By Moses Mulondo
THE Information and Communications Technology ministry requires sh930b to build enough capacity which will enable Uganda move at the same pace with the rest of the world in the ICT sector.
The ministry is drafting a five year strategic and investment plan for the sector.
This was revealed on Tuesday by the ICT minister John Nasasira while appearing with his ministry team and state minister for investment Aston Kajara.
“If we want to move at the same pace with the rest of the world in the ICT industry, we need to allocate sufficient funds to it. The thinking that the private sector will develop our ICT is a farce,” Nasasira told the MPs.
The minister explained that whereas Uganda invests only 7.5m dollars in the sector, Kenya invests $123m every year in its ICT sector and Rwanda gives it $40m.
Nasasira said their ICT investment plan will require government to allocate a minimum of sh186b every financial year to the sector.
The minister also protested proposals by the finance ministry to reduce the 2% ICT ministry share of taxes levied on telecom companies to 1%.
“I think we need to give priority to the ICT ministry. The sector is on the drip and if you remove the drip, it can just collapse. Even others agencies retain a share of revenue collected in their area,” Nasasira argued.
The minister also dismissed reports that his ministry had a surplus of sh80b on its fixed deposit which MPs were using as a justification for reducing its share to 1%.
Nasasira said their ICT investment plan will require government to allocate a minimum of sh186b every financial year to the sector. Photo by Maria Wamala
Budadiri West MP wondered why the completion of the national backbone optic fibre project had delayed yet parliament had appropriated $106m for the project.
In response, the minister explained that the third phase of the project failed to commence as it had been delayed because the Exim bank of China had not yet released the money.
MPs Franca Akello, James Kakooza, Joseph Ssewungu and Amos Lugolobi demanded for explanation on why the ministry had failed to rein in on the telecom companies which charging Ugandans illegal charges in form of dropped calls, and unsolicited messages.
Nasasira said they are working on more stringent Bills and guidelines which will enable them to stop the companies from exploiting their customers.
Explaining why they wanted the percentage share of the ICT ministry to be reduced, the investment minister, Aston Kajara, said, “It is our duty to raise revenue and distribute it to the various sectors depending on government priorities at a time.”
The committee chairman Robert Kasule said, “The demand for sh186b by the ICT ministry will be debated. But from what I know, government always have priorities in every given period of time and major priority now is on infrastructure and energy sectors after which other pertinent sectors like ICT will be given the priority they deserve.”
Anthony Okello and Amos Lugolobi argued that putting the money in the consolidated fund controlled by the finance ministry would promote transparency and accountability.
But Nasasira said the argument was immaterial since the auditor general audits the ICT ministry departments on how the revenue funds and other funds are utilized.