Connecting villages in northern Uganda: Internet Now!

Inside an Internet Now! supercenter in Gulu University
Inside an Internet Now! supercenter in Gulu University

Internet Now! is an Oxfam project seeking to improve people’s lives across 100 communities in northern Uganda. 

Internet Now! connects villages with the internet, in areas of northern Uganda which have been affected by conflict from the Lord's Resistance Army. The Internet Now! computer centers create employment as well as give access to an agricultural commodity platform, and other services, all driven by specially designed information technology. 

The micro-centers are small metal containers housing 5-6 computers. Local young people aged between 18 to 30 years, an age group severely affected by unemployment in the war-ravaged region, are employed to do “microwork” at the centers. Microwork is a type of business process outsourcing breaking large cloud-based tasks down into several parts.

Funding for education

Dennis Opige is 27 years old and works at Internet Now!’s micro-centre in Awach.
Dennis Opige is 27 years old and works at Internet Now!’s micro-centre in Awach.

Dennis Opige is a law student using the internet not just to do his studies but to fund them too. Since starting his degree four years ago, he has struggled to find enough money for his education and is currently taking a year out of his degree to save.

From the age of twelve Dennis had worked as a farm laborer doing backbreaking work, planting crops and brick-laying, to pay for his schooling himself. But now he is earning money for his education by working at one of the newly establish Internet Now! micro-centers in the trading village of Awach, northern Uganda. By working Monday to Friday, Dennis earns 270,000 Ugandan Shillings ($104) a month and is able to save roughly half for his degree. 

Plans for change

Like many young people involved in Internet Now!, Dennis has big plans for how he can transform the fate of his fellow people living in Acholi sub-region.

Dennis grew up as an orphan after one of his parents was killed in the war, and despite funding his own education single-handedly since the age of twelve, he says he has not “lost trust when it comes to making a difference in his own community.”

When Dennis eventually finishes his law degree, he plans to “reduce the inequality gap in Uganda by offering legal advice to the poor.”

He believes micro-centers, like the one where he works in Awach, could provide the perfect place for poor people to access legal information through the internet. But for now, Dennis is saving the money he earns for university and in the evening uses the internet connection at the micro-center to access judicial material so he can continue studying even though he can’t currently afford to be in university.

Growing a business

Internet Now! is being funded by Oxfam until 100 centers are established by the end of 2014. By 2015, Internet Now! will run independently as a for-profit social enterprise called SINFA (Stichting Internet Now Foundation).

Internet Now! in numbers

  • By 2015, 200,000 people will have visited the centers to use the internet
  • 45,000 people will have directly earned an income from the project by 2015
  • $5 per day is the average earning for each micro-worker
  • 100 rural villages will be connected with a high-speed fibre-optic connection
  • Computers at the centers run on 23W and are powered entirely by solar energy.
A view of one of Internet Now!’s micro-centers at Keyo, a small village outside Gulu. Photo: James Akena/Oxfam
A view of one of Internet Now!’s micro-centers at Keyo, a small village outside Gulu. Photo: James Akena/Oxfam.

This groundbreaking and innovative project has been realized through generous funding received from the Dutch National Postcode Lottery’s Dream Fund. It is supported by three implementation partners – the Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), Inveneo and Samasource.