By Ivan Kahangire
Recently, President Yoweri Museveni launched the National Development Plan, aimed at changing the average Ugandan’s life from one of poverty to one of sufficient income, and general improved lifestyle in a self-sustaining independent national economy.
In order to achieve this, a number of ingredients shall be required, among them being conducive institutional and legal framework, fully supported by favourable political climate.
It is envisaged that revenue to fuel this development vehicle will stream from the newly discovered oil, tourism, manufacturing, agriculture, and ICT with inter sectorial backward and forward linkages and economic integration.
The magnitude of the effect of these individual contributing sectors, however, is not being fully and fairly analysed for due emphasis. As a result, the Vision’s deadline may come to pass as another unachieved dream, just like the previous development master plans have.
To make a case of this, ICT is still looked at as and only enabler of other sectors. True it is, but in order to achieve more effective forward motion of the economy, ICT should be seen as the horse pulling the rest in the wagon and not pushing it. The horse should be seen and pampered as the thoroughbred, which even if a fly lay on it, it may affect the entire economic performance.
The Government wide systems such as the IFMS (Integrated Financial Management System), IPPS (Integrated Payroll and Personnel System), National ID, Voters’ Registration System, Health Integrated System, Education Integrated System, among many others, are all initiatives with best intentions but have not completely achieved their set objectives, due to the fact that ICT is not given its due attention as a propellant of the economy.
The ICT sector should also begin to be seen as a huge potential source of employment and revenue. According to the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, over 400,000 graduates are churned out into the job market annually, and yet only 9,000 jobs exist.
Also, according to World Bank report 2013, Uganda’s population is the youngest in the world only next to that of Burkina Faso, with 83% of it below the age of 40.
The manufacturing and oil and gas companies can only recruit so many unemployed youth. To put this in perspective, Madhvani Group, which is one of the largest, employs approximately 10,000. In order to provide employment for all by 2040, Uganda will need tens and tens more of Madhvanis, which will not be possible.
However, ICT provides greater opportunities due to fast internet connectivity, which makes it possible to get jobs from anywhere in the world. According to KPMG report on BPO/IT Enabled Services global market outlook for 2013, this sector is worth $985b, which presents a huge opportunity for English speaking Ugandan youth to tap into.
President Museveni put it very well last week in Kigali that “ICT must not only be used to assist agricultural development, manufacturing, education and the services sector, but must also be used as a sector in itself”.
Countries such as Ghana, Mauritius, Kenya and Rwanda, who are on track to improve their citizens’ lifestyles have made leaps and bounds in this direction due to better ICT and national development integration policies and Uganda can benchmark and leapfrog these, by avoiding their mistakes.
In a nutshell, the role of ICT in national development cannot be downplayed, and more emphasis and action should be taken to put it at the forefront of all government projects implementation, both to streamline operations and provide direct employment, the one sure path to achieve our Uganda Vision 2040.
The writer is an Enterprise Systems Business Development Manager-Techno Brain Uganda