Uganda’s objective is to join Africa’s top ICT leaders – Frank Tumwebaze

Frank Tumwebaze, Uganda’s incoming Minister of ICT and National Guidance, has said that even though the country’s ranking in terms of uptake of IT innovations and services is still below when compared to other states in the continent, the government plans to reverse this trend and transform it into one of the top ICT leaders in Africa.

Speaking at the inaugural stakeholders’ dialogue held on July 06, 2016 at Kampala Sheraton Hotel, Tumwebaze also noted that the country’s ranking in the United Nations e-Government Survey has also dropped.

(TOP: Frank Tumwebaze, Uganda’s new ICT Minister, during a past media briefing. Photo: Insider).

“What I would like however to note from the onset, is that according to United Nations e-Government Survey, our global rankings as a country in regard to the uptake of IT innovations/services is still not good. Our ranking globally has dropped from the 143rd position out of 190 countries ranked in 2012 to 156thout of 193 countries ranked in 2014. From a continental angle, Uganda’s ranking dropped by six positions down from position 20 in 2012 to position 26 in 2014,” said Tumwebaze.

“This statistic calls for adoption of rigorous sector innovations, agile implementation of best IT practices and matching ICT enabling policies. We must not only talk about e-government but we must be an e-government. Government officials must take the lead and break walls of old technologies. Our midterm strategic objective is to join Africa’s top six ICT leaders that is, Seychelles, Mauritius, South Africa, Tunisia and Egypt.”

The new ICT minister made the remarks at the meeting which was by the PS in the Ministry of ICT, executives of Government ICT Agencies, members of the Broadcasters Association and telecom industry players. Others were representatives of the private sector and business associations, government communication officers as well as innovators, developers and bloggers.

Regarding affordable internet services, the minister said that ‘internet is no longer just a luxury or an option for the few modern elite’ but a basic necessity just like electricity and water, adding that the commitment of government is to continue investing in all initiatives that will substantially scale up the internet infrastructure coverage and also make it universal and affordable for all.

“The investment in the NBI was a very wise one since it managed to bring down the cost of internet from US$ 1,200 to US$ 300 per Mbps per month. This however needs to further be pushed down, and increase its penetration across the country so as to enable young ICT innovators to grow their businesses. Internet also must be fully subsidized for Universities and Research Institutions. Global studies show that the impact of an increase of 10% internet penetration results into an increase in the GDP ranging from 0.25%- 1.38%,” said Tumwebaze.

“Internet is as a good enabler to ICT innovators and young IT graduates getting jobs, and improving service delivery as electricity is to manufacturers. With the digital revolution, most of the big infrastructure projects we are undertaking as a Country like SGR, Oil pipeline, Industrial Parks etc., will require internet backbone installations. Lowering the cost of internet therefore, will not only help ICT innovations but also spur investment growth of e-services (e.g. mobile money, e-wallet, pay way and their attendant functions) and grow jobs.”

The minister also urged the ICT industry to consider infrastructure as a viable option to reduce cost of deploying projects.

“When we develop ICT infrastructure at a high cost, efforts to make IT services universal and affordable get inhibited. I therefore would like to pause one question to some of you ICT experts dealing in the business of internet provision and to you the telecom operators: Why don’t we think and discuss about sharing internet infrastructure as some known countries are doing for the sake of reducing heavy investment costs that finally end up being pushed to the consumer? If government has invested in the backbone infrastructure and is continuing to scale it up to the last point of a sub county in the medium term and eventually to a village in the long term, why should telecoms also invest in the same infrastructure and put the burden on the consumer? Why not share? What would be the purpose then of the huge investment of government? What is the problem here?” he asked.

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