Frank K Tumwebaze, the minister of ICT and National Guidance, says very few people would disagree that technology is central to any serious economy in this era.
He was speaking at the opening of EACO Congress Week at Silver Springs hotel in Bugolobi on Monday.
The regional gathering brought together persons responsible for different facets of ICT (Telecommunications, Information Technology, Broadcasting and postal services from East African Community).
“We need as each nation to embrace ICTs to not only meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals and other National and Regional targets but most importantly to provide better services to our citizens in a faster, efficient and transparent manner,” Tumwebaze said.
According to the minister, governments, industry players, private sector and the international organizations, each have a role to play in order to transform the existing digital divide into digital opportunities for national development and enhance regional integration.
“As a region, we have a number of success stories in the use and application of ICTs in the areas of Education, trade/commerce, healthcare etc. for which we should applaud ourselves.”
He added: “However, we have a lot of unexploited potential and as you may well know, ICT has no sectorial boundaries. There is no sector that you can mention which does not rely on ICTs.”
Last week, the minister held an ICT Stakeholders consultative workshop at Sheraton Hotel on a Digital vision for Uganda where views were advanced specifically; the need for government systems integration and increasing access to government services online, enhancing universal access, promotion of local content, cost of broadband and the growing hate content on social media among others.
“These are areas you experts could include in your discussions and guide us on how to practically address them. You could for instance interrogate the push factors for varying data costs among countries, future outer space usage – why not launch satellites?”
He added: “How do we bridge the digital divide in a multi-lingual country like Uganda with over 50 different languages yet all search engines are in English, Swahili etc.?”
He said unlike Rwanda and Tanzania that have a unifying language irrespective of literacy level, many of different tribes in Uganda cannot communicate with one another with ease.
“Can we have search engines that accommodate all the languages spoken in a country? How do we protect our citizens from hate content without infringing on their right to free speech? These are some of the areas where you can suggest practical solutions for us.”
Tumwebaze said the EACO model is unique because it brings together all the key stakeholders in the ICT space.
It is collaborative and thus forward looking but it is very important that “we take advantage of our membership to these regional and international fora to improve our respective country situations and not just become tourists”.