Hong Kong International Airport, over a decade ago, offered me my first expose to the power of technology. Naturally being one of those people that race through literally everything, fate had different plans for me that day. I was airport grounded for close to 72 hours due to a mix-up with my connecting flight back home and it took longer than necessary to have it addressed due to a lack of electronic cash and probably less than sophisticated e-ticketing system then. Roundabout the same time, if you didn’t have or know a “godfather” it was almost impossible to set up shop in Uganda. You needed to know people to have things done, today with the Uganda Registrations Services Bureau, Uganda Investment Authority, Uganda Revenue Authority and Kampala Capital City Authority all running online platforms you can do all that and more at the click of a button. This will save you the headache of middlemen and hefty “commissions” not to mention the invaluable time lost chasing the wind.
In the recently conducted Presidential campaigns the NRM Party manifesto highlighted the need to establish a single point of information for all available ICT innovations, Target Innovation areas, Funding Opportunities and Innovation Partners, Clients and Innovation Resources. This is a fundamental pre-requisite in all e-governance best practice models adopted in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. It is also on the backdrop of the NDP II plan that categorically cites ICT as a key driver in taking this economy to its next level. In our defense, there are a number of innovative ICT platforms that have been adopted by various government departments to ease their service delivery, however, most of these platforms are all acting independent of each other. The next logical step in our quest for achieving a seamless e-governance model is to have these platforms speak”” to each other and feed into one national database either sequentially or simultaneously. The sooner this can be done, the better as it will greatly reduce the Public Administration costs even from a security point of view.
In his second Cabinet Meeting for the term 2016-2021, President Y.K. Museveni spelt out his appreciation of the ICT industry and its contribution to the grand plan of achieving Uganda’s middle income status. Having recently merged the Ministry of Information and National Guidance with the ICT ministry, he was rather articulate about the importance of having a harmonized and proactive government communications department that will foster responsive and responsible media culminating in a positive national image of Uganda, now a top global tourist destination.
Needless to say that the Government initiative of creating an Innovations Fund of UGS 500Billion and creating Incubation hubs under the Ministry of Science and Technology is one that will go a long way in channeling this private sector talent in the right direction for the greater good of Uganda. These brilliant youth need to engage the line Ministry for support in their innovations. Holding either sector (Public& Private) accountable to the other will ensure that they deliver in this industry as has been the tried and proven case in other countries like Rwanda and Kenya.
The President took it a notch higher tasking the Ministry to develop technical capacity in the field of electronics and ICT in a bid to reduce government expenditure whilst promoting productivity. This decisive step is on the backdrop of the role Uganda plays as the ICT cluster under the Northern Corridor Integration Projects (NCIP). This followed a meeting held by the Presidents of Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and South Sudan on October 28th, 2013 that decided to include ICT as one of the strategic areas that will facilitate the integration of the Northern Corridor Projects.
“Wilson Kutegeka of Joint Medical Stores was recently recognized as a Most Valuable Professional (MVP) by Microsoft International amongst over 2000 competing professionals globally. He developed a platform that monitors patients on ARVs in Uganda. This has ensured that AIDS patients take their medications on time and appropriately.” This is one of the many ICT innovations that we have seen and continue to see as a nation from our youth. Beyond the innovations, we are also seeing more of our young people recognized at a regional level for their above par performance. The bigger question remains what happens beyond the awards? We need to harness this talent by partnering with Government to nurture it and take it to the next level.
Is it all talk aimed at posturing false hope amongst Ugandans? Not at all. So far the National Backbone Infrastructure (NBI), has been extended to 82 public offices and 7 public universities coupled with over 23 million mobile subscribers, this will ensure fast communications, surveillance and internet connectivity over a diverse audience. Much has been done, yet there is more to do but it is the finesse with which this last lap is run that will be the icing on the cake of ICT enabled productivity