Uganda’s Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF) programme includes financial support to schools and NGOs in various districts to expand computer labs and gain broadband Internet access. This was part of the July 2001 policy directive of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to increase the use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) in Uganda. An implementation of support to ten schools and ten NGOs was financed through a loan to the government from the World Bank (including technical assistance and finance for other elements of the RCDF programme). The school and NGO support was to be implemented after broadband Internet POPs were realized in the district centres. The following summarizes some key elements of the selection process for the schools.
The selection process of the ten schools and ten NGOs, to be supported with a grant of USD 27,000, was conducted during 2007.
The subsidy is to be used for the following elements:
- Equipment and installation of medium/ high-speed Internet access;
- Network server and PCs;
- Ongoing cost of Internet access service during the initial three-year period;
- Ongoing cost of training and maintenance, and
- A specific postal component.
The specific postal component can be in the form of a small postal outlet. Activities can include selling stamps and related postal stationary (e.g., paper, postcards, mail envelopes), functioning as a letter collection and distribution point, and allowing community members without a P.O. Box to use the address of a collective P.O. box set-up by the school or NGO for this purpose.
In July 2007, the UCC issued two Requests for Proposals (RFPs) in regards to “Establishing, Operating and Maintaining a rural Internet centre”, one for NGOs and one for secondary schools.
Schools in ten specified districts were allowed to participate, and 20 proposals from secondary schools were received. The following eligibility requirements had to be met by the organization (the “proponent”) and were specified as follows in the RFP:
- The proponent must not have applied for or received any funding for the establishment and/or operation of an Internet Centre or any services that could be construed by UCC as a duplication of funding;
- The proponent must ensure the existence of a reliable power supply for personal computers (PCs) and Internet access;
- The proponent must have a clean, ventilated and secure premises to house the Internet Centre;
- The premises that are expected to house the Internet Centre must be located within the service area of a commercial Internet access provider that can provide medium/high-speed Internet;
- The proponent may not already have medium/high-speed Internet access at the time of application;
- The proponent must demonstrate proof of its own funds and planned budget items over three years to be spent on the Internet Centre - USD 2,700 for schools (10% of subsidy offered); and
- The proponent must demonstrate that it has a level of ICT capacity that is sufficient to operate, manage and maintain a Internet Centre. Specific requirements of this capacity are as follows:
a. Ownership of at least two PCs and a printer; and
b. At least one resident staff person with competency in computer and software use, maintenance, training and troubleshooting.
Documentary evidence was required from the schools to support the above criteria, including a statement of compliance and a description of the respective facilities, conditions and resources. The eligibility requirements were evaluated by a simple PASS or FAIL assessment and constituted a pre-qualification process; only the secondary schools that passed had their proposal reviewed. However, a FAIL did not necessarily disqualify a proponent immediately because in some cases this was due to a small amount of missing information in an otherwise complete proposal. It was concluded that proponents should have an opportunity to supply missing information if it seemed to be an oversight or minor issue. Nevertheless, the lack of adequate power supply was considered an impassable hindrance for the award of the subsidy.
The proposal had to cover certain topics and the RFP provided the following detailed form with instructions for the proposal preparation by the schools.
The evaluation of proposals was based on a point system that was also published in the RFP, and the evaluation process was conducted through a team of four UCC staff and an external expert.
The process successfully identified ten schools to receive financial support from the RCDF for broadband Internet access.