in the areas of ICT and it's now time for us to wake up. Many of us have been taking ICT for granted, but we have attempted many options to ensure that a big percentage of Ugandans have access to ICT" he added.
Tropix Technology, a US based company, has committed $150 million in capital to the project, which was launched early in the year, and the company remains committed to Uganda, said Tropix president Dauglus Tausik.
"The World is getting increasingly integrated. You can't manage investment without computer knowledge and I want to say that doing business with Uganda makes business sense," he added.
Tropix will also donate desktop Personal Computers (PCs) to select schools for setting up school computer laboratories.
To ease the acquisition of the laptops, beneficiaries will lift the burden of paying large sums of money upfront and instead pay for the laptops through monthly deductions over a period of five years.
Stanbic Bank Uganda has been joined by five other banks to aid in financing the machines, which are made by a consortium of companies and investors from the U.S., China and Australia. "Uganda is going the American model of acquiring electronics.
If you have $10 you can still own a laptop, desktop and have a luxury life without necessarily waiting until you get the full amount," Nsambu said.
"Paying slowly using banks is the only way countries can change their lives. As a ministry we want to assure people that you can own a computer like a boda boda," the Minister added.
The teachers' laptops, like the civil servants, will sell for US$600. The student version of the laptop will go for $450. It has been custom-made specifically for students' needs with special software. In the open market, computers range from Shs1.5 million to Shs3 million.
Already, some 3,000 students, mainly from the universities, have signed up to purchase the laptops, and hundreds of schools are expected to purchase them for their teachers.
Each laptop includes a 120G-byte SATA hard disk, a 1G-byte memory chip of RAM, a 14-inch WXGA LCD (liquid crystal diode) screen and a 1.6GHz Pentium dual-core T2330 processor.
It also come with a DVD writer, USB (Universal Serial Bus) port, integrated graphics, wireless Internet card, independent web camera, TV card and a home edition of Windows XP operating system.
The ICT ministry is monitoring the project. With emerging information age, almost every job will have a significant information technology component.
"The civil service scheme has been successful, but we have received overwhelming demand from the education sector, and we are talking about teachers and students on their own demanding for the laptops," Nsambu further said.
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