Hon. Frank K. Tumwebaze, minister of ICT and National Guidance, has said government is doing all it can to ensure reduced internet and data costs so every Ugandan can afford online services.
He was speaking at the ICT stakeholders consultative workshop on digital Uganda vision at Kampala Sheraton hotel Thursday and attended by Rt. Hon. Prime Minister, Ruhakana Rugunda, Ministers, MPs and other government officials.
There is more demand for seamless citizen driven public services; boundaries are non-existent and governments must provide access, efficiency, transparency and effectiveness in public services, Tumwebaze said.
“When complete, the Digital vision will be the overall policy ICT framework for the country. It will set targets/milestones/ ICT basic standards for each sector of government to follow and implement.”
He continued: “It will define clearly for example what the judiciary needs to invest in so as to run e-courts. What the Ministry of health should do to run e-clinics (e-health), what the financial sector should do to run a digital cashless economy (e-commerce), what the agricultural sector should do to implement e-agriculture as well as many other sectors like Education, transport and aviation.”
According to him, the digital vision will also set milestones for the country to invest in satellite communication in the future because it’s the most reliable means of communication and least prone to nature and man-made disasters.
When the digital vision is complete and passed by cabinet, each sector of government going forward will be audited to see how it complies with its sectoral ICT targets/milestones.
The minister said digital vision will also enumerate measures on how to enhance digital literacy among the population so as to narrow the divide between the educated and the uneducated and generally change the mind-set about uptake of ICTs.
“ICTs are here to stay and they can only continue advancing and disrupting the way we live. We therefore have to be prepared to harness them for positive growth.”
“Government has invested in connectivity and we are trying to make sure that we achieve affordability and therefore inclusion,” he noted, adding, “Whereas we have not achieved full access, internet connectivity can now be achieved in over 90% of our Country through telecom operators and with the increasing penetration of smartphones, it is possible for anyone, anywhere, to access online content/services.”
With more continued investments in tech infrastructure by both government and private operators, internet speeds will improve greatly.
“We are however aware of the high costs of data in our domestic market and we are trying to understand the push factors beyond what we know. Engagement with the licensed operators is ongoing to ensure that data costs are affordable and within the range of the regional market.”
He said Government concluded the procurement of Bulk Internet Bandwidth for MDAs/LGs which shall lead to a reduction in the cost of Internet Bandwidth.
Effective 1st July 2017, the cost shall reduce from USD 300 to USD 190 per megabits per second per month for all Government MDAs, LGs and target user groups such as hospitals, research institutions, Business Process Outsourcing agencies and innovation hubs.
“Even then, we want this cost to go down further and also go down in tandem with what the private operators are charging. Government Intervention is done cautiously so as not to squeeze the licensed telecom operators out of business. The engagement we shall be continuing to have with licensed operators will harmonize all this.”
He said E-government is increasingly taking centre stage in the innovation eco-system and most MDAs have taken their services online.
“We have indeed witnessed the emergence of systems like IFMS, IPPS, E-citie, URA cargo tracking and IGG’s Online Declaration System in Uganda, e-visa among others.”