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Ministries linked get to video-conference facilities

By Vision Reporter

Added 4th August 2008 03:00 AM

The e-governance infrastructure project that makes it possible for real-time, live intercommunication by ministries is now fully operational.

The e-governance infrastructure project that makes it possible for real-time, live intercommunication by ministries is now fully operational.

By Davis Weddi & David Muwanga

The e-governance infrastructure project which makes real-time, live intercommunication between ministries is now fully operational.

For the record, Information and Communication Minister Dr. Ham-Mukasa Mulira has confessed that it is now very possible for the President, if he so wishes, to participate in any Ministry board meeting and be able to view members and participate verbally in the meeting without physically being present.

The broadband project, which is likely to eliminate the need for ‘unreliable and slow’ paper-based loose-minute communication among Ministries, has seen its enabler gadgets installed in all major Ministries boardrooms and ministers offices.

Mulira recently told Journalists that this e-governance infrastructure was first installed and put to test during last year’s Commonwealth Heads of State Meeting in Kampala. “It has since proved to be a success and plans are underway to roll-out to the rest of the country.”

While at Police headquarters last week, Mulira said he had held a meeting with Internal Affairs Minister Dr. Rugunda using the system. Practically, Mulira and Rugunda’s offices are two kilometers apart, but through this new system, they saw and talked to each other while deliberating on government business, saving time and transport costs.

Uganda’s e-government infrastructure project, which is probably among Africa’s first, is fueling interest across the continent, as a model on which other countries can base their e-government plans.

The infrastructure, which has linked most major government offices and institutions electronically, is implemented by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.

The guest book at the office of the ICT minister indicates that government delegations from Zambia, Namibia, Malawi, Mauritius, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania all visited the ICT ministry headquarters to witness this system that has made e-governance a possibility in Uganda.

Mulira says the keen visitors, most of them top ICT officials or ministers want to use Uganda’s experience as a blueprint from which they could develop their own e-government programmes.

According to Mulira this virtual possibility, better known as video conferencing has made it possible for Ministers and other top government officials to coordinate and implement government programmes expeditiously. It is expected that by the end of next year, a great part of the country will be wired enough to use similar facilities.

To government, communication will be greatly enhanced for officials being able to hear and seeing each other using this teleconferencing system that saves time, energy and money while at the same time, improving the efficiency of management and effective decision-making in real-time.

A report released last month indicates the setting up of this data communication infrastructure in 34 ministries in Kampala which have also recieved internal office (inside the ministries) network. The setup also provides basic data services platform, used for Internet access and file sharing.

According to the report, so far, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and Video Conferencing Systems are only being run for intercommunication between the ministries but not to the outside world.

The ICT Ministry says this broadband infrastructure will greatly increase the speed of implementing government programs, provide basic communication to rural communities and improve service delivery in health, education and agriculture.

To enable the rest of the country to benefit from this technology, a 2118.64km communication backbone using a US$110 million loan from the government of China and Huawei Technologies a Chinese company is actually involved in building the backbone.

All this money is being used to develop Uganda’s National Transmission Backbone Infrastructure and e-Government Infrastructure (NBI-EGI).

So far, the e-government system linking ministries is part pf the first phase of the national backbone that has cost US$30,000 and it covers, the towns of Entebbe, Bombo, Jinja and Kampala. The second phase which was set to begin last month will see the backbone’s fiber optics extended to other parts of Uganda, as seen in the map.

The national backbone, it is expected will eventually be linked to backbones being deployed in Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. It is expected, this will also be linked to Southern Sudan in an effort of wiring up the Eastern side African continent and eventually connecting it to the famous “East African Submarine System cable” linking this region to the rest of the world and probably cutting telecommunication costs.

Ministries linked get to video-conference facilities

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