Low Internet reach hinders ICT classes

Officials from Enabel, Ministry of ICT, and Internet Society Uganda Chapter pose for a photo after launching the Digital Rights for Girls and Women project on August 24 at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala. This was during the Uganda Internet Governance Forum 2023. Photo | Frank Baguma.

What you need to know:

  • The Internet has revolutionalised the way we live, communicate, and do business. It knows no boundaries, connects people, ideas, and cultures  worldwide

In an era characterised by rapid technological advancement, the digital landscape has arisen as a catalyst for transformative change, moulding economies, societies, and nations in manners that transcend traditional geographic boundaries.

The Internet has revolutionalised the way we live, communicate, and do business. It knows no boundaries, connects people, ideas, and cultures  worldwide.

In the Uganda Internet Governance Forum 2023 held under the theme The Internet We Want – Empowering Ugandans on August 24 at Sheraton Hotel, Mr Tom Vanneste, the resident representative, Enabel Uganda, revealed how internet penetration has constrained a number of schools from putting to use different computer donations availed to them.

Computer museums?

He explained that donors have created computer museums in schools and urged  that focus to be put on awareness, empowerment, and access to internet devices and data to curb the phenomenon.

“We need to empower the learners, teachers, and administrators on how to use these computers. A lot needs to be done and we need to address the cost of devices and data,” said Mr Vanneste.

He revealed that many institutions are hindered by the lack of instructors, useful content and how learners can use it to benefit themselves and the cost of maintenance and internet.

At the event, Enabel also launched a project dubbed Digital Rights for Girls and Women seeking to empower people to take on opportunities available from the internet and it will be in North, Eastern Uganda, Karamoja, Central , the Rwenzori and Albertine regions.

Shirley Gladys Nakyejwe, the senior ICT officer and intellectual property management specialist at the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance, shared that the young generation should be empowered in digital skills as a way of empowering them to exploit their potential since the internet provides many opportunities to improve their livelihoods and curb youth unemployment.

“ICT has not been a subject of interest in the past. What we are seeing now is that it is an enabler in learning. Make ICT mandatory from the grassroots to understand the benefits of ICT,” she advised.

Ms Nakyejwe explained that the contribution of ICT to Uganda’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) stands at a remarkable more than nine per cent, significantly contributing to the national revenue.

“This growth in ICT contribution to our GDP results from significant initiatives undertaken by the government and private sector players to expand infrastructure coverage and develop e-services, among other efforts.”

According to the National Planning Authority (NPA), information and communications services have continued to experience an average growth rate of 14.8 per cent. However, there remains room for growth in computer programming and the ICT trade and manufacturing industries.

Ms Gloria Katuuku, the manager planning strategy and performance at NITA-U, revealed that the government is doing its best to ensure all citizens are connected to the internet and have equitable digital resources and technology.

She said they have rationalised using National Backbone Infrastructure (NBI) in all ministries, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) with a major objective of bridging the digital divide with affordable internet.

“Most of the government services are now provided online through the UG-Hub. For the hard to reach areas, the government is focusing on laying last mile connectivity to those that were not accessing it. The internet we want is one whose prices have been reduced in prices and can be accessed by anyone,” she said.

Legislation for privacy

Joshua Mpairwe, the president Internet Society Uganda Chapter, explains that internet policy continues to grow in Uganda and there are acts in place to enable people to keep secure online.

“We have the Data Protection and Privacy Act 2019 and the Computer Misuse Act 2022. Technology keeps growing and we are glad because previously, there was no regulation for people working online and so were the increasing cybercrimes.”

The top cyber security threats today include social engineering, third party exposure, configuration mistakes, poor cyber hygiene, cloud and mobile device vulnerabilities, Ransomware and poor data management. There is a need for more engagement and skilling of young people to address these cyber security issues. Innocent Adriko, the coordinator Uganda Youth Internet Governance Forum, revealed that youth are concerned about the fact that Artificial intelligence (AI) education in learning institutions is taking a slow pace as only a handful offer a programme.  Adriko said there are concerns of how the education system will easily adopt AI in learning because most universities have still failed to fully adopt online teaching.

“In periods of crisis, digital technologies provide a lifeline that keeps people, communities, and businesses functioning. Hard times such as Covid-19 showed us that the Internet is not a luxury, but a lifeline, and underscored why affordable and meaningful internet access must be a basic human right,” he said adding that the biggest threat to the internet and its functionality is the users and the recent trends are evident enough to prove this.

“However, we have the opportunity to make better decisions for the future of the Internet so that it can grow even bigger and stronger.”

Digital transformation roadmap

Last week, the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance unveiled the Digital Transformation Roadmap of Uganda, a comprehensive guide steering the nation toward embracing and leveraging digital technologies across all sectors.

This roadmap, which spans five years, is rooted in the Digital Uganda Vision 2040, an initiative aimed at transforming Uganda into a modern and prosperous nation.

It stands on five key pillars: digital infrastructure and connectivity; digital services that revolutionise government-citizen interactions; cyber security, data protection, and privacy; digital skills to empower citizens for an ever evolving world; and innovation and entrepreneurship to ignite creative ideas into startups and market-transforming innovations.