Policy Statement by Hon. Frank k. Tumwebaze, Minister of ICT and National Guidance at World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) 2017

Policy Statement by Hon. Frank k. Tumwebaze, Minister of ICT and National Guidance at World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) 2017

The Minister of ICT and National Guidance Hon. Frank Tumwebaze together with a delegation of staff from UCC and Hon Maxwell Akora attended the #WSIS2017 forum in Geneva organised by the International telecommunications Union(ITU) last week.

They had a lot of discussions on strategies to narrow the digital divide among our citizens especially between the urban and the rural poor.

Unlimited Internet - Uganda

“We had a lot of side and panel session interactions to pitch for our countries ICT investments. We did this successfully. The secretary general of ITU committed to send a team of top IT consultants to help us in our digital vision formulation and also look at our innovation progress with a view of identifying support areas. It’s promising,” Frank Tumwebaze said.

Below are the remarks the Minister made on behalf of Uganda as a member county to ITU

Theme: Bridging the Digital Divide

Date: Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Time: 16:45–17:30,

Policy Statement by Hon. Frank k. Tumwebaze, Minister of ICT and National Guidance; Republic of Uganda

The Secretary General of the ITU, Mr. Houlin Zhao,

Mr. Chairman,

Your Excellences Honorable Ministers,

Distinguished delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure to participate in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS 2017) forum and present this Policy Statement to you distinguished delegates.

On behalf of the Government and People of Uganda, I congratulate the International Telecommunications Union and its partners for organizing this very important forum. This forum is particularly important for the world as it enables stakeholders discuss and identify ways in which the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets can be achieved through leveraging on ICTs and deepening digital transformation.

Mr. Chairman, the Government of Uganda has placed ICTs as one of the key drivers for the country’s growth and development because it realizes the immense benefits and opportunities that ICTs create for the economy and its citizens. ICTs therefore form an integral part of the Country’s development agenda.

Ladies and Gentlemen, through partnership with the private sector, Uganda has made great strides in extending ICT services all over the country. As of 2016, the country had achieved 100% area coverage for radio broadcasting services while voice telephony stood at 85% at sub county level. With regard to usage, penetration of voice telephony and internet stands at 63.4% and 51.9% respectively, largely driven by the mobile revolution.

Distinguished delegates, Uganda aims at having 100% access and usage of ICTs in the medium term. We however, like any emerging economy, continue to grapple with gaps in critical areas like; ICT infrastructure; ICT skills and relevant content among others. It is for this reason that we value such high level fora like WSIS that provide an opportunity to all stakeholders to dialogue, share experiences and identify new ways to address the challenges that we are experiencing back home with regard to promoting usage and access to ICTs.

Ladies and Gentlemen, in implementing Action line C2, that focuses on ICT Infrastructure, the Government of Uganda is extending the National Backbone Infrastructure to cover all districts in the Country including major institutions like local government offices, health centers and educational institutions. This government infrastructure is being put in place to augment the already existing private sector infrastructure networks. We have also ensured that we have in place a favorable policy and regulatory framework to further encourage private sector investment in ICT infrastructure. We are also encouraging the private sector to adopt innovative ways of deployment of infrastructure to achieve efficient use of resources. This has already borne fruit with the emergence of operators exclusively providing infrastructure as a service to other operators.

Distinguished delegates, Uganda has a young population with over 70% below the age of 35 years. We recognize that in order for them to realize the full benefits of ICTs, there is need to create awareness and build capacity of these young citizens. As such, we have integrated ICTs in our education system though embracing the use of ICTs in the delivery of the education curriculum. Our digital vision being finalised will further outline digital milestones for each sector of government to adopt in our efforts to fully take all government services online. This is in line with addressing SDG 4, which calls for ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all and ensuring lifelong learning opportunities for all. The government has established the requisite infrastructure in secondary schools, teacher training institutions and universities. To date, over 90% of the public secondary schools, teacher training institutions and universities have ICT laboratories equipped with the necessary content. This program also includes a teacher re-tooling program where school teachers are equipped with the necessary skills to impart ICT skills and knowledge to their students. We are working with the private sector, civil society organizations and development partners to ensure that the ICT in Education program is rolled out to all schools and hence achieve better appreciation of ICTs.

Ladies and gentlemen, in order to further promote the uptake of ICT services, the Government of Uganda is emphasizing the creation of an innovation driven ICT sector. Several initiatives are underway that aim at promoting and supporting the development of local ICT systems and solutions. We have further embarked on promoting the development of relevant local content to facilitate integration of ICTs in the social and economic sectors of Uganda. We believe this will encourage local users to embrace ICTs. We welcome the participation of various partners from the private sector, civil society and development agencies in achieving this objective.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we continue to explore other opportunities that will enable us realize our vision of achieving universal access and usage of ICTs. To further address access gaps, the government has embarked on leveraging existing infrastructure like post offices to enable access to e-services, including e-government services. The traditional post offices are being upgraded with internet connectivity to enable them accommodate one-stop Centres where the citizens can access all the available e-government services. In addition, we are encouraging the private sector to adopt other models of infrastructure deployment and sharing, especially in the underserved and unserved areas as means of reducing the cost of network roll outs. Similarly, we have further adopted coordinated planning and deployment of ICT infrastructure with other complimentary services like roads as well as utilities like water and electricity in unserved areas.

Mr Chairman, Your Excellences, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, as I conclude, it gives me great pleasure to inform you that Uganda has made great strides in advancing the WSIS Action lines. The Government of Uganda reiterates its Commitment towards furthering the implementation of WSIS Action lines using a multi-stakeholder and multi-dimensional approach. We commit to further ensuring that our policy and regulatory frameworks address emerging technological and industry trends so as to ensure that we bridge the digital divide. I thank the ITU for organizing this forum and the Government of Switzerland for hosting us. I look forward to interacting with other distinguished delegates and drawing lessons, sharing best practices and identifying emerging trends on various topical issues that we shall be discussing during this forum.

For God and My Country,

Hon. Frank Kagyigyi Tumwebaze,

Minister, Ministry of ICT and National Guidance

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