The Minister of ICT and National Guidance Frank Tumwebaze has revealed that his Education happened by accident.
Appearing on UBC’s Cedric Live Show early this week, the minister said he should not have gone to school because he grew up in a family where all they thought about was pastoralism.
“I shouldn’t have gone to school and I mean that. I was a child of a herdsman. At five or six years you’re taught how to milk cows and herd them, take them to water points and how to make water troughs out of soil so those were some of the basics a boy child was supposed to pass through during those days. That was my childhood, so going to school was an initiative of my late mother. She brought an idea that let these children go to the child school and learn how to write and read,” said Tumwebaze.
“Why I say it was by accident is that I’m the second last born and the first one to go to school in my family so later alone a number of things worked out. By Primary Seven I could read English and here, my father got so convinced that Education was a worthwhile investment. He continued to pay my fees and you know what was motivating him, whenever he was summoned in court he could not read the summons so he could go to certain parish chiefs to read for him at a fee. One day he told me but you, you pretend to be in school can you read this and when he confirmed twice that what I read rhymed the same way like for his trusted interpreters he was paying, he never looked back, he was like I really need to educate this child.”
When he joined Secondary School, the Minister noted that his father was so motivated because he [Tumwebaze] was always number one in class throughout.
“I was the pioneer of First grade at Kazo Secondary in Mbarara and that is how I came to cross to Jinja College. In Senior Four we got a field trip for Geography to see the Source of the Nile, Masese and all that. We were accommodated at Jinja College. When I was at this school I realized that these students were very sharp, the school had electricity and for us it was a miracle so I was like I should put this school as my first choice. I passed very well and I was called to do PCM after my Senior Four.
Later I went to Mbarara University on government sponsorship to do a Bachelors Degree of Science in Education majoring in Math and Physics. I missed Engineering by one or two points.”
Falling into Politics
The Kibale East Member of Parliament disclosed that his area (Eastern Part of Kamwenge ) was a very remote and he use to ask himself whether the government in Kampala was aware that they also existed.
“We got an opportunity to meet the President in 1997-98 as Student leaders because I was a Guild President of Mbarara University and you would be shocked what I told him. I asked whether he knew Kamwenge [He asked me what about it?], I told him that sir we are very remote, we request you to give us our own district because I had been told that with districts the more nearer they are the more services. By that time our district was Kabarole. In short the troubles that affected my home area inspired me to be an activist of my community.”
Tumwebaze said he started being a leader in school and by Senior Four, he was clearly formed and was ready to present the oppressing issues in his community to the responsible parties.
“I started being a leader in school and by Senior four I was clearly formed, I was a Head Prefect at Jinja College, Guild President at Mbarara University. I did not join politics because I wanted a shortcut for a job, it was not even ambition to be honest, it was a feeling that I should speak for my area.
“By Senior three and Senior Four I had moved in many offices not because I was looking for a job but because I was telling them about the poor situation of my area. The fire in me was to give my community the basic services that is how I contested, The of course I was so much inspired by our President; when we met him as student leaders he challenged us how they started the student movement so that gave me confidence that even at our level we could do something good for our communities. I felt that I was the source of solution for my community,” the minister stated.
ICT being prioritized like other key infrastructures
Tumwebaze who has been in the ICT Minister for three years now said;
ICT is a utility just like others just like people didn’t have piped water and now they have it, how did they get it? An infrastructure was put in place to give them piped water so is electricity so are the roads so is railway. So ICT you must have an infrastructure in place.
When I came into the ministry I asked them what our strategy for connectivity for the whole country was, I found out that because the Ministry of ICT was formed in 2006 when the sector had grown, telecom operators who were in operation had already invested in the infrastructure because government had no appetite to invest in fibre or satellite. You couldn’t prioritize in investing in optic fibres in 2006 when people did not have safe water, you couldn’t invest in internet even in 2010 when people didn’t have adequate electricity because it [internet] was seen as a luxury by then.
But gradually I think as earlier as 2007 when Chogm was hosted here,the international delegates were demanding for connectivity, it became apparent that the Ministry of ICT was as important as the other physical infrastructure sectors.
So when I came in I was like government should not be just a player in the development of the infrastructure, we must complement private operators to ensure that we build connectivity.
So I’m now happy to report that the government of Uganda prioritizes broadband infrastructure the way it prioritizes roads, water or electricity and I believe if you can have an interaction with our agency NITA-U they will tell you that by the end of this financial year, 95 per cent to almost 100 per cent of our districts will be fully connected with the backbone. So far Uganda has over 12 million internet users and this shows that connectivity is improving, we are no longer worried about the length or depth of the coverage, our emphasis is on the quality of coverage that is why we are talking about 4G in town minimum 3G So we are trying to up the game for operators.
Government on a right track in supporting innovations
Yes we have the internet but what do we use it for? To continue consuming other people’s content or to continue being importers of people’s innovations? So that is how we came up with an idea at the ministry to supplement the existing initiatives in the private sector of taking advantage of our young, demographics, very well educated Ugandans who have got amazing solutions.
We convinced the President and Cabinet to put a small fund so that we can test the waters. You see ICT enterprises do not require heavy seed money like perhaps the automobile companies would require. So a young man who gets USD10,000 can transform an idea that would generate billion of shillings and billions of dollars that is why we came up with the National ICT Innovation Support Programme.
The programme is funded by the government and this money is given out as grants to innovators. They compete for it. Of course the money is not enough, last year we supported only 12 solutions and they year we are likely to support 20 or 30. This idea is very promising and so far we have solutions in health, academic, financial sector among others.
I can tell you in the next five to 10 years if we steadily invest in innovation of these solutions, you will see numbers of Facebook, Whatsapp dropping because we will be getting substitutes.