Uganda

Raising Andela’s Pocket Change

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How do you fix a thing that isnt broken?

John Doe was terrific at Java. John left the university, worked for a software company here, and even found time to lecture at the University. A USAID project came looking and John was the natural fit – top and exceptional Java talent to run a mega IT project. Soon, the project came to a wrap. John – now accustomed to an 8-figure salary and great perks couldn’t get rehired by regular companies. John couldn’t find gigs small enough to sustain his life. Also, there weren’t many Java projects in town – the tech stacks were fast and fluid, the specialist left feeling jurrassic! After a while, John landed an opportunity – but he had to relocate abroad. His skill, though precious and top-notch, is now fit only in specific markets, for people who are ready to pay 8 figures (I know, wait, I mean Ugx). You could say, John is not a fit for this Ugandan “ecosystem” anymore.

Andela is currently being vilified for what smaller software companies are now calling “a drain of the ecosystem” – of all the top developer talent. Junior developers are not spared, they even run a teen-code club (by the way its an excellent free program!). What happens to this talent? The simple version – Get in, get a mac, get trained, and for 4 years develop, as part of a team, world class software, for a global market! Surely what’s evil about this?

Until you start to see the net (and unintended) effects on the ecosystem. Andela requires that developers work in teams, on solutions that are not born of your neighborhood, for a client that stays in a city you only see in the movies. You get a world class education in software development techniques and a great office to work in (Kampala, Kigali, Lagos, Nairobi, New York, Austin, San Fransisco with HQ on the Internet!). Moreover, soon enough, you start earning a really great 7 figure salary. For some of our impressionable young people, its hard to look back. The problems you solve for clients in the global market are so big.  Its like tasting the fruit of the garden… Your eyes are opened, you are wiser, so much more – and now, your peers are in Mumbai, San Francisco, Barcelona and Toronto!

Again – you have to ask, what is wrong with all this?

Andela believes that while brilliance is evenly distributed, opportunity is not. Their mission is to make available opportunities to brilliant talent on the African continent. (Strong Applause Here).

Here’s what I think Andela should consider, in repairing the unintended consequences of its brilliantly executed model:

1 – Reconsider hiring talent straight from the University – because such impressionable kids will loose an opportunity to exercise their skill locally, before it becomes available globally. Moreover on the back of holistic development, Andela would benefit from hiring great software development talent that has actually experienced industry – Education, Agriculture, Health, Finance etc.

2 – Ask your Devs to Develop Others – as part of their full-time contract. We already know that training others supports mastery of any skill. Holding 2-3 mandatory community training sessions by 15 senior devs will create a give-back attitude, strengthen mentor-coach skills and add to the soft skills needed to produce a great Andelan. Just their tee and mac is sufficient branding. Moreover, the social capital one gains from that tends to be invaluable a few years later. Where its happening, take the ALC away from the building.

3 – Give Devs back to the industry – without turning your own lights off. Andela is perfectly positioned to support devs – in partnership with carefully selected local non-profit partners – to work on local technology solutions. This partnership model would be available to companies below a certain budget threshold. Carefully managed, this model has every opportunity to use local problems as the sandbox for training and development – a much added value.

4 – Some people are not cut out for working away from home – or relocation, or working in 4 time-zones. Some people are  perfectly fit for the local market. Andela can create a pricing model that makes such talent available for the local recruitment needs. Yes, they wont be paid top dollar relative to their colleagues, but that’s the opportunity cost of choosing to enjoy all 12 hours of the equatorial sun! And there’s nothing wrong with that.

This morning when I went over to the Andela breakfast, it was to honor an invitation to hear President and Co-founder Christina Sass. I enjoyed listening to her passion, but mostly to her compassion. I agree, we needn’t attach intention where there is none. Andela is not evil, and no they are not snatching the top 1%. Andela have a model, that works. Kampala has talent, that’s brilliant. The world has opportunities, ready to be filled.

Let’s not fail to feed the very ecosystem on which this model thrives.

 

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An Experience for My Education

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reBlogged from Amplify

My dearly beloved late mother desired that I should become a medical doctor. As it were, I gravitated to computers instead. In my short professional career, I have found my place using computers — and information systems — to improve health outcomes. From the linux based African access point, to becoming part of the Uganda EMR Society, I have marveled at the way information technology is utilized in the Ugandan health system. Suffice it to say, progress has been slower than my liking. But that’s another story.

When I realised I would not attend medical school, I decided that I would pursue something closely connected. A computer science graduate, my work experience experience has spanned Netmark Nigeria household surveys to telling the story of pediatric HIV in Uganda. Along this journey, my colleagues have included architects, designers, communications specialists, and data scientists, to name a few.

Find the rest of this post on GHC’s Amplify publication.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

 

KCCA, Stop the Sugar Coated Incompetence

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Thanks to @jameswire for this piece – I absolutely agree.

A visit to the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) Website led me to read about the Directorate of Physical Planning and I saw these opening lines, “To plan the development of the functional urba…

Source: KCCA, Stop the Sugar Coated Incompetence

IDLELO7 Launch – Kampala, Uganda.

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THE FOSSFA CHAIR SPEECH AT THE OCCASION OF THE LAUNCH OF IDLELO7
23rd MARCH 2016.

The Right Honorable Prime Minister of Uganda,

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of ICT of Uganda,

The Executive Director of National IT Authority of Uganda,

The Executive Director of Uganda Communications Commission,

The Council, Free Software and Open Source Foundation of Africa,

Members of the African Open Source Community,

To all FOSS Developers, Users and Supporters,

My name is Seun Ojedeji (@seun_oj), FOSSFA Chair and it is on behalf of the FOSSFA community that I invite you all to IDLELO7 –

For more than 15 years, the Free Software and Open Source Foundation of Africa has held Africa’s premier open source summit, for Africans, on the African continent. We have been to Johannesburg (2006), Dakar (2008), Accra (2010), Abuja (2012), Nairobi (2014) and now we are excited to be coming to Kampala- for the 7th African Summit on Free Software and the Digital Commons which will hold in August 15th to 19th of 2016

The Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa (FOSSFA) has its origin in the ICT Policy and Civil Society Workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia held between 6th and 8th November 2002. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, convener, was acting on the mandate given to it by the Bamako Bureau established by the African Council of ICT ministers in the continent’s preparation towards the World Summit on the Information Society – WSIS. As a pan-African FOSS Foundation, the vision of FOSSFA is to promote the use of FOSS and the FOSS model in African development

FOSSFA exists to:
• Promote the use of the open source model in African development.
• Promote the integration and adoption of FOSS in national policies
• Coordinate Africa’s Free Software efforts
• Use its expertise to add value to FOSS initiatives in the continent
• Act as Africa’s FOSS voice
• Play an interface role between international and continental FOSS efforts
• Contribute FOSS applications towards the achievement of women empowerment, the Millennium Development Goals and sustainable development in Africa.
• Promote African FOSS expertise, creativity and industry
• Partner with development organizations who share same goals with FOSSFA

FOSSFA is incorporated (72193 C2/GB) under the Section 24 of the Companies Act of 2001 as a non-profit Pan-African organization in the Republic of Mauritius. Its members are individuals, organizations and agencies that share similar goals across the world. FOSSFA is headed by an elected council, which chooses from within itself, members to act as its executives. Every 2 years, on the occasion of each Idlelo, the Foundation hosts a General Assembly of its members to renew the mandate of the council.

http://www.fossfa.net  is the official website.

What is the Open Source Model?

The term open source began as a way to describe open access to software source code and the collaborative model for how it is developed around the following principles: Openness, Transparency, Collaboration, Diversity, and Rapid prototyping.

The open source model is more than a software development model, it’s a culture. A culture that intentionally establishes an all inclusive approach to solving community problems using technology. The open source way is about applying the principles of open source software development beyond software and technology.

We can learn more from each other when information is open. A free exchange of ideas is critical to creating an environment where people are allowed to learn and use existing information toward creating new ideas. When we are free to collaborate, we create. We can solve problems that no one person may be able to solve on their own. Rapid prototypes can lead to rapid failures, but that leads to better solutions found faster. When you’re free to experiment, you can look at problems in new ways and look for answers in new places. You can then learn by doing.

In a meritocracy, the best ideas win. Everyone has access to the same information. Successful work determines which projects rise and gather effort from the community. Communities are formed around a common purpose. They bring together diverse ideas and share work. Together, a global community can create beyond the capabilities of any one individual. It multiplies effort and shares the work. Together, we can do more.

Free and Open Source Software also known as FOSS solutions enable us to work with legal and secure software that can be integrated with both older, legacy and new systems. Specifically, FOSS solutions provide access to software that can be localized, both in terms of language and specific contexts. They can also be adapted to specific organizational or project needs. Whilst uptake may yet have some challenges in the short term, IDLELO7 shall strive to plead the case for FOSS as a more sustainable and economically viable option for Africa.

IDLELO7 shall provide us with the privilege to participate and interact with a lineup of experienced presenters working on FOSS projects, platforms and rapidly evolving social network tools and applications.

Why is FOSSFA coming to Kampala for the 2016 Summit?

FOSSFA continues to enjoy a significant community of active FOSS advocates who live and work here in Uganda. The FOSSFA Council and executive has enjoyed the expertise and energy of committed Ugandans since inception.

It is the effort of these Ugandans, together with the National IT Authority that was recognized in an excellent bid to host the 7th African summit, beating strong competition from Durban South Africa, and Calabar International Conference Centre in Nigeria.

We also recognize that NITA-U has taken steps in drafting the National FOSS Policy and as FOSSFA, we are excited to bring our continent-wide experience to partner with the government of Uganda on charting the course towards a sustainable Free Software and the Open Source model.

Uganda is also uniquely placed as a leader in the region, stabilizing and pacifying neighbors. Uganda remains integral to the Great Lakes region of Africa. Two years ago, COMESA issued FOSS adoption guidelines, and now Kampala has an opportunity to lead the conversations on the review of adoption of these by COMESA member states.

FOSSFA community and participants at IDLELO will discuss various topics that would help promote technology innovations using FOSS tools and resources. There will be capacity building sessions which would seek to empower participants at the event on the use of FOSS. Join us at the pre-conference event and learn about new developments in software and hardware, various web technologies like Javascript, PHP, Ruby, HTML, GIT, Android, and much more.

About IDLELO7

The primary goal of IDLELO7 is to increase the awareness, integration and adoption of free and open source software (FOSS) in Africa within the IDLELO7 theme emphasising how such Free and Open Source solutions are being (can be) used to achieve Open Data and Open Government frameworks.

In Kampala, we expect to learn what the Government of Uganda roadmap to Openness highlights, and also what COMESA and other development partners have planned. We invite NITA-U, UCC and other entities towards FOSSFA Membership, as a sign of commitment to the Open Source Model.

We look forward to welcoming all of Africa to Kampala, this August, exactly 153 days from today. We look forward to gaining more FOSSFA Memberships from the summit in Kampala, both individual and organizational.

SIGNED

Seun Ojedeji
FOSSFA Council Chair