On a hot January afternoon, a pair of boys aged 9 and 12 struggle to fit on a small wooden stool otherwise meant for one person as they stare without blinking at a loading Facebook profile page running on one of the two computer monitors that sit just outside the veranda of Bardege ICT center owned by BOSCO Uganda and located just in the outskirts of Gulu town.
Wrapped in a solid grey sheet of drum shaped metal, with two computer monitors on each side, the BOSCO Uganda digital drum computer not only attracts, but also serves a handful of youth and children who flock to the center from various locations ranging from Laroo, Pece, Bardege and Kanyagoga among other places all with the aim of benefiting from fast Internet from the Digital drum.
Designed in 2010 from used crude oil drums by a trio of engineers working in liaison with car mechanics for the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) community kiosk project whose goal was to create information access points for all villages in Uganda, the Digital drum’s most noteworthy pros lie in durability and its use of solar energy which renders it usable; even in power deprived areas thus making it a favorite of the youth in Gulu.
“ Unlike other computers which rely on electricity from UMEME, the drum is never affected by the constant power outages in town” boasts Denis Okello, a twelve year old pupil at the neighboring Unifat Primary School and user of the machine, in complement of the digital drum’s use of solar energy in comparison with the electricity provided by power company; UMEME. Its simplicity; a quality it garners from its appearance (keyboard and monitor) without a visible Central Processing Unit (CPU) or even the lengthy strands of connecting power cables, adapters and limited supervision further makes it a favorite of most youths.
Donated to BOSCO Uganda from UNICEF in 2012, the Digital drum at Bardege ICT Center office still functions with the speed of a newly acquired one and not even the wear of the characters on the keyboard offer limitation to its usage by its many users; “the veterans” you could call them have come to master all the characters on the keyboard typing them from memory. Eric Akena, a senior 6 candidate at Gulu Senior Secondary School and one of the pioneer users of the Digital drum from its time of installment is able to type perfectly even without staring at the keyboard and considers the worn out keyboard a way of evaluating his typing skills. Akena also explains his preference of the Digital drum in its durability and location on the veranda, outside the ICT Center.
“The drum he says, “is long lasting and strong, because it has taken four years outside, which compared to other computers is long, I prefer it to the computers inside the library because it allows fresh air to a user ” he adds.
Ivan Aboga Rackara is a student of Mass Communications at Uganda Christian University Mukono