By Paul Ndiho
As the growth pace of the information age quickens, high speed Internet access across Africa is becoming more widely available on the continent. Uganda’s Makerere University, one of Universities in E. Africa is taking advantage of this technology advance by offering free internet access to all its students.
In many parts of Africa, students using desk top computers or personal laptops to do course works and connect with friends on the social networks via the internet is something not taken for granted.
“This computer Lab at Makerere University in Kampala Uganda is arguably one of the biggest labs in the country. Hundreds if not thousands of students come here every day, to search the web, do their course works and do so many other things that they can access online.
Accessing high speed internet in most parts of the country has not been possible. Because of slow and patchy internet services from providers that rely heavily on limited and very expensive satellite links. But in the last couple of years, here at Makerere, the university decided to connect the entire campus. And now the students have free wireless internet.
Ochaya Kenneth is pursuing a bachelors degree in information systems at the school of computing and information technology, Marekere University. He says the university’s decision to connect the whole campus could not have come at a better time.
“Ok, in the college of computing and information technology we have computer laboratories but students have their own laptops and they would love to do their own projects on the laptops. But the administration decided to give them this first floor where they can access easy wireless and use internet to enhance their projects and studies.”
This computer lab has become a hot spot. On average, over 500 students at the university frequent this place to surf the net because of the free service. They say that it’s faster and that it’s transforming their way of life and how they communicate with each other and the rest of the world. I spoke with three Software Engineering students studying for a test.
“Well this is a wireless lab so you can access internet, most people come here to do their course works and assignments and also finish up with their personal work but most of the time people are here to discuss and research.”
“Same reason and the internet is faster here sometimes.”
“The internet is faster plus the whole fact that you are allowed to talk, you prefer reading from here than going to the library.”
Another reason why the students come to this computer lab is that they are allowed to talk and interact with each other.
“Mostly I come here to do my academic stuff — as in to make some research on my work and secondly to communicate with my friends on the Internet.”
Free internet also allows students to do a little of business and check on what’s happening on the social networking sites.
“I gain much from the Internet here because most of the things are online. So at times, I do some online businesses.”
“I pretty much come here to search the Internet and do some face booking, and chat with my friends.”
But not every student is excited about the free high speed Internet. Some students complain that the networks are to slow and that it takes them forever to log on to the net because of the number of people using the internet at a certain given time.
According to research commissioned by ESET, a global cyber security company, almost half of internet users worldwide connect to the web using computers and portable devices as the primary connection device: Desk tops are the most popular, followed by lap tops, smart phones, and tablets. This is indicative of the demand for Wi-Fi hotspots. The students are excited about the future of Africa’s internet service.
“The internet is becoming a basic need there are a lot of smartphones and laptops plus the internet cost are reducing by the day. Plus there is a stiff competition between companies which are now providing offers. So I see the internet I really promising.”
“We get to view other people’s code when programming Interpret it in a different way and use it to develop other applications. So it’s really helping us plus we interact with other people in other nations.”
Technology experts note that Wireless technology may be convenient, especially for travelers since Wi-Fi hot spots are plentiful, but users should guard against criminals prowling networks. For these students, the sky is the limit.