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The Huawei “Seeds for the Future 2017” programme in Uganda was launched in April 2017 at the College of Computing and Information Sciences (CoCIS) in a partnership with the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance, Ministry of Education and Sports, Makerere University, and Huawei Technologies and on Monday 29th May 2017 hosted an event at the Makerere University main hall.

The objective of the event was to officially flag of the 10 winners of the Huawei “Seeds for the Future 2017” programme. It was attended by Hon. John Muyingo (Minister of State for Higher Education), H.E Zheng Zhuqiang (Chinese Ambassador), Prof. Okello Ogwang (Ag. Vice Chancellor, Makerere University), Stanley Chyn (MD, Huawei Technologies Uganda), Dr. E. Kahiigi (Ag. Principal, CoCIS), and other invited guests.

Hon. John Muyingo did the honors of flagging off the 10 winners that will depart for China on Friday 2nd, June 2017.  During their two-week trip, they will get the opportunity to experience the Chinese culture, get exposed to the latest in ICT technologies and trends, and gain some valuable work experience at the Huawei’s Technologies headquarters.

Hon. John Muyingo thanked the Chinese government and Huawei Technologies for providing this opportunity to the winners and urged them to be well behaved during this trip since they are representing Uganda abroad. Representing Makerere University will be Mr. Daniel Mutembesa, Ms. Godliver Owomugisha, and Mr. George Joseph Serunjogi. All three are currently Master’s students at the College of Computing and Information Sciences and are also part of the Artificial Intelligence research lab (AI Lab).

The other seven winners are Mr. Jonathan Kigozi (Muni University), Ms. Maria Mwanje (Mbarara University of Science and Technology), Mr. Francis Bukenya (Busitema University), Ms. Hellen Nakayiza and Mr. Marvin Ggaliwango (Lira University), Ms. Sharon Lalam (Gulu University), and Ms. Maria Angela Namuleme (Kyambogo University).

The College of Computing and Information Science hosted Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd Uganda that was launching the second edition of its Seeds for the Future program 2017. The guest of honor at the launch was the Hon. Frank Tumwebaze (Minister of ICT and National Guidance) accompanied by Mr. Chu Mao Ming (Deputy Chief of Mission Chinese Embassy to Uganda), Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe (DVC, F & A, Makerere University), Mr. Patrick Muinda (Assistant Commissioner, Communications and Information Management, Ministry of Education and Sports Association), Assoc. Prof. G. Maiga (Ag. Principal, CoCIS), and Dr. G. Kiyingi (Dean, EASLIS).

All invited guests were first given a brief about the program that was initially launched in 2016 and saw 10 ICT students get the opportunity to experience the Chinese culture when they travelled to Beijing and Shenzhen. In addition to the culture they were also exposed to the latest technologies, best ICT educational practices, and gained some valuable work experience at the Huawei’s headquarters.

During his speech, the Hon. Frank Tumwebaze thanked Huawei for its Seeds for the Future 2017 initiative that is contributing to the ICT industry in Uganda in terms addressing unemployment, improving the skills of Uganda’s IT professionals etc.

Stanley Chyn (Managing Director, Huawei Uganda) mentioned that the objective for Seeds for the Future 2017 was to select another 10 students for the program and of the 35 that participated in the selection process several were from Makerere University, Kyambogo University, Muni University etc.

A College team that comprised of several heads of department met with Ms. Teresa Mbagaya (Microsoft Education Lead, East & Southern Africa - ‎Microsoft) to discuss how the College and Microsoft can revive their existing partnership and embrace some of the new Microsoft initiatives.

Some of the initiative discussed during the meeting were the on;

  1. Implementing the Microsoft Education Transformation in Higher Education at Makerere University, College of Computing and IS as a pilot project.
  2. Reviving the College’s participation in the Imagine Cup which they previously won three years in a row (i.e. 2012, 2013, and 2014). The Cup is a competition that bring together ICT students from all over the world to display their innovations that critical address issues of the world today.
  3. Setting up of an Imagine Academy in Uganda that can make us more relevant to the ever-changing digital world.
  4. Applying Microsoft technologies across all the learning trajectories with Office 365 as well as azure (a collection of integrated cloud services that developers and IT professionals can use to build, deploy, and manage applications).

All the initiatives were well received and appreciated by the College team and they promised that the College will have students to participate in the Imagine Cup 2017.

The Internet Forum/Public Dialogue was held on 2nd May 2017 at Makerere University, Prof. Buyinza (Director, DRGT) welcomed everyone to the event in particular the Chief Guest, the Honorable State Minister of ICT and National Guidance, Hon. Frank Tumwebaze and the Ambassador of Sweden to Uganda, H.E Per Lindgarde.

The theme for the public dialogue was “Internet Access and Power: The Case for Uganda” and in his speech, he mentioned how the internet is undoubtedly a powerful technology that has had a tremendous impact on billions of people’s lives by giving access to uncompromised source of information, possibility of communicating directly to individuals all over the globe as well as to millions of people at the same time. He also talked about Uganda being one of the first countries in sub-Saharan Africa to gain full internet connectivity in 1995 and how the current internet connection rate in Uganda stands at 7% out of 38 million Ugandans. 

The key objective of the dialogue organized in partnership with the Swedish Embassy, Kampala (U), Hivos Foundation, Unwanted Witness, and College of Computing and IS was to discuss the relevance of internet to the ordinary Ugandan, how they perceive internet as an empowering tool and share their experiences of their interaction with internet and power.  Other issues discussed in the forum were how low and middle-income citizens can increase access to internet, how efforts to promote both internet freedom and human rights can be made less dangerous, and issues to do with internet access restrictions in Uganda.

The panel to discuss and engage with Makerere University staff, students and the general public was represented by Dr. Aminah Zawedde (Lecturer, Makerere University) who was present to address the academia perspective, Mr. James Byaruhanga (COO, RokeTelkom) representing the service providers perspective, Mr. Osbert Osamai (Systems Analyst, NITA, Uganda) representing government perspective and Miss. Prudence Nyamushana (Blogger) representing the user’s perspective. Moderating the dialogue was Dr. Evelyn Kahiigi but before deliberations could begin a position paper on “The State of Internet Access and Power in Uganda” was presented by Ms. Dorothy Mukasa, (Unwanted Witness).

Key points mentioned during the dialogue were;

“Internet is not only about infrastructure but people should also put into perspective the need for sensitization about the internet as well as train people on the proper use of it.” (Osbert Osamai)

"Telecoms cannot provide universal (wide coverage) internet to also include all rural areas due to the business model adopted by the Telecoms, lack of funding by Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), lack of knowledge about the services provided by the Telecoms, lack of access to smartphones etc.” (James Byaruhanga)

"Government may want to control the demand for internet yet the users are requesting the service providers (telecoms) for more. Because of this the service providers are caught in between and so both sides should learn to co-exist” (James Byaruhanga)

"Government has policy, rules and regulations for internet use in Uganda and these are the regulations that all citizens should abide to but also take into consideration that the policies, rules and regulations of internet use vary from country to country." (Dr. Aminah Zawedde)

The moderator and participants also applauded all the women that attended the public dialogue and encouraged everyone to do their part in decreasing the gender digital gap because the internet too is equally an important tool for women’s empowerment.

In closing Deus Mukalazi (Project Lead, Hivos Foundation) was grateful to all the participants the Swedish Embassy Kampala, Makerere University (College of Computing and Information Sciences), and Unwanted Witness for providing and organizing this multi-stakeholder’s platform and looked forward to the next one.

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