The announcement of free public WiFi in Kampala city was arguably the best announcement that the government of Uganda made for the Kampala citizens in recent years until it wasn’t. A few weeks after Ugandans were exposed to the MYUG WiFi network, the reviews came in and they were bad. The problems people faced with the WiFi network ranged from connectivity, availability and the login process. After a couple of failures many Kampala citizens rubbished the WiFi and the whole system soon followed suit. Despite all the negative things that were said about this internet, I strongly believe that the government’s NITA was onto something great but just went about it wrong.
The free public WiFi was indeed the best thing the government had done in an effort to the digitize the country and keep up with modern city trends and if the resources allow, it should be redone, this time with better planning and execution. Despite what many might think about this, there are reasons I believe that having free public internet would serve NITA and government well. They are as follows Persona profiling
If you use the internet on a regular basis or if you have a smartphone, it is agreeable that the tech giants Google, Apple and Microsoft know more about you than most if not all your friends. Google’s complex business model is powered by people using their services. Google creates personas of people based on their internet habits and sells this information to advertisers. Now the government should not have this much power but, with a public WiFi network they can get an image of people’s internet behavior such as how long they stay online, what kind of content they are searching for among other things. This data goes a long way to informing the government on the needs of people based on their internet habits and searches. The fight against pornography
One of the negative things about the internet is pornography. It is a bad thing and can have far reaching effects on people that get addicted to it. The government even funded an entire committee to fight it but there was a challenge fighting porn on the digital front. The so called porn detection machine was never going to take flight but there is an opportunity to take the fight to pornography right at the source. According to a 2010 study, about 4% of the internet is pornographic content which accounts for about 42,000 sites out of the 1 million most visited sites. The same study suggests that about 13% of internet searches were of erotic content. Recently some of the internet service providers started to block access to porn sites but its hard to know all of them unless you can somehow list them down. How then does one get a list of porn sites? One provides free public WiFi network. With free WiFi, some people are sure to search for or open porn sites, all NITA has to do is get a list of these sites and they would know which ones to block without the need for brute force.
Some people might argue that these reasons would stop people from using the public internet but, data enabled internet comes with a tax, a tax free public internet could be a good enough incentive.