Uganda Is On Track To Bridging Digital Divide

By Joshua Akandwanaho.

In 2015, The National Information Society Agency (NIA) of Korea partnering with the Government of Uganda set up the Information Access Center (AIC) with the goal of bridging Uganda’s digital divide.

This is done through offering broad opportunities of access to information, IT education and capacity building, free access to internet, open collaborative space for seminars, workshops and training.

The government of South Korea under its subsidiary NIA has established a total of 50 Information Access Centre’s (IACs) in 40 different countries around the world providing better access and opportunity to use ICTs for the general public in developing countries, thus contributing to improving the IT environment as well as cooperation in the ICT field.

The AIC enjoys high speed internet through the National Backbone Infrastructure (NBI).
In Uganda, the centre currently boasts of a fully equipped 30 seater specialized training facility, 25 seater Internet Lounge, 50 seater seminar/conference room has for the past five years been instrumental in ensuring that there’s increased access to information technology, improved government accountability, enhanced capacity building infrastructure (especially for civil servants) and also a generally more informed citizenry.

The walk in internet lounge has over the time served as the citizen’s source of vital information on government programs and activities and research purposes. The benefits here are two fold; on one hand, citizens are allowed to walk in and surf the internet on the progress of different programs being undertaken on the various ministries, departments and agency portals which builds an informed citizenry.

On the other hand, through increased access to such information by the citizens, the government has greatly improved its accountability mechanisms which in turn continue to build a more robustly transparent and open government.

At IAC, capacity building of key human resource especially in the Information technology arena has been a fundamental component of the Centre through facilitation of over 1,500 training programs and 2,240 workshops and seminars.

The number of participants trained per year at the Centre has grown from 420 in 2015 to 2,515 by 2018 with the total number of trainees benefiting since its inception standing at more than 4,470. The number of workshop Participants per Year rose from 480 to 1,435, total participation stands at 4,395 participants by 2018.   As a result of this unmatched growth, the Government of Korea has hatched plans to establish two new Information Access Centres in other regions of the country.

The facility is freely accessible by the citizenry, including Ministries, Departments and Agencies, organized groups like education training institutions, incubation centers, Non-Government Institutions, youth & women groups, civil servants and other private sector players. Over the years, training’s have centered on how technology can be leveraged as a resource for improving overall government performance in the context of social and economic development.

These sessions have covered key IT elements such as the E-government, Project Management, and Cyber security, awareness on Cyber laws, Future Technologies, 4IR, public administration and IT governance.

The Centre has also facilitated capacity building programs on Web Management for both Central and District Local Government Web Managers. Special programs have been designed in line with SDG: 4 and 5 on Quality Education and Gender Equality to support ICT inclusiveness all of which are aimed at bridging the digital divide and accelerating IT literacy in our country.

The IAC has also played host to the Government Citizen Interaction Centre (GCIC) since 2016 which has continued to play a pivotal role in plugging the information gap between Government and its citizens. Through multiple channels such as a toll free line (900), email, social media platforms, websites, online chat and SMS.

GCIC is able to disseminate information on government programs and service provision while simultaneously receiving feedback from citizens. The data generated through these interactions has often been analyzed to inform formulation of policy interventions where necessary.

In addition to these impressive works, efforts are underway to transform the IAC into a Knowledge Hub considering the fact that, Kampala is at the heart of an interconnected network of entrepreneurs, academia, private sector, government, investors who all believe in the application of technology in powering social economic prosperity.

The Centre is steadfast in creating an eco-system that creates opportunities for growth and acceleration of Startups, SMEs and Purpose-Driven Enterprises that are central in solving our biggest societal challenges.

In a nutshell, Uganda is on its way to bridging the digital divide. Many Ugandans are now connected and can freely access information and services online. It’s upon this background, I commend Government of Uganda through Ministry of ICT and National Guidance for making Uganda a digital village.

The Writer is the Business Process Analyst at NITA Uganda.