KAMPALA – In 2019, the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) with the support of the Sweden Development Agency (SIDA) launched an initiative “Leaving No One Behind in the Digital Era” in Uganda.
This Programme was aiming at empowering Ugandans especially rural community members to lead productive and healthy lives, by expanding access and usage of digital services. However, the Inclusive Digital Economy Scorecard (IDES) report 2021 launched on Thursday showed that Uganda is failing to implement the policy due to poor skills, low information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructural development.
The report launched by UNCDF together with the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance showed that although the performance of Uganda’s policy and regulatory environment is consistent with other global comparative sources, there are still gaps at the implementation level.
While presenting the report at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala, Dr. Francis Tusubira the IDES consultant said Uganda is performing well in terms of making policies but has a hard time in implementing those policies to generate the expected impact of ICT on the economy and citizens.
“Two major gaps need to be addressed. Moving from policy and regulation to effective implementation remains a major challenge. Until this is addressed, the wide gap between policy and regulation and development outcomes achieved will remain small. There has been a lot of focus on inclusiveness for women and youth. The other categories that are still largely excluded need the same consistency if the intent of the Sustainable Development Goals of “leaving no one behind”, also echoed by UNCDF, is to be achieved,” Dr. Tusubira said. Adding that Policy alignment is required at the national level; in this instance, an alignment of the ICT in education policy with the skills required to support the Digital Uganda Vision,” Dr Tusubira noted.
The Minister of State for National Guidance Kabbyanga Godfrey Baluku who represented Minister of ICT Dr. Chris Baryomunsi acknowledged the findings of the report and said government is willing to work with the private sector to see that the policy is implemented to ensure the goal of leaving no one behind in such a digital era is achieved.
“Whereas there has been a big investment in ICT by both Government and the private sector, there has been a lack of harmonization of measurements with industry indicators. This in part has led to Uganda being ranked unfavourably in the Global ICT Index due to lack of visibility. Therefore, this scorecard comes in handy in addressing this challenge,”the minister said.
“As we launch the IDES today, I appeal to various sectors of Government to adopt a modern approach to data governance that leads to accurate, quality data. More so, as we implement the Parish Development Model, we must track the impact of all Government interventions and monitor implementation effectively.”
On his part, Chris Lukolyo, the UNCDF Digital Country Lead said the report came at a time when various countries are showcasing how they are doing in terms of policy, structure, innovation and skill in order to achieve an inclusive digital economy.
“So Uganda is not alone and at this forum, this leadership role that has been taken by the government of Uganda will be further highlighted so from us it’s simply a statement of deep thanks and appreciations and we pledge to continue working with the government and other stakeholders in the public and private sector to achieve an inclusive digital economy that leaves no one behind.”
The report showed that the major national deficiencies in both basic skills and digital skills are Uganda’s greatest challenge in building an inclusive digital economy. It could indeed be said that this is a national crisis. Until these two gaps are addressed, the potentially very high development impact of the ICT sector initiatives cannot be achieved.
According to the report, the major gap that must be addressed is to give a strong boost to the infrastructure including the ownership of phones: The cost of devices, especially smartphones, is high compared with income, which keeps many out of the opportunities provided by connectivity. Taxation is also a contributing element to such costs.
It also recommended that the government should ensure effective implementation of policy and regulation, and also prioritize initiatives that ensure ownership and capacity to use appropriate ICT within reach of the majority. And to address the national deficiencies in both skills and digital skills.