Minister of ICT and National Guidance Frank Tumwebaze said government officials are already discussing a law that will push government entities to support Ugandan startups by procuring their services, investing in them or acquiring them.
“… this morning we were having a conversation: How do we make a law to compel government entities […] to really procure startups. To give them first opportunity before they think of other solutions,” the minister said while speaking this past Wednesday at the launch of Refactory, an initiative aimed at producing ICT graduates that are ready for the job sector.
However, Tumwebaze noted that the proposal to introduce the law sparked wide-ranging questions and fears, with officials calling for a thorough preparation to make sure that the policy ensures that the startups that are to work with government will not put data at risk as we’ve seen with technological giants like Facebook whose data sharing practices have raised eyebrows.
“But the counter opinion we got in the meeting was, before you make that law we must also [consider] how we quality-assure these apps, that indeed they will remain potent and serve, and really deliver… because you are giving a solution for people to load their data and run,” he said, adding: “So we must also guarantee that what we innovate is really quality-assured. So that’s why I think that we need to really get together to see how do we quality assure and rank and grade these solutions, isn’t it? And after that then be able to compel these all other people to use” these locally-produced innovations.
If passed, the law will be yet another powerful initiative the Ministry of ICT would have come up with along with the National ICT Initiatives Support Programme (NIISP), a multi-billion shillings project whose overall goal is to create a sustainable ecosystem for ICT innovations and to support ICT innovators and application developers.
This year 100 startups pitched government to qualify for the Program and during the launch of Refactory, Tumwebaze said that over 50 startups that qualified for the grants will be announced this week.
The ICT and National Guidance ministry also recently unveiled a 32-member task force on emerging technologies, whose job, according to Minister Tumwebaze, is “to really explain to the basic Ugandans how should we prepare our learners in this fourth industrial Revolution to be able to tap the opportunities.”