LOCAL and international experts have agreed that Uganda is using an outdated and inadequate cable for its Internet backbone infrastructure. The G652 type has small bandwidth and will not be able to cater for Ugandaâ€™s current needs, let alone provide for future growth.
One expert compared it with guiding traffic from a 10-lane road onto a one-lane road, leading to huge traffic jams.
Experts also predict the system will frequently break down as a result of low reachable distance of the optic signal, which will require many booster stations.
Instead, Uganda should use the newer G655 cable, the type being used in neighbouring Rwanda, according to the parliamentary committee for ICT and the newly established National Information Technology Authority.
Yet, despite orders to stop the works pending a review of the project, the Chinese company, Huawei Technologies, is continuing, burning more of the sh212b budget every day. The project is financed through a loan from the Chinese Exim Bank, which Uganda has to pay back over a period of 20 years.
The Chinese government sourced and recommended the company. There was no tender and no properly detailed needs assessment study.
Conditional â€˜aidâ€™ has produced many white elephants all over Africa â€“ expensive but useless projects where the donorâ€™s interests prevailed over the recipientâ€™s needs and interests.
This particular project, if proven to be another white elephant, will not only mean wasting sh212b. It will have far-reaching consequences for Ugandaâ€™s future development.
The UN has estimated that every 1% increase in internet penetration results into a $593 increment to GDP per capita. Uganda cannot afford to miss the ICT train, which would allow it to leapfrog into the 21st Century.
The Chinese government, through its embassy, should prevail upon Huawei to immediately stop the works and allow for an independent technical audit based on a proper needs assessment study.
This would be in line with the five cornerstones for Africa-China cooperation as formulated first in 1996 by President Jiang Zemin: sincere friendship, equality, cooperation, common development and looking towards the future.