Monthly Archives: May 2016

Is Uganda’s Lands Information System really Computerised?

Lands_UgandaOn two occasions I have seen this advert  by the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development (MLHUD) inviting the general public to verify land title information in the new computerised land titles. They typically organise Land Registration Open Days, pitch camp in a specific location and expect every Wire, Mugwanya and Nabweteme to run to them and find out more about the status of their land.

The Ministry under “The Design, Supply, Installation and Implementation of National Land Information System Infrastructure (DeSINLISI)” project is undertaking measures to modernise land administration in Uganda. Alot has been done in the back-end as regards computerisation of the records and compared with the past, what we have currently is relatively impressive.

There is this famous story of a Muhima elder who boarded a bus for the first time to visit his son in law. Upon entering, he left his walking stick at the door of the bus (customarily, he is used to leaving the stick at the entrance of the house before he enters). When the bus reached it’s destination, he disembarked and expected to find his walking stick still there. The old man threw a tantrum when he couldn’t see his beloved walking stick. The Ministry of Lands is behaving in a similar manner. By embracing computerisation, they are staying stuck to habits that thrived in a non electronic era.

When I go to a restaurant and settle down, I usually have a menu that details all the available food and drinks they can offer. The food I want can only be prepared by the chef in the Kitchen. There are two options for me to get what I want:

Option 1 – I walk to the Kitchen and tell the chef what I want and wait till he has prepared it then walk back to my table with the food.

Option 2 – I get attended to by a waiter who takes my order, communicates to the chef and then later delivers my food at the table without me having to walk up and down.

The Ministry of Lands seems to be stuck to Option 1 in its understanding of how it should deal with the consumer (general public) even after computerisation. Like the legendary Muhima elder, they have embraced technology but are letting the very things that contributed to the inefficiencies in the past linger on. Why do I have to go to their offices anymore if indeed they now have an electronic system in place?

When designing computer systems, the new trend is to use the approach indicated in Option 2. The presence of a waiter in a restaurant makes the entire customer experience so great and thus increases the likelihood of customers patronising that place. In computer terms, the waiter that makes our lives simple can be referred to as an API (Application Programming Interface). With the system that has been developed for Uganda’s Lands Registry, all that is required now is for the National Lands Information System (NLIS) to come up with an API that can then be used by independent developers who are more than willing to come up with Phone and Web Apps that facilitate interaction with the Lands Registry. There is no longer a need for any sane Ugandan to walk to the National Theatre during the Land Registry Open Days, spend close to three hours just to establish information that could reach them on their phone with ease.

API_DiagThe National Land Information System (NLIS) can then focus on ensuring that it has a well functioning credible database and working with other partners in the private sector, it then ensures that the dissemination of the information is achieved swiftly. The dissemination of this information can be at a fee which is paid by those trying to access Land Information through avenues like Mobile Money or any other third party dealers that may have been identified.

The wins for the Ministry here are;

  • Increased access by the masses to the Land Registry

  • Increased revenue generation from the online land search activities that are now conducted by many more people than before. A revenue share model can be worked out with the participating private companies developing Applications just like the Telecoms have with the content providers.

  • Lands Information System extension at no greater cost to the Ministry since the private sector players will do this in order to generate more revenue.

  • Focus on the core database systems and ensuring that there is ultimate integrity of the information shared.

My plea to the team handling the NLIS, is that it’s time you focused on the customer and ensured that there is more inclusiveness. Avoid the traditional disease in most Uganda Government departments of desiring too much control of installed systems even when it’s to the detriment of the masses. Cede some ground and you will not only benefit as indicated above but also help spur innovation and entrepreneurial growth among the fledgling youthful software developers that are all over our streets.

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Dear President Museveni, As You Swear in, Remember …

Dear Mr. President!

It is under four days to your inauguration as our President for yet another 5 years. Congratulations are in order for this is no mean achievement! Best wishes too for a fruitful and prosperous term not just for you but for us as a nation.

As you start your new term in office, I want to bring to your attention a story that appeared in the press recently. Speaking at the closing of a meeting of District Engineers from across the country; State Minister for transport Dr.Steven Chebrot said in his own words and I quote; ” Government would ensure value for the taxpayers’ money. The new supplier is competent, professional and has the capacity to supply the heavy road equipment within the specified time. It is unfortunate that it is an extra cost to all of us Ugandans including myself,” This was in apparent reference to the new equipment Government is acquiring for Districts to replace the non functional equipment bought less than 5 years at the cost of US$100m from China!

Your Excellency; this mode of working should not continue in your new term of office! From the Ministers statement, it appears that the supplier of the Chinese was incompetent; unprofessional and lacked capacity. How then did they get a US$100m contract to supply equipment to the Government of Uganda?

I have previously expressed in similar write ups to you, that the whole notion of Government owning equipment and doing road works by its self has been tried before in Uganda and has not worked. There is no reason why we should go that route again because it simply does not work!!

The above notwithstanding, I find it odd that Government could spend US$100m on equipment that is found not fit for purpose and no one is held responsible. The following questions should come to mind regarding the procurement of this Chinese equipment;

1. Was there a contract between FaW China (The Supplier) and Government or was the equipment ordered by word of mouth?

2. If there was a contract, did the contract include a warranty for the equipment or not? If there was; has Govt exercised its rights under the warranty? Who is responsible for this?

3. And if there was no provision for a warranty in the Contract, who is responsible for this gross omission that is costing tax payers so much money? How do you buy equipment for USD100m without any form of warranty?

4. Did the contract include specifications for the equipment or it did not? If it did was there pre and post shipment inspection to check for compliance with the specifications? If inspection was done, who was responsible for it and why did they accept the equipment if it did not meet the specifications?

5. Is it possible that the equipment was poorly specified such that even if it met the specifications it would still not be suited for purpose? Who was responsible for prepping these specifications and why have they not been held responsible?

6. Is it also possible that Government did not have any specifications and the supplier was left to their own device to decide what they should supply? If that was the case; who should be held responsible for this omission?

7. Did FaW just promise to build service centres for this equipment or it was a contractual obligation? If it was a contractual obligation, why have they not met it and what has Government done about it?!

Your Excellency, this and many other wasteful transactions shall seriously impede our steady progress not only in the roads sector but in other sectors as well. It is therefore important that in your new term, persons responsible are brought to book. It is hard to believe that Government, can simply write off USD100m?! There is so much acute need in our country we surely cannot afford such waste!

Contributed by Anthony Mark Mondo via WhatsApp

The Challenge of first Generation Entrepreneurial Success

We have been fed with success stories of Ugandans especially through the media every other day. Unfortunately, no one bothers to curate this information hence we can’t notice the very worrying trend.

Most ‘Success Stories’ hardly last a decade. Very few like Wavahmunno, Mulwana, Sudhir, Picfare/Radio One, Bro Group among others have withstood the test of time. Break down Uganda’s entrepreneurial space in blocks of 5 years and you will see that each block has new faces and chances are each face that disappears gets wiped out for good. 

Who remembers Front Page Microfinance? Where did the chap go (whatever his name was)? The media was always awash with stories about how much of a business genius he was. There was also this Kasulu guy who literally transformed the Property Business from backyard alley based suspicious dealers to a corporate oriented and trusted one. At his peak, he would throw UGX 50,000 on the table and journalists would break their backs running to get a slice of it (sorry bambi). Am sure you too know many such stories.

The conclusion I have come up with is that for most of us, as first generation entrepreneurs, we are likely to suffer this fate for a while to come in Uganda. We are breaking away from the tradition of holding on to an 8 – 5 job and being guaranteed of a salary as well as access to a bank loan that you can pay off in 10 years.

We are getting into a space for which we were not groomed at all. One of the cornerstones of a successful entrepreneur is Discipline in Financial, Social and other areas. Many of us start off with alot of focus and vision knowing what we want and work so hard that it hurts. We build the brands diligently until the money and accolades start coming through. That is when the distraction begins.

Due to lack of fiscal discipline (which is best learnt right from a youthful age), the spendthriftness comes in. You then find me driving a Hummer with the plates WIRE 1 and within a year, I have upto WIRE 6. At that point the women get to notice who I am and begin saying Hi with nice smiles and before you know it, there is a swimming pool of babes just a call away. That is when I realise that the Gym and Sauna are the best way to keep in shape (as if slashing my compound at home and taking walks with family can’t achieve the same). Government officials became close friends and start channeling money through my business to defraud the state while giving me a slice (Greenland Bank?). And so on and so forth. The common factor in all this is the financial haemorrhage that creeps in due to the newly acquired status.

At such a rate of progression, the business’ life starts diminishing and the public only gets to know the shit I have descended into when the Banks or URA launch their move. Before you know it, a once very loaded character is back to square one. Largely because they were not prepared psychologically for the status they attained. You grew up in hardship and was conditioned to settle for a fixed salary job, now you are commanding a position that gives you the opportunity to determine how much money to pay yourself.

On attaining this status, I have seen many men do the things that we have reserved for 18 year olds. Just read the tabloids and you will know what am talking about, all in the name of celebrity excitement. Despite having been upgraded from poverty financially, the social poverty they faced while growing up seems to weigh alot on them that they feel it is time to pay back and ‘enjoy’ [I have witnessed a top Kenyan radio entrepreneur who has this disease in it’s most severe form]. That is how they end up in the doldrums.

Failure is never final, infact I know that many of the entrepreneurs that get such knocks will in due course make a return to the limelight albeit alot wiser.

I just wanted to share with you the fact that for most of us, being first generation entrepreneurs we are likely to suffer the same knocks if we do not become wise enough earlier. We can avoid it, if only we cultivate the culture of discipline

#SsagalaSsawulidde

@wirejames on Twitter