Although an Inclusive Digital Economy is currently the way to go especially in such a time when the Covid-19 has struck the global economy, the Inclusive Digital Economy Scorecard (IDES) report 2021 has shown that Uganda still has a long way to go due to poor policy implementation, low information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructural development.
The report launched on Thursday by the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) together with the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) showed that although the performance of Uganda’s policy and regulatory environment is consistent with other global comparative sources, there are still gaps at the implementation level.
While presenting the report at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala, Dr. Francis Tusubira the IDES consultant said Uganda is performing well in terms of making policies, but has a hard time in implementing those policies to generate the expected impact of ICT on the economy and citizens.
“Two major gaps need to be addressed. Moving from policy and regulation to effective implementation remains a major challenge. Until this is addressed, the wide gap between policy and regulation and development outcomes achieved will remain small. There has been a lot of focus on inclusiveness for women and youth. The other categories that are still largely excluded need the same consistency if the intent of the Sustainable Development Goals of “leaving no one behind”, also echoed by UNCDF, is to be achieved,” Dr Tusubira said.
“A national environment with low skill levels (score of 33 percent) creates barriers to the translation of seemingly good policy into national development outcomes. Policy alignment is required at the national level; in this instance, an alignment of the ICT in education policy with the skills required to support the Digital Uganda Vision.”
The Minister of State for National Guidance Kabbyanga Godfrey Baluku who represented Minister of ICT Dr. Chris Baryomunsi said that government has now embarked on the implementation of the National Development Plan- NDP Digital Transformation Programme with the aim of increasing ICT penetration and use of ICT services for social and economic development.
“Government has mainstreamed ICT across all sectors. I have however been concerned that the country does not have accurate data on aspects of digital transformation such as the number of kilometres of fibre infrastructure in the country, the number of hours saved by the citizens because of adoption of Government services, innovation data and the number of people employed in the ICT sector. As we launch the IDES today, I appeal to various sectors of Government to adopt a modern approach to data governance that leads to accurate, quality data. More so, as we implement the Parish Development Model, we must track the impact of all Government interventions and monitor implementation effectively,” Mr Baluku said.
“As I conclude, implore both the public sector and private sector to adopt the IDES for measuring the implementation of Digital Transformation Programme. This should be complemented through investment in research.”
Chris Lukolyo, the UNCDF Digital Country Lead said the report came at a time when various countries are showcasing how they are doing in terms of policy, structure, innovation and skill in order to archive an inclusive digital economy.
“So Uganda is not alone and at this forum this leadership role that has been taken by the government of Uganda will be further highlighted so from us it’s simply a statement of deep thanks and appreciations and we pledge to continue working with the government and other stakeholders in the public and private sector to achieve an inclusive digital economy that leaves no one behind.”
According to the report, the policy and infrastructure indicators point to a reasonably high level of basic skills (60 percent), but implementors do not capture the quality of education needed. For example, skills are at a score of 33 percent, however, digital literacy is at 20 percent and Financial literacy is at 19 percent.
The major national deficiencies in both basic skills and digital skills are easily Uganda’s greatest challenge in building an inclusive digital economy. It could indeed be said that this is a national crisis. Until these two gaps are addressed, the potentially very high development impact of the ICT sector initiatives cannot be achieved.
In the case of the infrastructure, the report showed that coverage still has gaps, especially in rural areas. Also, the high cost of ICT services and tools has affected infrastructural development.
The major gaps that must be addressed is to give a strong boost to the infrastructure including the ownership of phones: The cost of devices, especially smartphones, is high compared with income, which keeps many out of the opportunities provided by connectivity. Taxation is also a contributing element to such costs.
The report recommended that government should ensure effective implementation of policy and regulation, also prioritize initiatives that ensure ownership and capacity to use appropriate ICT within reach of the majority. And to address the national deficiencies in both skills and digital skills.
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