To me, both as a Christian and a public servant, this is what the period of Christmas and end of year means to me. I cherish all of you that continue to engage with me in the course of public duty.
By Frank K Tumwebaze
Dear Friends and fellow citizens, it is not all the time that we celebrate Christmas and neither is it all the time that we count the end of 12 complete months. This moment presents us with not only a time of spiritual renewal as we reflect on the life of our saviour Jesus Christ( for those of the Christian faith), but also an opportunity to take stock of the ups and downs, achievements and challenges of the year. We also get an opportunity to quietly reflect on what we did right so as to sustain the good pace and also on what we missed or erred on and take lessons that can help mitigate our challenges.
To me, both as a Christian and a public servant, this is what the period of Christmas and end of year means to me. I cherish all of you that continue to engage with me in the course of public duty. Your criticism helps me and my team to Improve, while your wonderful compliments give us the energy to soldier on. It was great serving you in 2016, especially in the dissemination of information about government services. I believe in opening up Government with information as an enabler of civic empowerment. When citizens are fully aware, for example, of the budget cycle and how the expenditure pattern flows through all the layers of Government, then demanding accountability at their community level becomes easy and enabled. They will know what outputs to expect, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Diversion of any funds, therefore, can be detected in real time. This is how corruption will practically be prevented and fought as opposed to only lamenting and trading in political blame games about it. Our newly set up Government Citizen Interaction Centre and the Media Centre will continue to process and disseminate factual content about the whole Government and do so timely. I believe that an informed society is an empowered one!!
On the ICT front, it is our resolve to continue improving connectivity for both data and voice across Uganda. While data charges are still high and we still have quality of service challenges with service providers, I am happy to see an increase in the number of Internet users. Indeed the cost of Internet bandwidth reduced from $1,200 per megabyte per month two years ago with the Government investment in the National backbone to now $300 per megabyte per month. Even with this substantial cost reduction, we are not yet comfortable. For our firms dealing in BPOs (Business Processing Outsourcing) to be competitive, we must reduce the cost of internet bandwidth to below $100 per megabyte per month. Our ongoing trails of free WiFi around the city are intended to inform us on the number of users who cannot afford the commercial costs of data such that our future investment in infrastructure follows demand and the undeserved areas.
The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) regulator of the telecommunications has been instructed to fully carry out quality of service audits so as to enhance the consumer protection policy and legal regime. This and more, will remain our focus for the year 2017.
I appeal to all Ugandans to love their country and work hard for it. Talking alone without the "doing" as the Malaysians say will not help us to progress pretty fast. As I have noted before in these same platforms, let us promote what unites us most than what divides us. Our internal social and political contradictions notwithstanding. Let these contradictions and disagreements only help to provoke new thinking and not quarrelling, generate alternative ideas for the common national good. The tendency to despise our own and praise what is foreign is mediocrity. I personally hate and despise it. It is a vote of no confidence in our own identity as a people and as a country. Let us see and appreciate the beauty of our country and the progress we have registered. Indeed, the foreigners admire to live and stay for good in Uganda. From the God gifts of nature we are endowed with, to the firm security apparatus put in place by the Government that supports the flourishing of all sector business outfits, our motherland Uganda becomes an envy of many.
Let us buy Ugandan products and indeed build Uganda. Furniture, for example, done by Uganda prisons using our own timber is by far more beautiful than anything imported.
Let us look at our history and appreciate the journey we have walked as a country. Let us us realise that from Kisoro to Arua, Koboko at the Sudan border and to all regional borders, it is now tarmac and all connected to the national electricity grid. This is unprecedented transformation since independence.
Let us us appreciate the successful conclusion of the process of Oil exploration and the establishment of the supportive policy and legal regime. Our eyes now are set at production of the first oil in 2020. These and more, are not mean achievements for a land locked country such as Uganda. They are not accidental. They are dividends of Good leadership with correct policy instruments. The political contestations, therefore, should be on these substantive issues and not on quarrels of posturing political actors seeking to provoke attention. Our media too ought to raise the bar of debate, interrogate issues based on facts and logic, stop regurgitating petty quarrels of political actors that cannot manage superior intellectual discourse but invest in deep researched content so as to allow and support the evolution of A culture of issue based politics.
If you are an aspiring leader or political party seeking political power, do not push sentimental propaganda at the expense of logic and ideas. Articulate what you think is more correct and superior than the status quo. If you claim for example, that the NRM's average rate of economic growth of 5% to 7% annually is low, then tell us what is your promise and how you will get to it? That way, the contest here becomes meaningful and beneficial to the citizens. Use the power of logic and not divisive propaganda to sell your political bid.
Let 2017, therefore, be a year of reason and not emotion, progress and not paralysis, articulation of ideas and not quarrels.
On behalf of the Ministry of ICT, its agencies, staff, my family and on my own behalf, I wish all of you friends and Ugandans a blessed festive season and a prosperous new year.
The writer is the Minister of ICT and National Guidance