About Uganda, Here’s where I stand

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At the end of the day, there is a line to draw, and a side to be on. I have daughters, brothers, cousins, friends and a large extended family. I am a Muganda, born and raised in Kampala, I am Ugandan. I am personally invested in the future of my country, and I need it to be safe, sound and sober.
I stand for strong leadership, backed by strong laws.
I stand for accountability, not based on the wishful thinking that a man – any man – will be as good as his word, but rather with the law written on his heart, and surrounded by a strong and supportive community, such a man will be encouraged to right standing, day by day.
I would like our constitution amended to include term limits and to have an age limit. But most importantly, I would like the law of my country to be designed to set up our leaders for success.
I would not like, and do not support the idea that a constitution be amended to give 18 yo’s a chance to leadership – this is a country of 35 million people, not a whatsapp group. Heck, the responsibility to tick a box cannot be compared, on any spectrum, to the weighted responsibility to rally a nation. So no, let’s not get petty.
I would not like, and do not support the idea that our constitution be amended to give a person aged 60+ yo a chance at the presidency (or indeed a high ranking public office), because your best years are long gone – and that’s a fact of life. We don’t just want good leaders, we must desire to have the best, in their prime.
I too will one day be 60, and I know i will not be useless to the younger generations, but to claim to energetically hold the flag and lead the charge, that would be pretentious. I will lead, but I will lead from the back.
This is the line i draw, what do you stand for?
For a country that has largely young people, it is time to start filing the bank of our elders.
For all those who are 60 and above, if you do not have a group of young people in their 30’s who you have mentored for the last 10+ years, then its time for you to correct the most selfish act of your public life – step down, get out of there, find some young people to mentor (assuming your legacy and profile are still attractive as you hope). Its time to have you serve on boards and foundations where your true experience and legacy (if you have any left) can be used for what it truly is.
Do not fall into the trap of tokenism – the fallacy of “Youth MPs” or “Young People” – instead, create junior boards for younger leaders to begin to know what really happens in the corridors of power. For our country demographic, every public board should have a junior board, heck every junior minister should be below 35 – yes, its daring and ambitious, but the future of this country has got to be worth much more.
If you are in your 30’s – and have never considered standing for public office, you are perpetuating the rationale that you will only do so (serve your community and country) when you are older. That is a lie. You can serve now. We can serve now. Consider now, to stand for office. You do not need to be perfect, but with great mentors, and on-the-job-training, in an environment of protection by good strong laws, you will flourish. Remember, there are teenagers about to become your mentees – start now to build and set a profile that will be attractive to them. Start now to learn what you will pass on. In case you didn’t hear me, its time to grow up!
If you are of voting age, now is the time for us all to sober up. If indeed we want to secure the future of this nation, its time to face the reality – a country that is 80% 35yo and below cannot be led, and adequately run by the last 15%. They have to be fulfilling elder/advisor/mentor responsibilities – and therefore someone else has to stand up and lead/manage/inspire. And you are empowered, by the law, to give them that opportunity. But you have to want to do it. So you are going to find, not the most perfect young leader, but the one who has shown promise. Give them a chance, hold them accountable, place safeguards around them that allow them to flourish, learn, grow, lead and then pass the baton. You can do this, you can set the stage, it always starts with you.
Leadership is a significant lever of change, and in young democracies, you can set about doing this with a great constitution – there are far too many countries in the world for us to cherry pick the best, and no, we do not have enough able bodied Ugandans to pay a bloodied price. So no, let’s not even think about it.
Leadership has got to be learned, practiced and experienced. And a young country has got to train and develop (educate, commit to service, mentor) its young people into great leaders so that they can earn the social capital to be entrusted with the public and heavier responsibilities of a national scale.
Let us start now. No, Yesterday.
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Your Dead Child’s (or Spouse’) Facebook

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Every piece of your life, can potentially be found on Facebook. Your child’s birth photos, from right in the womb, to their sweet 16th birthday are all there. Trips to Antigua and check-ins to the Mall, everything freely shared with that sneaky prompt, “What’s on your mind?”

And then, if you live in Kampala, as I do, chances are a boda-boda, or some other necessary evil, will take the life of your innocent child or spouse or parent or sibling.

Then… Whats on your mind? Well, why not review (and maybe even re-live) the online life of your dearly departed.

Not so fast – last week, a Berlin Court issued an order that barred parents of a deceased gal from obtaining access to her Facebook profile and its records. Facebook accounts, by their very nature, are personal. As this Reuters article notes, the secrecy of correspondence protects not just the child, but also the people who she spoke with, and their privacy must be protected.

The child’s Facebook account  must be a relic of sorts, and rightly so the parents probably want to lock this away or perhaps search it for their own closure. But the people she communicated with, if they are still alive, have their own right of communication privacy. Should familial curiosity override this? I am sure this was a difficult decision for the court to make, but I think their ruling is reasonable.

I remember growing up when dairies had not just yet been replaced by blogs that the given notion was: never read one that isn’t yours. If you are the parent of a young person, you know what it means to know less than 1% of their life. And that was when you lived on a ranch and wrote in diaries. In the information age, that life is spread thinner on at least 3 different social platforms, many of them allowing digital photography.

As a parent of a soon-to-become-teenager, I know that I should be involved in and educating their digital life. I don’t mean to be intrusive, but present. I need to know and be aware of online dangers and things like cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking, or abusive/dangerous/suspicious messages. I need to educate my kids about these dangers, and even advocate for such education/training in their schools. At home, of course it helps to create an environment of trust and dialogue where my children will feel comfortable telling me about their challenges.
On the other hand, when we go to a medical professional to better treat our ailments, sometimes we give up very personal details, stuff that might even be considered evil in the regular (or cultural) domain. One would argue that to this extent parents should consider entering into the privacy of our children in order to prescribe the best remedies.
I agree. Parents should be allowed to go into the privacy of their children precisely and only in a framework of prevention, counseling.
Well, what’s on your mind?

 

2 Commencement Speeches I liked

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Glossophobia is still the world’s #1 fear, yet we have people who seem to have been born with a golden mic in their mouths. They wow us all the time. One of the best seasons to feed on the genius that oratory can be in the commencement speech cycle. They come once a year can carry platitudes and/or conjecture, but often they are delivered by people from all walks of life to inspire and challenge that next generation of leaders. Here are 2 that I took time to dive into…

Mark Zuckerberg – As a young man growing up and working in Africa’s nascent technology space, this man, perhaps together with Google, have had the biggest influence on my generation. I love that he is coming into Africa to see how far a dollar really goes.

“Change starts local. Even global changes start small — with people like us. In our generation, the struggle of whether we connect more, whether we achieve our biggest opportunities, comes down to this — your ability to build communities and create a world where every single person has a sense of purpose.”

My work is in Leadership development, and for me these words cannot ring any truer. If you have heard me say it once, you have heard me say it again, I love computers and all the magic but I love people more. If we can give people a sense of purpose, build a community around service, we cannot get it wrong.

 “Ideas don’t come out fully formed. They only become clear as you work on them. You just have to get started. If I had to understand everything about connecting people before I began, I never would have started Facebook.”

In his book, Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi writes – Be brave enough to put it all out there, stuff that worked and stuff that didn’t, with your insights on why and how to fix it for next time.

Zuckerberg is famous for dropping out of Havard, but that is not his most proud failure – its facemash, a prank site he put up which drew attention of the ad board. As he awaited his fate, he met Priscilla and as he says, “ But without Facemash I wouldn’t have met Priscilla, and she’s the most important person in my life, so you could say it was the most important thing I built in my time here.”

Oh how we need to teach the virtue of failing smart.

 “I hope you find the courage to make your life a blessing.”

You can read (or watch) Mr. Zuckerberg’s full speech.

 

Donald J. Trump – Quite frankly, as a non-citizen global health advocate working in the expensive bubble that New York is, I happen to share a home city with the man many of my ilk have come to hate. But he is still the leader of the free world, so we got to listen.

“Adversity makes you stronger.  Don’t give in.  Don’t back down.  And never stop doing what you know is right.  Nothing worth doing ever, ever, ever came easy.  And the more righteous you are, the more opposition that you will face. “

…this after the rhetoric on how the media has treated him and his political sojourn thus far.  That’s not how the speech begins, though; he dishes out quite many thankful remarks to leaders, and graduates alike. He also pardoned cadets for minor offences and offered them a clean slate. I wish that life and the rest of us did this for our young people – that at the turn of important milestones is NOT the only opportunity to turn a new page, and a clean slate, but that you have that opportunity daily. Yes, every time the sun comes up, it’s a new slate, a new chance to make it better.

“Just days from now, you will put this vital skill into the service of your ships, your sectors, and your country.  You’ll serve as deck watch officers on our amazing Coast Guard cutters. You’ll bring law and order to the dangerous waters as boating officers.  You will block illegal shipments of cash, weapons and drugs.  You will battle the scourge of human trafficking — something that people are not talking about, one of the big, big plagues of the world.  Not our country only — the world. 

The call to service continues to ring out, as if a call to this generation. I could not agree more. Service is the new way to work; service is the new entry to employment.

Americans will place their trust in your leadership, just as they have trusted in generations of Coast Guard men and women, with respect for your skill, with awe at your courage, and with the knowledge that you will always be ready.  You are Always Ready.    

For a man under so much fire, this speech came off as very composed. Perhaps thoughtful of his first world trip, and realizing the opportunity to speak a less combative audience, Mr Trump did make some strong remarks which are clearly of a bigger vision than his own political lifeline.

You can read the full speech text.

You can catch up on extra snippets as captured by Business Insider and Fast Company

Looking for a Mentor?

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Last week, I conferred with a friend who was overwhelmed with life, and in our conversation, I asked about who her personal advisory board is – she seemed clueless on how to find mentors.

As a young christian man, I have always taken many cues from the Bible. One of those is the leadership development style of Paul the apostle and a young man named Titus. The story is in the book of Titus, tucked between the books of 2nd Timothy and Philemon.

There must be older men who are willing to invest time in young men to mentor them. Surprisingly the bible has many examples of this: Abraham/Lot; Jethro/Moses, Eli/Samuel; Nathan/David; Elijah/Elisha; Barnabas/Saul; Paul/Timothy… and women: Naomi/Ruth; Elizabeth/Mary. If you are a young person and you need to develop in your own leadership and personal growth, you need a mentor.

Well, naturally the next question is who makes a great mentor? Titus 1:5-9 provides some hints on the qualities of a great mentor:

  1. In their Personal life, they need to be blameless, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not violent, sober-minded, holy and self controlled – notice that these qualities were primarily set for church leaders, but the pattern is clear, a mentor needs to be someone grounded and clearly sober.
  2. Family Life: They need to be a husband of one wife, with faithful children. – I think this one was quite insightful for me. Its been debated whether a traditional family and/or having children is a sign or mark of a leader. I think not, but I think that one with a family and children has more opportunities to practice other virtues of life, including sacrifice, responsibility, and often has more to live for than just themselves. This should make for a good person to learn from.
  3. Social Life: They need to be hospitable, just, not corrupt and not given to drunkenness. I know that we like to bucket our social and professional lives, and in some cases we like to say “my private life” – but really is it? As a leader, do you really ever have 5 sides to the coin? Or is it that who you are in your private confines must be consistent with your public self. I’d choose consistency in a mentor.
  4. Financial Life: A steward of God, not greedy for money –  I think being a steward of God is a high and lofty standard, that requires a world view where one self is not the center of everything that they do. Does your mentor look like someone driven by the desire to get rich at all costs? Don’t get me wrong, money does make smooth so many ways and roads, heck, the church in Paul’s time needed money, as the church still does today. But this is about the attitude towards money that your mentor has – because it might pass on to you.
  5. Professional Life: not accused of insubordination, a lover of whats good, able to correct others, faithful to their values – This is perhaps a hard one. While our attitude to neighbors and garbage needs to be the same regardless, everyone has a different professional path – the goal here is not to cherry pick your dream job, rather the goal is to pick people who epitomize great careers and success in different fields. Unless proven exceptionally consistent, is is harder for your peers to fill mentor roles because their track record is not long enough. Your mentor needs to be someone who inspires you when you look at their work and achievements.

I hope that this list will help not just my friend Susan, but many other young people to look to sit at the feet of the right crop of leaders, men and women of sound mind, exemplary character and inspiring professional and social lives. As we learn from them, we will set the stage for our children’s children.

My Take on #RoadSafetyUG

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I grew up in this city, and my first experience with road carnage did not take a while, a school mate of mine, at Bat Valley Primary School was de-skinned under a speeding taxi between Little Flowers and YMCA. Needless to mention, it was the first of many lives to waste on our roads.

It is amazing but a boda boda may kill you faster than HIV Aids and Malaria! The thing is, we have to do something drastic, something disruptive if we want to see different results on our roads.

#1 – Age of Our Vehicles

We must make a conscious decision about how old the cars we let into this country are. Note that age alone doesn’t make a car less useful, but a significant percentage of the cars we import are used. Wear and Tear cannot be masked by a cute coat of paint or a new registration, we must consciously decide that this country is worth progressively newer cars that tend to carry with them newer features and technologies for safety. We need to invert the bell shape for taxation of cars around the 5 to 6-year-old mark. These cars will already contribute various taxes through regular consumption of materials (such as fuel and lubricants) and services (such as insurance and jobs in maintenance).

#2 – Road Worthiness Check for Vehicles

Every 2 years, without fail, every car in and around Kampala must attend a road worthiness check, a criterion that must be developed not democratically, but by law. We may not get it right the first time, but we have to start somewhere. Computerized checks would reveal the condition of cars – especially if they are not older than a certain age.

This certificate will not ensure less accidents, but it will guarantee that any we have will not have their effects multiplied because of the condition of the car. Still, I think that we deserve this for the future of this nation.

If you have sat in a taxi lately, ramming 12 people in the back, it is a maddening surprise that we expect people to come out alive.

#3 – Driver Qualifications

I sat a driving test, but all I ever drove was the safety of Naguru’s deserted colonial streets. I wonder if the officer who gave my test would be willing to take it to the busy highway sections of Kakira and the Northern Bypass.

Do we need a simulator for road tests, just like pilots do? Perhaps we can resort to a low tech projected mobile phone car game – because these do a better job of simulating traffic conditions on the road, far more than anything I have experienced in real life.

Then there is the occasional boda that will cut you in, and the self-entitled taxi driver who cuts you off because he keeps left.

How many hours, simulated or real, does one need before a driving license can be issued? And why do we issue 3-yr licenses to first time drivers?

#4 – Digitized Road Signage

I have seen solar powered digital road signs used during construction, and they come in handy no matter the visibility, but usually the next time you will see them is when another road section is under construction.

They work so well, use very little power, are mobile and can be deployed in the unique of the moment yet we do not use them. Every consignment for arms and riot gear should include a significant amount of these signs as the effects on the roads kill more people every month than riots ever do in the whole year.

#5 – Reputation as a Deterrent

It’s time to add to the fines. You need to pay the fine, for the offence you have committed, but you need to be a part of the solution going forward.

How can we use something so precious as reputation to drive the point home? We need to be able to withdraw driving rights and privileges – in fact we can make a mess of it by publishing offenders who we do not expect to be driving, for regular periods such as a month, 3, 6 or even 12.

Every offending driver will suffer reputational risk on 2 fronts, Suspension and Withdrawal. Every repeat offence while under suspension automatically extends your penalty. If caught driving under a withdrawal ban, you will start with Community service (directing rush hour traffic) and progress to jail.

#6 – Complimentary Services

So we can renew car insurance at the point of road worthiness check, right? We can also supply First AID boxes that are suited to a particular vehicle type, at the same check. And we can ask that suppliers of car materials provide for at least 2 year guarantee on materials such as tires. The point is, when you begin to do one thing, and you bring all complimentary services around it, so that drivers can be saved the burden of picking up services from various points.

Insurance companies should have higher premiums for cars with accidents, and should consider excepting cars driven by drivers on the permit withdrawal plan. Comprehensive premium covers should be favored over third-party covers, so that we can begin to count the medical and life costs of road carnage. Cars with regular service schedules and manufacturer guided part replacements should be incentivized.

#8 – Road Safety Investment

Now how do we invest for all these things to happen? We need a percentage of that traffic fine to go financing road safety. Your fines should contribute directly to purchase of road signs, painting of tarmac signage (did I mention community service above?) and sustenance of research and planning for road safety.

Of course this is multi-sectoral, lest an entity takes the power and control and we see exponential road fines being handed to offenders. The solution here is not to banish you beyond returning to the roads, it’s to engage more of you in the solutions to problems caused by your behavior on the road. 

#7 – Analytics and Data

Finally, we need to tie this all together in a simple data and information system – no expensive procurements, we already have the passport recognition system at the airports, and we already have barcode scanners which we can use to pull up a history. Yes, we also have 3G and 4G in many places in this city, and we can get 4G SIM cards for free (or as part of community support) from the telecoms.

If a traffic officer cannot tell my driver history within 2 minutes of holding my driving permit, and cannot tell if the car am driving has been involved in an accident before, then he has already lost the mind game, and (possibly) the moral authority to hold me accountable.

But of specific value is the level of relationships we can create from data mined by whipping up a simple information system. The devil is always in the details, and currently we lack these and are not able to make any informed management decisions.

Unless we are willing to be intentionally disruptive to the habits of drivers, and the ecosystem of vehicle operation and use in this country, we may huff and puff whenever we have a significant life-sucking accident, but may never muscle the changes we need to see, in order to save lives on the roads.

NEITHER GOD NOR THE DEVIL HAD A HAND IN IT. JULIET TUMWESIGYE ‘S BLOOD IS UPON OUR HEADS AND OUR HEADS ALONE.

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Everyone who cares about what we have been through as a community, as a blood stained society, read this. Now.

diary of a headless chicken

I have refused to attribute the death of Juliet to mystic powers.

Distress drove me to inquire rhetorically as the bereaved often do to a friend;

But Why Ruth? Why???

And my friend true to the form of believers gave me the ageless answer,

Nobody knows Anne, but I guess God had his reasons.

It was a phone conversation and I had neither the air time nor the energy to drag Ruth into a debate about the physical and metaphysical. I knew Ruth was trying to cope and that was her way of coping. I had to find mine.

I went through it. Cried. Shunned food. Took to social media. Showed Julie’s photos to those who didn’t know her, bringing  them in on my grief… followed those going for burial to Ibanda online… anything to numb the pain,  to let my frustration out. To send Julie off.

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10.8M UGX per District Laptop Computer

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For context,  please see below: ExpensiveComputers.jpg

Also, assume the May (based on this date of posting) 2016 USD:UGX exchange rate: 3320. Usually the daily rate can be picked form Uganda Revenue Authority or Bank of Uganda.

This means that 25 computers cost 270,580,000.00UGX (In words, two hundred seventy million, five hundred and eighty thousand shillings only). The unit cost of each is: 10,823,200UGX (In words: Ten million, eight hundred and twenty three thousand two hundred shillings only.)

Now before you raise your eye brows, there are actual computers that cost this much.

Apple’s 15 inch MacBook Pro (bells and whistles + ethernet and display adapters) will set you back – minus shipping and taxes – $3257 /10.8M UGX. Build it Here. HP also has an Elite Book 1040 which is, pre tax, $3242/10.76M UGX.

Now to fact check the story, Sarah Mukasa is indeed the Vice Chairperson of the LGFC, and Dunstan Balaba is the Adjumani District CAO. This Facebook post places the news report on the morning of 10th May 2016.

Now that the elephants are out of the way – lets understand why and how the work of a District Chief Administrative Officer involves the revenue collections and why super expensive laptops particularly assist in this work. I should like to add that Uganda has 134 districts, and if we supplied 1 for each CAO, we still have a deficit of – 1,179,728,800UGX (or at the rate above, $355,340).

There are reasons why you need a super expensive laptop when you are in Adjumani or Kaberamaido – Retina Display may still be able to give you capabilities against the super bright tropical sunshine. A CAO needs to see his numbers clearly, all the time.

Also, a CAOs laptop needs to be able to process graphics akin to a graphics designer’s laptop. There would be no mistake on the actual shade of red on those state functions and we all know how the color yellow needs to remain with a banana republic integrity.

These laptops are capable of Skype (full HD, wide screen mode) and other video conferencing tools which would make it possible for His Excellence to contact all the CAOs without shipping them to Entebbe.

You know how internet connectivity can be tricky upcountry? Why should a CAO not get a device that connects to any kind of internet connection – 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G and any other G you can think of. This is strategic.

Lets also consider that with the census numbers out, every CAO needs atleast 1terabyte (1 terabyte is 1000 gigabytes) of space to keep profiles of every tax payer in their district. This is a revenue collection exercise, remember? The combined computer storage space distributed at this level of public administration alone, for the whole of Uganda would be a cool 134 terabytes.

Now, onto the small matter of a CAO doing Revenue Collection.

Why do you think this is strange? Have you not heard of collaborative synergy? URA can be in Kampala (incidentally, Kampala is not a district!) and the CAOs can be in the districts – viola – revenue collection at 100% country wide coverage! What is so difficult about this for you to understand?

Now, for the Procurement side of things – how is it that PPDA did not find more expensive laptops? I am sure that our CAOs can do so much more, with computers, than revenue collection – like managing these district portals – a Uganda Communications Commission project.

It is possible to get a super expensive laptop because it is unlikely that Uganda PPDA rules for software would have favoured Free and Open Source Software over proprietary alternatives – a CAOs computer would have a paid Operating System (Windows), that needs a paid Anti-Virus, a paid Office Suite (Microsoft Office) – at the very minimum. Add a couple of other tools in this lock-in environment and you will see that the actual computer might cost less.

There is indeed a way to acquire 25 laptops for $81500. Only in Uganda.