Battery Operated System for Community Outreach (BOSCO) Uganda is a not-for-profit organisation under the trusteeship of the Catholic Archdiocese of Gulu founded in 2007. Its mission is to provide innovative information and communication technology (ICT) solutions using a collaborative and web-based approach to foster socioeconomic development and peace building in rural communities in northern Uganda.
BOSCO Uganda's thematic areas are ICT and computer education for rural communities; ICT for sustainable rural development, livelihood and income generation; research and installation of innovative ICT technologies for rural areas; and preservation of cultural values. It supports 48 ICT and Development Centres with over 60,000 beneficiaries in the Northern and West Nile regions in Uganda. It was awarded the 2010 Breaking Borders Award in Technology from Google and Global Voices, and the Rural E-Services Award from the Uganda Communications Commission in 2012.
BOSCO has leveraged networks to develop global partnerships in an ecosystem approach to tap synergies between energy, business infrastructure development and ICT. BOSCO currently operates over 30 solar-powered ICT labs, and five larger microgrids, two of which at 30 kWp are sustainable economically with a slow payback of capital expense. BOSCO also conducts business training, having trained over 2,000 persons in entrepreneurial essentials, a 36-hour computer-based course. We have tracked over 1,000 jobs and/or new business starts promoted through this training. As a community network in Uganda, BOSCO works through community structures, especially the youth, to deliver its services to the rural poor.
BOSCO Uganda is challenged to improve the practical participation of marginalised groups, especially women and people living with disability, to appreciate and embrace ICT in their lives. It is also mindful of its environment while advocating for the use of clean solar energy. The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) is the regulator of the communications sector in Uganda, thus all policy issues in regards to communication are handled by the UCC. BOSCO Uganda will consult and seek support of UCC to present, discuss and disseminate policies to communities. It will also act as a reception point for feedback on policy issues, for example, the over-the-top (OTT) services tax that has brought down mobile internet use in Uganda by 64% since its introduction.
The UCC has funding for rural communication development, and through this project, advocacy for community access to endpoints and/or internet access will be presented to the UCC to fund. The National Information Technological Authority of Uganda (NITA-U) will work with the project to provide fibre lines. Advocacy for access to the fibre to be expanded to more parts of the rural area will be very important. NITA-U has contracted Soliton Telmec to commercialise the use of the national fibre and also sell internet on its behalf. The project will advocate for fair pricing so that communities can be connected. BOSCO also has an opportunity to support NITA-U to connect government offices that are not within the fibre through its masts. This collaboration should provide a platform to bring other internet users to discuss policy issues periodically. The Internet Society (ISOC) Uganda chapter is the umbrella body that brings together all other internet users in Uganda.
ISOC is one organisation that BOSCO will depend on significantly in drawing international lessons on policy issues. It will also be a liaison partner in collaborative efforts in conversing for resources and ideas on policy campaigns.