The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) in partnership with the Uganda National Farmers Federation (UNFFE) and Eight Technologies have launched a project dubbed “ICT for Farmers” to enable all farmers across the country have access to information they need to benefit from their agricultural work.
The UCC Executive Director, Irene Kaggwa who launched the project at UCC headquarters in Kampala on Wednesday, said that most of Uganda’s population is in agriculture, and therefore should have access to information they need to multiply their benefits.
“As a country, we know that most of our population is in agriculture. Some are large scale farmers while others are small scale. But as a farmer, where can you get the information to help you benefit from your work? Internet is wide,” said Ms Kaggwa.
The project, she said, was established following a study conducted on “ICT for Agriculture,” which revealed that although there is much innovation in agriculture, there was still a gap between those innovations and the targeted users.
The targeted users, Kaggwa said, were unable to know those innovations were in place.
“So, we came up with this initiative where we want to have a platform that enables those farmers to access the information that has been developed. This initiative (ICT for Farmers) will develop a platform where you can access the information either by smartphone or internet, you can use an interruptive voice recording system or you can use SMS,” she said.
“It covers all the different forms of farmers irrespective of the type of device they are able to use. And we are going to use this to harness and reach all the other people who have already developed Applications so that we get full benefit of them as a country. We want to make sure they (farmers) have digital skills, they understand the information and even get it (information) in their own local languages,” she added.
ICT for farmers, which is a 3 year project, has been divided into phases.
The first phase is looking at the platform and the call center has cost 400 million. The second phase has been estimated at 700 million while the third phase will look at what will have been achieved.
This, however, is a contribution from the UCC.
Ms Kaggwa said, “we will need other partners to come onboard to complement the efforts and make sure that the dream becomes a reality.”
Asked the number of targeted beneficiaries, Ms Kaggwa said that since UCC has partnered with the Uganda National Farmers Federation (UNFFE), the latter’s membership alone is 3 million. She, however, added that the target is the entire Ugandan population which is into farming.
“We target not to limit this to just their (UNFFE) members but address the entire population that is into farming. If we can address the needs of all farming community, then we will have looked at ourselves as having achieved the purpose,” she said.
Between 75% to 80% of Ugandan population is into farming.
It should be noted that many initiatives have been started but sustaining them has always been a challenge.
Asked how UCC and its partners will ensure sustainability of the project, Ms Kaggwa said, “sustainability is very key and is something we are prioritizing in all the projects we are doing to make sure that even if we pulled out, these projects can continue. So, one of the issues that has been looked at is making sure that we have various partners onboard and also leverage on what has already been done.”
“We expect, as we rollout, to have many people come onboard to help us meet the costs. And in rolling out the program, we are trying to make sure that we are riding onto existing initiatives and efforts that will keep the project costs down,” she added.