BOSCO Uganda profile.
The Battery Operated Systems for Community Outreach (BOSCO) Uganda is a faith based Organization founded in 2006 in northern Uganda with the aim to use a web based approach to build a harmonious and peaceful global society out of the many divides of modern society.
Inspired by the Catholic Church’s social doctrines of the Common good and evangelical option for the poor the organization was to first take root among the rural poor of northern Uganda trapped in the fight between the notorious rebels of the Lord’s resistance army (LRA) of Joseph Kony and the Government of Uganda and threatened by rampant environmental degradation.
BOSCO Uganda before the internet intervention
The narratives of aforementioned war represent BOSCO Uganda’s past where the majority of youth of Uganda were ejected out of their deserved habitation by the war, denied formal education, jobs and forced into military protected camp settlements to live in fear, hunger and depend only on humanitarian agencies for food and squalid shelters. The narratives also represent BOSCO Uganda’s status before and after where AFRNIC Fire Africa became historic change agent with Funding. For well over 20 years the youth, their parents and even the combatants that trampled them under feet suffered war and loss of self-esteem. They lived in isolation, prejudices and mutual fears that were not justified by any measure political, religious and racial in the cyber world. In 2004 there was to sum it up a conspiracy of silence in Uganda best described by United Nations Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs Ian Egeland as “the forgotten humanitarian crisis”.
BOSCOUganda in 3 military protected camps with just 256kbs
In 2006 it took Information and communication technology (ICT) skills, 256kbs bandwidth to establish a WiFi point to point internet connectivity, and some Social Anthropologists with clear doctrine of the Common good and Development to discover it was possible to stop war and instead build peace using a web based approach. The Uganda’s Ministry of ICT and its regulator arm the Uganda communication commission (UCC) welcomed the BOSCOUganda initiative to use the class two limited spectrum that enabled a Voice over Internet Protocol and telephone (VoIP) WiFi point to point connectivity besides the cell phones nationwide. BOSCO Uganda kick started in three military protected camps of Pabbo with approximately 70,000 displaced persons, Pagak with roughly 9,000 displaced persons, Lacor with roughly 12,000 displaced persons all along the Uganda South Sudan trans Africa route. The majority of the displaced persons were youths who by the previous population census outnumbered all. In 2009 the United Nations children’s fund UNicef came in to support BOSCO Uganda’s initiative among the children who like adults were already enjoying the web 2.0 teach yourself computer skills curriculum.
2016 AFRINIC Fire Africa Intervention
One must describe the AFRINIC Fire Africa grant intervention as the narrative that changed all narratives of the bitter two decade war between the LRA and GoU.
Whereas BOSCO Uganda succeeded to cover only 3,000 square kilometres area of northern Uganda ravaged by war until 2016 when Afrinic Fire Africa grant came in in October 2016 BOSCO Uganda was enabled to purchase the needed connectivity equipment; radios, build two 20 meters towers, D-links, and antennae, batteries and solar panels to scale up into the whole of the 28,000 square kilometres areas of northern Uganda. In 2007 the northern Uganda war eased up with the signing of cease fire between the LRA and GoU in the Juba capital of South Sudan. This was for BOSCO Uganda’s initiative propitious. The peaceful moment enabled for wider social interactions and development of accessible computer learning tools ably domesticated for local Acholi folks.
Counting the impacts
- Partnerships development and infrastructure
With Fire Africa Funding from AFRINIC BOSCO Uganda developed a collaborative partnership with the Catholic Church’s Family of Radio Maria where Radio Maria offered two 80 meter towers to BOSCOUganda and BOSCO Uganda offered 1MBps bandwidth to Radio Maria real time broad cast. The Radio Maria towers offer linkages to BOSCO Uganda’s eastern axis. At the tower point in Gulu city some 360 kilometres north of Kampala BOSCO Uganda accesses the (National Back bone) fibre optic to WiFi it point to point another 80 meter tower on Moro hill some 32 kilometres south of Gulu.
The new radio purchased enable Connectivity from Moro hill to Pader town some 70 kilometres in the east and then curves north to the radio 20 meters high on Latanya hill. The twenty meter high tower on Latanya hill is mission critical. It holds the radio link that is planned to be a launch pad to South Sudan’s Eastern Equatoria State via Kitgum city of northern Uganda. To provide real time connectivity (VoIP) and high speed intranet the Funds scaled up bandwidth three times from just 5MBPs to 15 MBPs.
- Social impacts
At Atyang BOSCO Uganda internet point of presence there are five computers where Mr Ojok Richard happily tells us: “I am now accessing www.agrinet.ug.net and www.infotradeuganda.com where I have gained more from selling my produce and buying seeds directly without going through middle men to whom I lost so much for over years. Moreover, the quality of my agricultural products have improved because I go to the computer and ask the questions I have and get the answers there and then”
Another resident of Atyang village Mr Okello Patrick testifies: “I have asked questions about record keeping because I saw that this is what I needed to improve on with the lucrative business I am doing in selling and buying produce to neighbouring South Sudan. I keep my record neatly on line and even when I travel I can look it up and give immediate and accurate answer to potential buyers of my products. I regret we have only five computers to so many of us” Thanks to the donors.
In yet another internet point of presence established with funding from Fire Africa Acan Dano two senior secondary school girls testify:
One says: “Since the establishment of this hub station my friends and I have decided to do our assignments near the hub so that when we have difficult points of discussions we run to the internet”.
Another one testifies: “You really can do anything you want with this access to internet. You chat, research by yourself or even email friends abroad. I feel so much part of the rest of the world brought together by internet. In certain cases you just find even things written in your own local language, thanks to BOSCO Uganda’s portals with, local content. It is also opportunity to learn to write things in a way that is read and understood by people”.
An average of 30 people access internet at Atyang and Acan Dano hub stations daily going by the online registration. This is so partly because the computers provided are only five and because in some cases some more learned people monopolize the use of the few computers. At times an average of 50 people register to use the computers on weekends.
- Social impact in connection to solar energy.
In Lamwo District on the border with South Sudan where BOSCO Uganda has provided connectivity on 4G with funds from AFRINIC Fire Africa to train users in readiness for the connectivity on the same server John is a former student of electrical engineering from a technical school. He testifies:
“I have learnt more how to do correct installation of solar systems and now people call me in their homes to show them how we connect charge controller between solar panels and batteries; how to ground lightning arresters and check if it is working well. Some three years ago I was taught how it is done but now from the internet I see even the picture of the lay out. I make between Uganda shillings 50,000 and 70,000 on four market days in a month. People go to market and buy solar panels and batteries but often times they do not buy charge controllers. When they call me to install their solar energy system I tell them they need to purchase regulators to insert between batteries and solar panels. I also sell what I have to them. So I really make money and I relate very well with them. I thank BOSCO Uganda”. John adds that he thinks in three years no one in his village of 200 is going to buy paraffin for lighting any more.
In the Catholic mission station of Opit at the foot of Moro hill the Italian missionary priest Fr. Joseph says: “Before the internet connectivity on the Moro Hill tower of Radio Maria I drove 32 kilometres to Gulu to write and upload my report to our superiors in Kampala. Now I sit in my house where I have access to internet. The connection on the common server is even cheaper than 4G I had before whenever I have heavy documents to upload. I hope you will scale up this connectivity to our confreres in South Sudan. We want to know how they are”.
BOSCO Uganda cannot describe all the impact created by the FIRE Africa Funding. It remains overwhelmed by the requests to establish connectivity all over the region.
Although BOSCO Uganda’s application for the second round of AFRINIC Fire Africa grant did not succeed it remains its intention to propagate for sustainability of all established hub stations and develop local contents to make connectivity more meaningful to the local folks. Peace building and internet access for the global human family remain the focus where war drums, hatred, trauma, and environmental degradation leave way to cultural dances, songs/music and happy memories of the virgin land of Africa and the entire globe.
Thank you AFRINIC Fire Africa.
Rev.Fr. Joseph Okumu