New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: Airtel-UGO Deal to Shape Uganda's Online Image

A deal that will go a long way in helping Uganda generate, manage, project and control its own online local content and image to the world has been signed.

The Airtel Uganda and Uganda Goes Online (UGO) partnership signed on Tuesday at the Kampala Serena Hotel is unique in that it allows Airtel Uganda customers free access to the UGO portal, while UGO provides a one stop centre for anything Ugandan. Customers log onto the UGO portal free using their Internet enabled devices and access free 100% local Ugandan content.

In the deal, Airtel will provide free access for one year through the UGO portal. Announcing the launch, Airtel managing director V.G Somasekhar said there are many positives about Uganda, including its very warm people, tourism and an entrepreneurial spirit that needs to be projected from within and not allowed to be controlled from outside. "Ugandans are good people who will keep a smile after a hard day and they work hard," said V.G. Somasekhar.

Somasekhar emphasised that the time is ripe to clean up the bad image of the country that has consistently been controlled by Western media stereotypes. Taking the positives of the country online is a powerful opportunity, especially because of the growing online community.

The significance of data, especially mobile Internet has grown to the extent that making calls today is the fi fth most used function. There are 3.2 million Ugandans with access to Internet, a figure ICT minister Ruhakana Rugunda said should shoot up because of initiatives such as Airtel's that provide free access.

Rugunda commended the telecom for empowering Ugandans to embrace and enjoy the different aspects of Ugandan content. He said the initiative should not only sell tourism wealth, but also expound on local markets, talents and culture. "It is indeed a timely venture because Uganda has a rich heritage and knowledge base that should be recognised, recorded and shared for the benefi t of people both in Uganda and throughout the world," said Rugunda.

Somasekhar said Airtel has invested $135m in two years and one of the inroads has been building 356 sites with 3G coverage. UGO managing director Boaz Shani said his firm has been promoting local content for the last one year and has been pushing local corporates to get their content shared with the world.

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