The United Nations Development Programme resident representative in Uganda, Ms Almaz Gebru has called for a collective effort in addressing structural gaps which continue to dent the Information Communication Technology sector.
Gebru was speaking today at the high level dialogue on unlocking mobile enabled digital transformation held at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala on Thursday.
She commended key stakeholders in the ICT sector, government inclusive whose tireless efforts she said have significantly elevated mobile phone subscription and internet usage in the country compared to decades ago.
However, she pointed out that for the country to leverage on various opportunities that lie within the ICT sector, a concerted effort is needed to bridge the growing digital divide between the urban rich and rural poor.
“As we engage in discussion, I would like to implore us to ponder about…the digital divide that remains a threat to achieving inclusive development. 70% of the urban based adults own a mobile phone, against 46% in rural areas. And only 5% in rural areas access internet compared to 25% in urban locations. How can we bring on board the excluded to share the benefits of digitalization?” she said.
She also highlighted the need to encourage mobile innovation in form of localizing ICT innovations to meet the needs of rural natives. Citing the agricultural sector, Almaz pointed out key bottlenecks within this sector could ably be avoided or mitigated if farmers had access to localized digital solutions.
“Recall the recent army worm that wiped out maize plantations in eastern and southern Africa, and the ease with which this problem would have been solved had the farmers accessed real time mobile digital services”, she says.
She reaffirmed participants of UNDPs commitment towards this cause saying that in that regard, the organisation is going to set up a UN accelerator lab as part of the “next generational global UNDP” goals. Almaz says this development will help strengthen critical thinking as far as developing responsive approaches to development challenges is concerned.
Commenting on accelerating citizens’ access to government services, Mr. Vincent Bagire the permanent secretary ministry of ICT and national guidance who represented the line minister said government had moved to integrate key departments.
“What we have embarked on is to integrate all government systems at a certain point. One the data base that NIRA has, to integrate it with the department of immigration such that a citizen who is looking for a national ID or a passport does not have to repeatedly submit information to the same government over and over again”, Bagire explains.