High cost, skills gap a setback to inclusive digital economy

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of ITC and National Guidance, Dr Aminah Zawedde addressing delegates from Ethiopia and Malawi who are in the country for Digital Finance Services for Resilience Learning Exchange Visit. PHOTO/ JANE NAFULA

Governments and private sector must work together to bridge the skills gap and also address the high cost of Information Communication Technology (ICT) devices and services to ensure an inclusive digital economy, experts have advised.

The United Nations Digital Finance Services Country Specialist for Malawi, Ms Iris Kissiti said private- public partnership is key in ensuring a positive digital transformation that benefits all citizens.

Addressing participants at a learning exchange workshop for Uganda, Malawi and Ethiopia held at Serena Hotel from May 16 to 17, Ms Kissiti said addressing the cost of internet, and devices such as phones, computers would pave a way for increased utilisation of technology in transacting business and promoting trade among others.

"It takes both the private and public sectors to create a positive digital transformation that we are seeking in order to leave no one behind," she said.

Adding,"This starts with conducive policy environment like favourable taxation where private sector is able to thrive, public sector investment in infrastructure for the private sector to thrive."

The Principal Analyst, Policy Reserve in the Department National Payment system, Bank of Malawi Mr Jewel Ndalama called for gender equity in utilisation of ICT.

“Countries should start working towards ensuring inclusive access to digital ICT services by marginalized group like women, the elderly and refugees," Ndalama said.

 The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information Communication Technology and National Guidance, Dr Aminah Zawedde said Uganda has taken strides to see how to reduce taxes on ICT devices, rationalize services and increase the number or ICT users in the country.

"To date, 60 percent of the population use mobile devices and network connectivity is about 70 percent and the youth are aggressively utilizing internet services. However, the devices are expensive," Dr Zawedde said.

She however' said that Uganda is considered to be ahead of number of countries in Africa in the area of ICT and that countries like Ethiopia and Malawi were picking a leaf from her.

 Dr Zawedde said that the United Nations Digital Financing score card ranked Uganda at 70 percent in terms of good policy and that government had embarked on implementing the policies.

The Digital Finance Resilience Lead for Ethiopia, Mr Endashow Fesfaye said, "Ethiopia is still at its learning phase but Uganda is at its scaling phase in terms of policy implementation. We want to learn from Uganda how it has taken the first step to us the digital financing score card to inform decisions so that we can replicate it."


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