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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Snoopers’ Charter: Up and downsides of IP - matching in helping fight terrorism

By Sam Agona

Currently, the UK government is working on passing a legislation to implement the concept of IP matching to help fight terrorist activities in the country. Such moves tend to spread over and may not end up in the UK alone.
In essence, each device uses an IP address to access the internet. It is assumed that an IP can be used to identify a person using a device. Currently, most ISPs are not required to store information about which individuals have used a particular IP address, many of which are shared between multiple users like it is in the UK. In Uganda, most internet users do not even have an idea what IP they are using. The author’s attention was drawn to this subject because of policy and technical implications such a development comes with.
An IP address is a unique numeric identifier that is needed by every device that connects to the Internet. The two versions include IPv4 and IPv6. IPs can be assigned manually or dynamically. However, in this era of wireless devices, nearly all addresses are assigned dynamically from a pool of IPs hosted by a delegated server. There are two versions of IP, including IPV4 and IPv6. IPv4 is not transparent due to NATing, public- private IP relationships, making it a challenge to associate with a single individual. IPv6 is transparent and can be less of a challenge to associate with an individual.
ISPs and mobile operators will be forced to retain information linking IP addresses to individuals for 12 months under U.K. government counter-terrorism plans. Users sit on various networks therefore the IPs they use keep changing, the only strength is that a MAC address (the hard coded 48-bit (6 byte) address of the network interface card or hardware address) is also sent. When a data packet is sent out to a station and the packet goes beyond its originating LAN segment, the packet goes through different networks and routers with the MAC and IP address of the sender. This pair of addresses is stored in the ARP (address resolution protocol) cache and according to the legislation; these two should help in identifying human being on a network. However, it can identify a device, its geo-location but not a human being.
Unlike in Uganda, in the UK people do not formally register phones or phone lines but as they use a mobile device, almost all services they access will need a subscriber’s details thus a mechanism for collecting data about a phone user. This however does not mean such devices cannot be stolen, spoofed and or masqueraded upon. In such cases, what happens on the device is out of control of the legal user?
The question of legacy system installs; when a network device is connected, it will send the MAC address however when an installation is on a hypervisor and the details given on the virtual machine are inaccurate, this can lead to wrong incrimination and blackmail. This aspect needs critical thinking.

There is a huge question in relation to storage and analysis of collected data; telecommunication companies across the world already have loads of data, they are challenged with making sense out of the data in warehouses. With this, data warehouses will grow bigger, better analysis methods are needed; deployment of mechanisms for deduplication of data, warehouse cleansing and offsite storage; putting in place tools with near - perfect intelligence to detect flags in messages sent out by suspicious IPs and MAC addresses. Deduplication products from such solutions by Quantum, HP, EMC, Asigra, Symantec, Atempo, Commvault or others out of this range.

In terms of privacy and framework, there needs to be a clear definition of what guidelines should be followed to monitor a given IP or a range of IP addresses. This can be based on some connotations based on military intelligence on what is used by terrorists; a set of keywords could be captured among others. Without such, this move can lead to massive abuse of privacy rights of individuals. 
In telecommunications, phones are tracked using their IMEI, and an IMEI does not have much to do with an owner. It only has to do with a Geo-location of the area where a call was placed, or BTS serving area and or the BTS that connected a call. This therefore does not definitely define the owner or the person using a device for a given purpose. Networks will probably have to become more intelligent to understand human characteristics.
Conclusively, very important and achievable developments with all the systems in place but needs a clear framework. There needs to be a clear way of relating a phone to what a user has/ is using it for. 

Please feel free to tweet me: @samagona

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Technology and Health: Impact of phone network radioactivity on local communities

By Sam Agona
Having electronic equipment on your compound can be financially rewarding from the rent fees paid by the telecom companies and or the owner of the equipment however can be very dangerous physically and to your entire health system.

In Nigeria’s south eastern state of Anambra in May, 2013, a mast collapsed on an adjacent house where residents were sleeping in.

This situation is a global problem with telecommunication companies doing every push to make their signals ubiqtous. However, it is incumbent of you to protect yourself.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Poor Quality and Coverage: Rationale to Deploy 3.5/ 3.6 GHz Band by Telecoms in Uganda

If you stopped anyone on the streets who is keen on using mobile, telephone services and or internet services sought from telecom providers in Uganda. They would all tell you one thing! Poor Service; the poor service could range from;
ü  Dropped calls
ü  Slow data speeds
ü  Poor billing systems
ü  System unavailability
ü  High cost of access to service
ü  Poorly informed customer care attendants
ü  Poor speech quality in the country side
ü  Blocked calls for long hours mainly in the countryside
ü  Among other challenges


Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Future Networks: An insight into evolution to Fifth Generation (5G) Wireless Technology

By Sam Agona

5G stands for the 5th generation of wireless technology. The 5G generation is also known as Real World Wireless or called WWWW (World Wide Wireless Web). 5G denotes the next major phase of mobile telecommunications standards beyond the current 4G/IMT-Advanced standards as of North America, China and other parts of Asia entirely covered by LTE. 5G is also referred to as beyond 2020 mobile communications technologies.

 The technology is based on Open Wireless Architecture (5G) for 5G has physical and data link layer. This is the layer that defines the technology to be used. Divided into Upper and Lower layers.  5G uses Ultra Wide Band networks with higher bandwidth at low energy levels. BW is of 4000 mbps, about 400 times faster than today's wireless networks. It also uses smart antenna and CDMA (code division multiple access).

As time goes by, the airwaves are becoming more crowded. Frequency is finite, therefore putting a cap on capacity. It is therefore incumbent upon the technical world of 3GPP, 3GPP2, Wimax Forum or even ITU-R to propose solutions that can keep technology apace with the market demands. 
                                                    Evolution of wireless networks over years
Before 5G there has been/ is the following wireless technologies (review is from 3rd Generation);

The third generation of mobile communication technology, or 3G, which is the successor to the 2G and 1G standards. Many countries in Africa are running on 3G and grappling to move to LTE. A typical 3G network realizes download speeds of 600Kbps to 1.4Mbps. 3G networks use W-CDMA instead of TDMA and FDMA a difference inherited from UMTS.  This blog heavily discussed 3G technology in one of its earlier editions.

This should had been the running standard in most countries however the fourth generation of mobile communication technology, or 4G, is available as of the date of publication in many major metropolitan areas in the U.S; there are pockets of LTE coverage areas in Africa (Uganda equally has LTE deployed by Orange Ltd and Smile Telecom using FDD and MTN Uganda using TDD).  The 4G standard encompasses multiple technologies, including LTE and WiMAX. Switching is packet only with radio access changing from CDMA to OFDMA and SC-FDMA. Data rates peak 100 Mbps and Typical 4G LTE technologies will have an average speed of 5 to 12 Mbps, according to Verizon Wireless. A typical download made using 4G WiMAX technology realizes will average between 3 and 6 Mbps. This is a significant upgrade over 3G networks, allowing for increased performance when multitasking, streaming video or playing games.

The fifth generation of mobile communication technology, or 5G, is in a developmental stage. A defining characteristic of the new technology will be the ability of mobile devices to simultaneously send and receive information from cell towers, something not possible with older networks according to 5gNow . There is no defined standard for 5G download speeds as of date but what the author is sure of is 5G implemented with MIMO can achieve up to 1 Gbps something Samsung tested in mid-2013, this phase denotes a phase of wireless communications without limitations.

According to 3GPP, 5G will be available to the market by 2020; it is based on VPN and supports data bandwidth up to 1GB. It will be entirely based on IPv6 providing a very fast means of communication. Also noteworthy is, 5G phones are data intensive. They have HD streaming, large memory, several advanced features. It is very high security driven and supports multiple carrier aggregation. According to Sanskar Jain et al, its bandwidth per frequency channel is up to 28 Ghz as compared to 4G which is at 100Mhz and 3G at 20Mhz. In 5G, QoS assurance will be based on policy and error avoidance. This is a contrast to 4G which uses concatenated codes for error detection than avoidance.  Unlike 4G which uses CDMA majorly. 5G will use CDMA and BDMA multiple access. 

According to Dr. Anwar Mausa, 5G comes with lower battery consumption, a probability of lower outage; better coverage and high data rates available at cell edge and less harm to human health.

On the handset, the Generation provides large phone memory, dialing speed, clarity in audio and video among other benefits.  While on the network sides, the benefits are immense including; new error- control methods, different wireless technologies access, high resolution, bi-directional large bandwidth shaping, attractive and effective billing interface, subscriber supervision tool for fast and immediate actions, great policies to avoid errors, large broadcasting of data, gateway with unparalleled consistency, accurate traffic statistics, VPN, high upload and download, remote diagnostics and but not limited to wireless device with AI capabilities.

Being in the development phase at least for the next five years, concepts the 5G technology is greatly associating with include the following;

  •   Widespread Network: The technology provides the connectivity among several wireless access technologies, fall back into 4G and providers for switching between them.
  •   Group co-operative relay: The High data rates availability over a wide area of the cellphones make the technology considerable.
  •  Experimental Radio Technology: It enables the user equipment to a radio landscape. This allows to Locate and choose the optimum radio access link and best modulation schemes to gain best and optimum performance connection).
  •  Ad-hoc Networking: It provides ad-hoc wireless networks for much faster data flows.
  •  Smart Antenna: Its smart antennas are more omnidirectional and thus can to enable direct communication with less interference and improved cell capacity irrespective of mobile location in relation to the antennae.
  •  Vandermonde-subspace frequency division multiplexing modulation: this type of the modulation is used to provide the much flexible and efficient form of the modulation and shall be used in 5G networks.

Illustration of benefits of 5G

Conclusively, 5G technology assigns an IP to every mobile and each mobile terminal is deemed a FA (Foreign Agent) and will keep the CoA (care of Address) between IPv6 and CoA address for current wireless network. At the same time it can be connected to other mobile or networks by maintaining different IP address acting like a CoA address for FA placed in mobile phone. This fix IPv6 will be implemented in the mobile phones.
Radio Access and Spectrum FP7 - Future Networks Cluster
5G- The Future of Mobile Wireless Communication Networks - Sanskar Jain, Neha Agrawal and Mayank Awasthi 
Prospective of Fifth Generation Mobile Communications - Dr. Anwar M. Mousa

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Why increase in new HIV infections and deaths whilst increased access to ARVs in Uganda?

By Sam Agona

This question was postured by the Daily Monitor. I found it worth responding to.

Some of the issues discussed in the article is voluntary HIV testing as shown in the photos below:
                                              A young girl testing for HIV in Iganga Town

                                                A friend, Liz Cho testing voluntarily

                 Two Health workers ( Liz and Claire) demonstrating to the author how to use female condoms

                                           Author and Liz Cho doing a wrap up discussion

An HIV test strip which shows someone’s HIV status; its advisable that everyone is aware of the status.

Humans are fast bored by mainstream life

By Sam Agona
A serie of events in the recent past have triggered my mind into thinking that humans get bored of a mainstream life but they just don’t know it. Human beings have a high propensity to look out for a something different within life than live within confines of day to day routine. I am sure I am not thinking crazy and some of these scenarios will shed light to my imagination;
University education has become too mainstream and will soon be dissolute. It is about some system of education like 7-4-2-3/4/5 like it is in Uganda. But what is all this about? Going to school getting a few documents, looking for jobs here and there or starting up some business of your own, need not to mention vying for a political seat, over time, school completion looks to be a baseline of success, I find this just too mainstream and boring.
Mainstream life is boring. People out there construct houses, and blame it on vanilla life. The roof will always be asbestos, tiles, dry grass thatch and or iron sheets. Why is it this way? Can’t we think of a life less boring than iron-sheets sort? Can’t we?
This is dynamism..
Social behavior; around 2009 – 10, Pastor Male and Pastor Martin Ssempa, opened a case against Pastor Kayanja of Miracle Center because of what they called “Sodomy”. In the subsequent weeks, Dr. Hilary Bainemigisha (whom I consider one of the best writers in Uganda) elaborated it all this way. People do great things and get bored. They can actually get bored of their success, thus rendering life unchallenging. Its human nature that they always seek for something outside the normal way of living, therefore it was understandable if a man who has close to 10,000 people forming part of his congregation one day chooses to have a sexual relationship with young boys. If you asked me, what is this? This is nothing but getting out of the mainstream way of living.
Marriage life; Man identifying a woman or woman identifying a man, marrying them, living happily ever after and spending all your nights with only them until death. This sounds so terminal. People have been doing this sort of dating as back as the BC days. How, however does this happen today? Plenty a people are bored by such “mainstream-ism”. My advise, is date.. date and date till you cant date no more..

Yes only one, but till when?

Women with their body sizes; why on earth do women stress over slimness and slenderness in the name of something as fictional as body figure; So many women are bothered by the level of estrogen generated by their body. Who really wants and or cares about this? Almost every woman out there is bothered about her size, how mainstream can life be? 
She is perfect in her own world..
Mainstream in Ugandan media, the best man at the end of the year will always be Museveni, worst man will be Dr. Kiiza Besigye, on the first of January; pages will always have pictures of fireworks. After releasing results, it’s the rule of thumb that a bunch of students will have their pictures on the pages following their results. This has become so mainstream that possibly newspapers that ignore pasting pictures of a few students on their pages won’t get enough sales for the day. Lately even TV stations show students based on results.
Working from 8am – 5pm; to begin with who said stamped the rule that people have to work from 8-5pm. Why can’t people change and start dressing up at 1 am or even 4 pm and go open office to attend to the day’s business? This is very mainstream; it may probably change one time in life.  
Related to the above, who hard coded it that night is meant sleeping? Dying with the rule of thumb that night is meant for sleeping. This could be changed as well including how you sleep, the stress on putting on heavy clothes on your body in the name of a nighty is just not the thing, why not sleep how you were born? Life needs some dynamism than what it is right now. 

Take the simple way please.. avoid being mainstream..
 Birthday gifts and messages are too mainstream. Over the last so many years people write on each other’s Facebook wall, wishing them a happy birthday. This is great but till when? When I began finding this too mainstream, I stopped writing “HBD” or “Happy Birthday” on people’s Facebook wall just because I got bored by it, it’s just too mainstream.
To some people, life itself becomes too mainstream; this normally happens when challenges outweigh the reasons to be alive; such people normally do the obvious.
“Don’t be too blind to see that you need a change” – Justin Timberlake, 2002

Ugandans should embrace child adoption and be proud of it

By Sam Agona
Statistics from the population secretariat show a population growth rate currently at 3.21% and a crude birth rate of 43.09 per thousand, which according to UNDP has profound implications on development. The direly pronounced challenges are evinced on social life sustainability, urbanization, access to health services and youth empowerment given the fact that the population is exceedingly young. 
Children like this need somewhere they truthfully call home
Against the above backdrop, it is important to note is that we already have a bulging population of over 36 million with  48.9%  being between 0-14 years  old, and a greater percentage of them being infants. Among the infants, several do not have people (parents or guardians) to take care of them. This is caused by high maternal deaths estimated at 138 women out of every 100,000 according to the U.S led Global Health Initiative (GHI). Some of the children are abandoned by their mothers shortly after child birth due to an array of reasons, according to the Mengo Hospital based Sanyu Babies’ Home’s Barbara Mutagubya; this is due to moral decadence as a result of poor parenting. There are over 2 million children abandoned in Uganda. This leaves the role on babies’ homes to take care of the children or they have to be adopted by noble hearted people, this includes you.
 Services offered by Ssanyu Babies’ Home : Photo adopted from Ssanyu Babies’ Home
Against the above backdrop, it is important to note is that we already have a bulging population of over 36 million with  48.9%  being between 0-14 years  old, and a greater percentage of them being infants. Among the infants, several do not have people (parents or guardians) to take care of them. This is caused by high maternal deaths estimated at 138 women out of every 100,000 according to the U.S led Global Health Initiative (GHI). Some of the children are abandoned by their mothers shortly after child birth due to an array of reasons, according to the Mengo Hospital based Sanyu Babies’ Home’s Barbara Mutagubya; this is due to moral decadence as a result of poor parenting. There are over 2 million children abandoned in Uganda. This leaves the role on babies’ homes to take care of the children or they have to be adopted by noble hearted people, this includes you.
Children playing at the Babies’ Home : Photo adopted from Ssanyu Babies’ Home
The few Ugandans who are willing to adopt come with excessive demands for instance, they tend to prefer girl children, they always want a child not older than 1 year; they are not always willing to take up children with special needs such as children with sickle cell, cerebral pulse, HIV, disabled children among others. Also importantly, Ugandans are not willing to undertake the formal steps of adopting a child by giving information about themselves; their families, their crime record, financial status yet this is the only ways a babies’ home can be sure that the child they are entrusting a prospective guardian with is in safe hands. It is against this background that we have more foreigners willing to adopt Ugandan and African children formally while the rest of us are less bothered. 
                  Children playing under guidance of a caretaker: Photo adopted from Ssanyu Babies’ Home
As Ugandans, it is important that we started taking responsibility of the society we live in. It is understandable that, times have incalculably changed, everything comes at a cost, however, the onus is still on us to make the world what you want it to be thus the statement “Be in the world, not of the world”. It is therefore paramount that well-intentioned people go out there adopt children and raise them responsibly. There is immense satisfaction in every act of nobility, producing one or two biological children, then adopting one through the right procedures and raising them with the desired values is both an act of grace and gear towards national development.
Twitter: @samagona 
The original of this piece was published in the New Vision on 11th March, 2014. 

National IDs; Kenyan Lessons; Ugandan questions

By Sam Agona
On another attempt, citizen registration for National Identity Cards is imminent in Uganda. National IDs are very important in any country, Kenya already implemented this, Rwanda as well as farther neighbors like Ethiopia all issue national IDs to their citizens.  Having been suspended twice in Uganda due to an array reasons, the practice this time looks on course to commence. In 2011, anti-corruption court halted the process due to flaws in procurement. In 2013, the same process was halted again reportedly due to inter-agency fights over the project.
A national identity card is a portable document, archetypally a plasticized card with digitally-embedded information, that someone is required or encouraged to carry as a means of confirming their identity. It can also a basis for determining who enjoys what rights in a given country, including access to services, other documents like a passport and possibly enrolment to jobs. In Uganda, stakeholders in this project include NITA-U, Ministry of ICT, Ministry of Internal Affairs, URSB, UBOS and the Citizens among others.
                       One of the few Ugandan citizens with a national ID; Adopted from Red Pepper 
The challenge in Uganda is determining who rightfully deserves a national identity card and what procedures shall be taken to determine who gets an ID. I choose to discuss these questions that Ugandans should be asking, drawing a few experiences from Kenya.
In Kenya, a vetting process was undertaken to determine who to issue a card, also lineage is followed and some considerations such land ownership deeds, follow-up with local authorities as well as ethnicity. This however raised questions when it came to issuing cards to groups that have been in Kenya for over 100 years but are not considered bona facie Kenyans such as the Nubians, Kenyan Arabs, Asians and Caucasians. In Uganda, how shall this be handled? Not that there are no contestable groups in the country.
On noble grounds, it is well-intentioned pointing out that there are very many Congolese, Rwandese and even Kenyans who have lived in Uganda for over 7-10+ years. They have bought land, built houses and live harmoniously with people in their communities but does this make them Ugandans? I don’t think so. By the fact that Kenyan officials find it hard issuing IDs to Somalis who have been in the country for over 20 years, what justifies Uganda to do so.
Essentially, the proof of citizenship and age were the most important documents in Kenya. A registration officer would ask for a birth certificate. On some occasions, a medical officer would be required to carry out an age assessment process and issue a certificate. In Uganda, the same can work, enrolment officers (as shall be called) will ask for this, but how accurate are our birth certificates when it is on record that only 4% of Ugandans have genuine birth certificates.
In Kenya, the process is handled by National Registration Bureau (NRB) in conjunction with Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK), thus raising question of duplication of roles between ECK which registers voters who have attained the age of 18, as well NRB registering citizens for IDs, this process was viewed as a double burden on tax payer’s money. Therefore, Ugandans should be asking whether they shall have to register again to be able to vote in 2016 or the records shall be shared.
In Kenya, some registration centers did not even have the basics. In the districts of Turkana, Teso, Wajir, Mandera and Kajiado, Amukura division the office facilities were in a deplorable state. Yet to register a citizen, a photo may be captured; thump print or toe print may be captured, details including name, age, parental lineage among others. This therefore means a center needs paper, computers, cameras, biometric scanners among others. Some centers did not have these, assuming the process was well planned with knowledge of an estimate number of citizens to be registered. In Uganda however, census have not been conducted thus knowing the number of citizens is a challenge but the stake holders were able to come up with an estimated amount of money needed to roll out the project for all the citizens. This calls for questions from Ugandans.
In Kenya, IDs are produced through a process chain, registration was/ is done from all parts of the country and cards are printed from Nairobi before sending them back to points of registration. Turukana is the largest district in Kenya but has very few divisional offices, Tana River district over 300 kms wide deserved to have its own ID printing center. Experience has shown that regionalized ID printing is much more successful. Through regionalization of printing centers, there is a reduction in both acknowledged and unacknowledged delays that come during the processing, producing and dissemination of IDs. For instance in Ethiopia, all states manage their records and print their own national IDs, this has made the process faster and better understood by citizens. This explains why in Kenya, several times staff members of NRB complained of the system being centralized and concentrated in Nairobi.
The question of who incurs the cost of processing the ID. Just like simcard registration, at some service centers, clients had to take their own photos, it will not be strange to see some citizens in some parts of Uganda being asked to carry passport size photos and yet having a camera at the registration center would allow for homogeneity of records. While Kenyans in the diaspora pay to be issued an ID, those in the country do not pay, this is understandable. However, some groups of people were being made to pay to be able to get registered, this was very fraudulent. Something we cannot rule out in Uganda, citizens of Uganda need to informed on who meets the cost of the service so that Ugandans in far to reach areas are not duped.
In homogeneity of documents required. Some parts of Kenya like in Nakuru, registration officers asked for copies of parent’s ID, proof of age and Letter from an area chief. This highly contrasted with what was being asked from citizens in Northern Frontier District (NFD), the Nubian communities in Nairobi among others who were being asked to produce as many as Birth certificate, Baptismal certificate, school leaving certificate, age assessment certificate from a medical officer, child health card, notification of birth, letter from the Provincial Administration Chief, sworn affidavits (for late registration) among others. What harmonized process does Uganda have for registration? Even earlier projects like sim card registration, in some places, subscribers were asked to present photos while others had their photos taken at other registration points.
Some IDs used by Ugandans to identify themselves, photo by Abubaker Lubowa
A fact worth rethinking is that, often than not, registration of persons is seamlessly linked with elections thus wholly or partially watering down the value of ID cards, since a Voter’s card would serve the same purpose without having to issue another document.
Ignorance of the citizenry, public ignorance on procedures of application and entitlements contributes greatly to exploitation by officers in the field and or failure by citizens to meet the requirements. In Kenya, elderly citizens in Garsen were asked to pay the registration officer before receiving their identity cards once the cards had arrived from Nairobi. The elders accused the respective registrar of having his drawer full of ready IDs but would only hand them over for “something small”, locally known as “kitu kidogo“. Such a situation can occur in some parts of Uganda.
The question of Ugandans living in diaspora; Kenya through some of its missions, issues IDs to its citizens living in those respective countries, this is however done at a cost determined by other the mission or the NRB. Uganda can probably handle is with time but needs to be in plan.
Sample of a Kenyan ID issued from their mission in London; adopted from Misterseed
Does a national ID need to have an expiry date? I do not think so, probably a renewal date. An expiry on a document that determines your citizenship means your citizenship has expired. This is not practical. The Kenyan IDs do not have expiry dates, a leaf Uganda ought to borrow. 
Excerpts from KNCHR report ” An Identity Crisis? A Study on the Issuance of National Identity Cards In Kenya” 2007