2018/19 ICT budget; What govt plans to achieve in the sector

2018/19 ICT budget; What govt plans to achieve in the sector

A bag containing documents for the national budget of the 2018/2019 financial year (Courtesy picture)

For the 2018/19 Financial Year, government has allocated Shs149 billion to the ICT sector, according to a presentation read by Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development Matia Kasaija on June 14, 2018 at the Kampala Serena International Conference Centre.

This is slight bigger than the previous financial year, where the sector got Shs106 billion. The entire budget is Shs 32.5tn – at least 11.6per cent up from the Shs 29tn of the 2017/18 financial year. Recurrent expenditure, which includes wages and salaries, interest payments will take 60% (Shs 19.4tn) while development expenditure will account for 40% (Shs 12.9tn)

At the budget reading, Minister Kasaija said that the outlook for Uganda’s economy is very positive, with a projected expansion of at least 6 percent next financial year and a 7 percent per annum increase in the medium term.

And to ensure that this is maintained, the minister said, government will ensure increased investment in sectors like ICT, which is one of the fastest growing sectors in the country, according to President Yoweri Museveni.

While delivering the budget speech, Kasaija revealed the current situation of the ICT sector, covering areas like internet penetration, infrastructure and mobile service penetration.

According to Kasaija, in the previous financial year, there was reduction in the cost of internet Bandwidth for Government from 300 USD per Mbps per month in 2016 to 70 USD in 2017.

He said that 297 Government services are now automated and are online, which has improved efficiency in public service delivery.

This, he explained, had saved Government 4 million working hours during the last year.

The cost of internet bandwidth for private sector and citizens, according to the minister, has also reduced by 37% from an average of USD 375 USD to USD 237 between 2016 and 2017.

Telecom sector

As we enter into the next financial year, Minister Kasaija says the number of Internet users have increased by 45% from 13 million in 2015 to 18.8 million in 2017.

Active telephone subscribers are now 22.4 million and the number of Mobile money subscribers increased from 2.8 million in 2011 to 23 million in 2017, according to his speech.

The minister also revealed that phone penetration had grown by 53% in 2015 to 66.9 million in 2017. Internet penetration per 100 population stood at 49% in 2017, he said.

To reach the said milestones, according to Kasaija, several steps were taken, including extension of the National Backbone Infrastructure (NBI) to fifty-three more Government Ministries and Agencies bringing the total number connected to three hundred forty-two (342) sites.

The government has also laid almost 2,350kms of Fiber Optic cable, constructed 18 Transmission Sites, in addition to a National Data Centre (NDC) and a state-of-of the-art Network Operations Centre (NOC) for services monitoring.

Additionally, government is also constructing a 500-seater state-of-art Innovation Hub in Nakawa, and according to Kasaija, it is due for completion by August 2018.

Furthermore, government has also established a One Area Network for telephone services under the Northern Corridor Infrastructure Project (NCIP), where all calls to and from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan are charged up to US $10 Cents per minute.

Read: Govt to acquire Shs319bn loan for tech elevation

Plans

With the new budget, the government of Uganda intends to achieve and undertake the following projects, according to Matia Kasaija:

-Reserve a percentage of procurement of ICT Services for competent local innovators

-Enforce the use by all Government Ministries and Agencies of e-Procurement Platform developed under PPDA and NITA-U guidance

-Enforce the use of common ICT Services, including data sharing, e-Payments, Unified messaging, the Programme Based Budgeting System across the whole of Government in order to eradicate duplication of ICT Systems

-Extend the National Backbone Infrastructure to hard-to-reach areas and unserved sub-counties in order to increase broadband penetration

– Develop regional ICT innovation hubs to stimulate incubation of ICT innovations and transform them into usable products – especially those required by industries, and also use ICT Innovation hubs as business process outsourcing (BPO) centres

– Extend ICT infrastructure to the four industrial parks of Namanve, Luzira, Mukono and Iganga

– Complete restructuring of the Uganda Telecom company which has suffered wide-ranging issues, including debts and management crisis.