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Uganda gets local search engine PDF Print E-mail
By Edris Kisambira

As the drum beats for the development and use of locally generated Internet content get louder, someone has gone ahead to develop a search engine that indexes all the available local content as well as that which will be created in the future.

Reinier Battenberg, the brain behind this search engine calls it a sort of Google or Yahoo. The search engine, which can be found at http://search.mountbatten.net, is exclusively Ugandan, the same way Google or Yahoo were before they spread beyond the US borders. Battenberg says the search engine; the first of its kind in Uganda
and possibly the East Africa region, is limited to searching websites that are within Uganda and are connected to local Ugandan internet.

When Ugandans or Africans host websites in Europe or the US, it keeps the knowledge and skills outside there, yet if the reverse was true and those servers were managed here, local ICT professionals would earn a living, which is a good thing for the economy. “It lets you search Uganda-based websites. People say there is no local content but we have indexed all Ugandan web pages. They are just over 100,000 pages and that is quite substantial. So the argument that there is no local content is not entirely true,” Battenberg told I-Network.

Battenberg who is also the director Mountbatten ltd., a local web hosting and developing provider says local hosting in Africa is underestimated and a lot of people don’t know what local content is, but that there is a lot of potential for locally hosted Ugandan websites with local content. It could be your local lawyer, accountant, dentist – all these people need websites and if they are targeting audiences only in Uganda, there is no reason for them to host their websites outside the country.

Local hosting comes with its pluses like the site downloading faster; it is cheaper and more accessible. However a lot of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) don’t encourage local hosting because their networks are not configured well. “If a site is hosted in the USA or Europe it costs the ISPs US$750 per megabit per second to download websites, which they then show their clients.” Locally hosted content is free for ISPs to access, no any network. Currently, ISPs are pocketing the difference, but the potential of having even cheaper rates for content that is hosted locally are quite amazing.

The trigger for Battenberg’s search engine was a copy of Wikipedia he was hosting locally. It turned out to be static and could not be searched. “So I decided to make it searchable and after it finally worked, I was like why don’t we do the entire Ugandan Internet.” The search engine started as a weekend hobby but after a few months he got it basically using the free Internet crawler Nutch. From a user perspective, the search engine is all about Uganda and the speed of the network is really important. Battenberg said he does not know of a local website in Kenya or Tanzania that is indexing local content.

Mountbatten’s core business is building intelligent websites for any type of customer; provide local hosting services and training. “We also foster discussion by raising a few issues on topical ICT matters and that helps create awareness of ICT’s potential,” Battenberg said. Asked why he developed this search engine, he says, ‘it helps to promote the use of local content, which in the end is good for everyone in the ICT field and for the people who surf the Internet, which hopefully soon, will be almost be everyone.’
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