Uganda has big Space Program Ambitions

By Frank Tumwebaze

Uganda is not looking on idly as advanced countries explore space. Uganda would wish to develop and launch communication satellites because it is the “safer” and “reliable means of communication”, though expensive. Currently, we are depending on optic fibre and other outsourced external satellite service providers for connection to other Countries.

Optic fibre communication is affordable but prone to natural and man-made disasters which satellite communication supersedes. Experts say fiber optic is quicker while satellite remains slow in communication and in case of any fault, it is easier to repair fiber optics than satellite. Country aspirations on satellite development and deployment will be part of this ICT digital framework and its implementation will depend on the Country’s resource envelop.

In December, 2014, the African Union organized a Validation Workshop on the African Outer Space Policy and Strategy in Brazzaville-Congo.

This continental forum is likely to help the AU members understand more on the development of the Policy and Strategy regarding the Outer Space usage.

African countries looking skyward 

In recent years, many countries on the continent have woken up to the potential and usefulness of space technology. In sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia and South Africa are leading the charge.

Nigeria’s space agency, the National Space Research and Development Agency, flies several multimillion-dollar satellites. South Africa launched its first satellite, SUNSAT, in 1999. A second, Sumbandila Sat, was launched from Kazakhstan in 2009.

And in early 2015, the Kondor-E satellite built for South Africa in Russia was launched into orbit. It provides all-weather, day-and-night radar imagery for the South African military. Egypt, like South Africa, now has its own military satellite.

Other growing sub-Saharan African countries have recently begun space programmes. Ghana launched its Space Science and Technology Centre in 2012.

Kenya started its space programme in 2012 and it’s geographic position on the equator makes it ideal to launch satellites into geostationary and other orbits.

Uganda’s future

Each Member of the United Nations (Uganda inclusive) is allocated one orbital slot which it can use or in partnership with other institutions. The governance of these orbital slots is carried out by the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (ITSO). Uganda has been an active member of ITSO and I am glad to report to Parliament that last year, Ugandan fielded a candidate, campaigned and won for the position of Director General of ITSO.

Uganda being an active member of ITU and ITSO benefits from outer space. This is through satellite broadcasting, telecommunications services (telecom operators and other ISPs use satellite, as a primary and alternative route for both backup and emergencies for data and voice communications), metrological services and geo mapping {location of mineral deposits and water}.

The Author; Frank Tumwebaze, Minister of ICT and National Guidance is currently developing a digital vision for Uganda; as an overall ICT policy framework and it will set digital milestones for each sector of Government.

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