KAMPALA: ICT is one of the most competitive and fastest-growing sectors in the world. For Uganda, ICT is a way to achieve development objectives, given operating constraints such as a lack of infrastructure and human capacity.
In this vein, the government of Uganda has been working hard to digitize the country. This began with the creation of the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance in 2066 as well as the National Information Technology Authority – Uganda (NITA-U), a statutory body mandated is to coordinate, promote and monitor IT development within the context of national social and economic development.
While technology has improved public and private sector services delivery by providing better access to information, knowledge and communication in Uganda, challenges remained.
Consequently in 2006, the Government of Uganda secured funding from the International Development Association (IDA) to finance various activities under the Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (RCIP).
RCIP complements existing country ICT and e-government Infrastructure initiatives by helping boost the already existing e-government infrastructure and bridge the financing and technical gaps.
RCIP was meant to support the Government of Uganda in improving coverage for IT infrastructure in the country, and the delivery of public services by improving efficiency through government cloud infrastructure. It was also intended to improve integration of Government IT systems, build capacity in management of IT programs and projects, and improve policy and regulatory environment for ICT in country.
RCIP Uganda was to complement existing ICT initiatives in the country, including the National Backbone Infrastructure (NBI) and private sector investment by helping to bridge the financing and technical gaps. RCIP Uganda project aimed to transform public service delivery using Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) to improve the lives of Ugandans.
The 6-year programme was designed, approved and became effective 26th May, 2016.
The project was being implemented by NITA-U. The beneficiaries are the Ministry of Information Communications Technology (MoICT) and Public Procurement and Disposal of Public assets Authority (PPDA).
RCIP Uganda has focused on complimentary infrastructure investments to ensure greater access to affordable, high quality Information and Communications Technology (ICT), and development of a range of enabling e-Government foundations such as shared infrastructure and e-services for MDAs (Ministries, Departments and Agencies) among other interventions.
The government through NITA-U have completed four phases of the NBI, laying 4,000 kilometres of Fiber, extending to 49 districts and connecting 480 government offices.
NITA-U has been at the front of government’s deliberate effort to decrease the cost of internet. With the pre-purchase of international bandwidth for GOU and priority targeted user groups, this has seen the cost that MDAs pay for internet reduce by 71%. Today MDAs pay a retail price of $70 per Mbps, the cheapest price in Uganda.
It is pertinent to note that this influenced a drop in market led prices for internet to USD$300 per Mbps, the lowest in the East African region. All these efforts in astutely managing the NBI/ICT backbone have resulted in government realizing revenue of USD$20 million from the operation of the NBI/ICT Backbone.
A number of electronic services for government have been launched and operationalized. A government-wide messaging system-UMCS has been established and rolled out in 37 entities to provide standardized and secure email for all Government communications.
NITA-U and Ministry of Finance, Planning & Economic Development rolled out e-PAY, an electronic payment gateway that enables online payments for all public services. Additionally, NITA-U now provides subsidized SMS services which public entities are utilizing to provide USSD services, Bulk SMS notifications among others.
The automation of the various services of government have created efficiency in the delivery of services to citizens and also time is saved. In 2018, Uganda Ranked as the most cyber secure country in Africa in the National Cyber Security Index; a global index which measures the preparedness of countries to prevent cyber threats and manage cyber incidents.
NITA-U set up a tier 3 cloud data center, the first of its kind in Uganda. The Data Center which was commissioned by H.E. President Museveni is strategy for the government to provide a centralized hosting services for its data and applications.
To-date, there are over 473 applications and web services hosted at the state-owned facility. Owing to this initiative of building a scalable Government Data Centre that all entities can use, NITA-U has saved government of Uganda UGX1.2 trillion in costs that’s individual agencies would have used to build their own data centres.
In the last 10 years, NITA-U has created an enabling environment for ICT to flourish by ensuring that the right laws, regulations and Policies are in place. These include;
- The Electronic Signatures Act.
- The Electronic Transactions Act.
- The Data Protection and Privacy Act.
- The Computer Misuse Act.
- The NITA-U Act.
In addition, they put in place the Certification Framework to ensure improved quality of IT products and services, ensure consumer/client protection, and standards applicable to the IT industry. Over 305 IT firms have been certified and over 2,000 firms have been registered for IT certification.
The efforts by government through NITA-U in digitizing services have yielded in improvement of the country’s e-Government global ranking. The Online service index improved from 50% in 2016 to 57% in 2018 putting the country in the high online service index bracket. In addition to that, the e-Participation Index improved from 0.07 in 2010 to 0.6 in 2018 putting the country in the high e- participation bracket.
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