Uganda’s ICT Services Wanting — Tumwebaze

Uganda’s ICT Services Wanting— Tumwebaze

By Patrick Ocaido

The newly appointed minister for Information Technology and Communications and National Guidance Frank Kagyigyi Tumwebaze has said that Uganda’s ICT innovations leave a lot to be desired.

While speaking at the ICT Inaugural Dialogue yesterday at Sheraton Hotel, Tumwebaze said that it is a pity that Uganda’s IT global rankings have dropped from 143rd position out of 190 countries ranked in 2012 to 156th position out of 193 countries ranked in 2014 as per the UN e-Government survey.

“According to UN e-Government Survey, our global rankings as a country in regard to the uptake of IT innovations is still not good. This statistic calls for adoption of rigorous sector innovations, agile implementation of best IT practices and matching ICT enabling policies. We should not only talk about an e-government but we should be an e-government,” Tumwebaze said.

This is the maiden ICT dialogue that saw different IT practitioners, media owners and other telecom operators deliberate on issues affecting the industry.

As a remedy, Tumwebaze said that there is a government initiative to ensure that internet becomes universal and affordable.

“Internet is no longer a luxury or an option for the few modern elite. It’s a basic necessity just like other utilities of electricity and water are. Therefore, this internet should be affordable. This means that internet must be subsidized by the government,” Tumwebaze said, adding that government agencies must become computer-friendly in a bid to mainstream content gathering.

Recently, Museveni merged the ministry of Information and National Guidance with the ICT ministry in order enable government to communicate factually, timely and effectively its programs.

In his speech, Tumwebaze also urged telecom operators and other ICT firms to always support locally generated innovations. And to the media owners, the ministers called for responsible and balanced reporting that aims at protecting government image jealously ‘since negative reporting greatly impacts negatively on Uganda’s tourism industry.’

This dialogue sparked a huge debate with media owners asking government to trim taxes on media because most of the media houses operate on losses.

“Hon minister, 95% of the media houses are not operating on a profit, so this 2% tax greatly impacts on their efficiency negatively,” NTV’s managing director Aggie Konde said.

Peter Sematimba, the managing director of Super FM asked government to channel money to media if there is to be a win-win situation.

“Why can’t billions of money used by government to popularize their programs be given to the media to do it on their behalf?” Sematimba asked. Media owners also tasked the government to disseminate advertorial information equally without selection.

Telecom operators also called for reduction of taxes on mobile handsets if more Ugandans are to access internet.

Statistics show that Tanzania’s internet cost is 6 times cheaper than Uganda’s internet costs. This according to telecom operators has been as result of reduced taxation and suitable working environment.

According to recent statistics, telecom companies such as MTN and Airtel are the highest tax payers with Shs458bn and Shs155bn respectively.

However, Tumwebaze encouraged IT practitioners not to desert the field because there is enough money for the ICT ministry to kickoff.

“I don’t want to see anyone leaving IT to go and sell mukene like I have heard some people doing. This time there is Shs170bn Science fund to support IT innovations,” he said, adding that universal and affordable internet is new fuel for transformation and jobs.

“Government is to launch a citizen call center to expand frontiers of accountability in public service delivery. In a few months, we will also launch a monthly bazaars where every ministry shall hold such a dialogue with various stakeholders.”