The government of Uganda has been criticised for proposed changes to regulations which could increase state control over internet access. A report from the Daily Monitor, which cites a communication from privately-run Uganda Internet eXchange Point (UIXP), says that draft regulations from the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) will require all local ISPs to channel traffic through a Designated National Internet Exchange Point (DNIXP), which will be controlled by the government. Furthermore, the report says that plans to create a single national backbone network run by the state will also increase government influence, effectively nationalising communications infrastructure.
With internet blackouts having accompanied presidential and parliamentary elections in 2016, some critics say the current proposals are politically motivated ahead of the next planned vote in 2021, while they will also create a virtual government monopoly which has been labelled as ‘counter-productive’.
The UCC has defended its stance. Fred Otunu, director of corporate affairs at the regulator, says: ‘It is not about nationalising but aims to avoid duplication and government playing a central role in providing infrastructure. The issue of the national broadband policy should be understood in the same context like we talk about other infrastructure, whether roads, airports and so forth. ICT had been thought that it should be left to the private sector, but the world over is saying this is a sector that the government should have a central interest in. If government is providing road infrastructure, why shouldn’t government provide ICT infrastructure because this is a cyber-super highway.’
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, wireless and fixed broadband penetration rates in Uganda are some way below regional averages.