President Museveni has urged the Smart Africa Initiative to look into the possibility of One Network Area (ONA) to promote regional integration by bringing down the high cost of mobile roaming.
“The One Network Area was one of the things being discussed under the Northern Corridor initiative. We believe if our people are able to call Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania freely – without any hinderance or high costs, it would facilitate regional integration,” said Gender Minister Frank Tumwebaze.
The Minister represented Museveni at the 9th board meeting of the Smart Africa chaired by Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame.
Smart Africa is a commitment from African Heads of State and Government to accelerate sustainable socioeconomic development on the continent, ushering Africa into a knowledge economy through affordable access to Broadband and usage of Information and Communications Technologies.
Tumwebaze emphasized the need for One Area Network to integrate voice, data and e-commerce.
Tumwebaze, who was in Kamwenge, western Uganda, attended the virtual meeting via zoom.
The One Network Area is based on a set of regulatory interventions, specifically, eliminating charges for receiving voice calls while roaming in Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda if the call originates in one of these countries.
It also looks at a waiver of excise taxes and surcharges on incoming ONA voice traffic while establishing wholesale and retail price caps on outbound ONA traffic.
The ONA also requires mobile network operators to re-negotiate with their roaming partners to reduce wholesale tariffs.
Many people in East Africa avoid or minimise their use of international roaming services due to the fear of bill shock (being charged much more than expected) or they find current price offers confusing or unacceptable.
Tumwebaze said Uganda recognizes the importance of ICTs and has invested mainly in technological infrastructure.
He also urged Smart Africa secretariat to look into ways of addressing radio and telecommunication spectrum interference especially for people living in border areas.
He also called for peer learning among regional countries to reduce the cost of data. “We can learn from some countries on how they have reduced the cost of internet so we can move together as a region,” said Tumwebaze.
The Minister also called for a deliberate effort to recognize each other’s knowledge products to spur ICT innovations in the region.
“If a product has worked in Rwanda’s ecosystem, definitely it could solve the same problems in Uganda and so it can be in Kenya.
We would want to see how to promote consumption of each other’s knowledge products,” said Tumwebaze.
“If a product is from Rwanda it’s an African product – the same for Ugandan innovation products. That would speak directly to the real definition of a Smart Africa.”
The board meeting held today was aimed at reaching a consensus by Heads of State of the 30 member countries towards the transformation of Africa into a Single Digital Market and an update of initiatives currently underway.
In recent years, the ICT sector in Africa has continued to grow, a trend that is likely to continue.
Of late, mobile technologies and services have generated 1.7 million direct jobs (both formal and informal), contributed to $144 billion of economic value (8.5 percent of the GDP of sub-Saharan Africa), and contributed $15.6 billion to the public sector through taxation.
Digitization has also resolved information asymmetry problems in the financial system and labor market, thus increasing efficiency, certainty, and security in an environment where information flow is critical for economic growth and job creation.