KAMPALA — Makerere University has asked Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to restore its defunct radio station and help the institution to set up a television station, which the Vice-Chancellor said will help in counteracting “fake” news.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the National Conference on Communications (NCC) hosted by Makerere University’s College of Engineering, Design Art and Technology (CEDAT) in conjunction with UCC, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe said Makerere had lost the radio license due to non-payment of license fees but was now capable of paying up.
“We lost it (license) because we were poor, now we have some money,” he said, adding that the university is also interested in a TV license.
Unlike the broadcasting stations spewing out falsehoods and inaccuracies, Prof Nawangwe said, on a rather light note, the Makerere media house would live by the slogan “Amatuufu ddala ddala” (very accurate news).
Through its Department of Mass Communication, Makerere University had a radio station until the license was withdrawn for non-payment of license fees a few years back.
Reacting to Prof. Nawangwe’s remarks, the Minister of ICT and National Guidance Judith Nabakooba, who officiated at the event held at Golden Tulip Hotel on Wednesday, March 3, agreed that a radio and TV station would serve as a teaching aid for journalism and ICT students as well as a tool to share accurate information.
She advised Makerere University to table the matter before UCC officially.
On the Makerere Vice Chancellor’s other request for a specialised fund to facilitate research in universities, Hon. Nabakooba said her ministry would look into the proposal.
Held annually, the National Conference on Communications is a platform for IT researchers, industry actors, academics and students to deliberate on solutions for local challenges and proposals to improve ICTs in Uganda.
The opening ceremony of the two-day event was attended only by invited guests as other participants followed virtually in observance of the COVID-19 safety guidelines.
In recognition of the impact that COVID-19 has had on people’s ways of life and the communications sector, in particular, NCC 2020 is being held under the theme, “Connectivity, Resilience, and Innovation in the Covid-19 Era.”
In her speech, Ms. Nabakooba said the Government is committed to putting ICTs at the forefront of Uganda’s transformation agenda, hence the significant investment in ICT infrastructure, as well as the robust legal and regulatory framework, which she said, are evident in the positive indicators registered in recent years.
“Our vision as Government is to leverage ICTs to spur economic transformation and improve people’s lives. Technology per se will be of no or little consequence if it doesn’t translate into higher standards of living for our people,” she said.
The Minister, however, noted that while ICTs are an important instrument in the creation of employment and driving of economic development once used constructively, they can also be abused whereby the consequences could be dire.
“I call upon you to deliberate on how best Uganda can reap the benefits of ICTs and social media in particular while at the same time minimising the potential dangers such as cyber harassment, hate speech, terrorism and cyber insecurity, among others,” she said, before asking, “as researchers, how can we use social media constructively?”
On her part, the Ag. Executive Director UCC, Irene Kaggwa Sewankambo, challenged scientists, researchers and innovators to take the disruption caused by COVID-19 as an opportunity to identify and develop solutions to the critical problems people face today.
As the regulator, she said, the Commission “will continue to collaborate with other stakeholders, especially as a facilitator and enabler of the development of ICTs as part of our vision to create a digitally inclusive economy.”
With the opening ceremony out of the way, the day’s real business started with a keynote speech on Cognitive Autonomous Systems by Dr. Stephen Mwanje of Nokia Bell Labs.
The conference also held a demonstration of innovations by various researchers, including Ms. Morine Amutorine of UN Pulse Lab, Eng. Fred Isabirye of MoSTI, Nathan Tumuhamye of Eastern Africa RILab and Dr. Edgar Kasenene of IDEX Africa.
A Publishing Masterclass conducted by Dr. Abubaker Matovu Waswa of Makerere University and Dr. Eric Umuhoza of Carnegie Mellon University Africa was one of the highlights on Day 1.
Standing out on Day 2 was a keynote speech by Mr. Edgar Kasenene of IDEX Africa and a panel discussion on Guaranteeing Network Connectivity and Resilience in Emergency Scenarios featuring Mr. Donald Waigumbulizi, Country Manager Ericsson Uganda, and Ms. Elizabeth Ntege, CEO NFT Consult, among others.