Uganda is going through an Information Communications Technology (ICT) revolution, a tide the government thinks can be used to pull millions of citizens out of poverty.
The country is focusing on using the sector to deliver socio-economic transformation.
Statistics from the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), the body that regulates the sector, indicate that ICT has been the fastest growing sector in the country over the past decade averaging at 30 percent per annum.
Its contribution to GDP has increased from less than 0.5 per cent in 1996 to the current 6.8 percent. Close to 700 million US dollars in revenue was generated last financial year 2008/9.
A World Bank report released in the middle of last year showed that for every 10 percentage-point increases in high speed Internet connections, there is an increase in economic growth of 1.3 percentage points.
The report Information and Communications for Development 2009: Extending Reach and Increasing Impact also identifies the mobile platform as the single most powerful way to reach and deliver public and private services to hundreds of millions of people in remote and rural areas across the developing world.
Patrick Mwesigwa, acting executive director of UCC, told Xinhua that Uganda is already reaping from the ICT revolution. “The telecommunication companies are not only the highest fiscal contributors but revenue generated from the sector has been critical in supporting government development programme in sectors such as health and education,” he said.
Uganda with financial support from China is constructing a multi-million dollar National Data Transmission Backbone (NDTB), a fiber optic cable that will connect government departments, districts and schools. Experts say once the NDTB is connected to the submarine cable systems, the cost of bandwidth will go down which will eventually lead to increased internet access. “Improved ICT infrastructure will enable increase in agricultural productivity due to improved access to markets for cash crops and will spur growth of a variety of industries and therefore generate many employment opportunities,” said Mwesigwa.
Mwesigwa predicts that being connected to the submarine cable systems will increase regional trade since the costs of communication will be lower than the current ones which are running on the expensive satellite based services.
As the construction of the NDTB continues, government has also embarked on providing computers and related accessories to facilitate ICT training in at least one school in each of the country’s over 80 districts.
According to Mwesigwa, communities around the schools are allowed to use the computers when the students are not using them. The country’s mobile telephony has also increased since the country liberalised the telecommunication sector in 1996.