Bridging the Digital Divide: Uganda’s Initiative to Connect Refugee Hosting Districts

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In an effort to expand digital accessibility, the government of Uganda, in collaboration with the National Information Technology Authority (NITA-Uganda), has embarked on a mission to connect Refugee hosting districts to high-speed internet. This initiative is a part of the ambitious Uganda Digital Acceleration Project (UDAP-GOVNET), designed to accelerate the nation’s digital transformation.

In the first phase of the UDAP project, 53 district headquarters have been successfully connected to the national backbone infrastructure (NBI) under the ‘last mile connectivity project.’ This is a significant step in reaching the remote regions of the country, bringing them into the fold of the nation’s digital grid.

The scope of the project extends further with 61 local government sites being connected. Additionally, plans are underway to deploy 80 mobile broadband masts across the country, buy additional bandwidth, develop a telecentre for refugee hosting communities, and establish an e-waste management centre. NITA-Uganda also intends to expand Wi-Fi hotspot sites to ensure widespread internet accessibility.

NITA-U is providing an integrated platform to converge different systems used at administrative centres, significantly streamlining public sector operations. This platform is expected to boost efficiency and speed in the delivery of public services.

In a bid to promote access to e-governance services, the government of Uganda also aims to reduce the unit cost of a smartphone on the market. This move is projected to increase the number of people who can avail of digital services, furthering the reach and impact of the UDAP project.

The initiative reflects the government’s commitment to digital inclusion, especially among the refugee hosting districts. By empowering these communities with digital tools, the government is creating an enabling environment that fosters growth and resilience. As the UDAP project advances, Uganda steps closer to its vision of a fully digitized and inclusive nation.

A woman refugee using a computer.

The high-speed internet connectivity project in Uganda’s refugee hosting districts aims to greatly benefit the refugee communities in multiple ways:

Access to Information: With high-speed internet, refugees will have easier access to crucial information about legal rights, healthcare services, educational resources, and job opportunities. This can help them make informed decisions about their lives and futures.

Education Opportunities: The internet can provide educational resources for all ages, from online courses for adults to educational games and lessons for children. This is particularly important for refugee children who might not have access to traditional schooling.

Communication: Internet connectivity allows refugees to maintain contact with family members and friends who may be far away or in their home countries. This can be of immense psychological benefit.

E-Governance Services: By reducing the cost of smartphones, the government is also facilitating access to e-governance services. Refugees can now have easier access to public services, engage with government bodies, and participate in civic matters.

Economic Opportunities: Internet connectivity can also open up job opportunities. Refugees can seek online work, join digital skills training, engage in e-commerce, or even start their own online businesses.

Through these measures, the government of Uganda is not only providing immediate benefits to the refugees but also equipping them with the tools to create sustainable livelihoods and integrate into their new communities more effectively.

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