Introduction - Republic of Uganda

The Republic of Uganda is located in East Africa, bordered by Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan and Tanzania. Uganda has an area of 241,038 km² and 112 administrative districts. The population as at July 2014 was estimated at 35.9 million inhabitants with a literacy rate of 73.2% (CIA World Factbook). Forty nine percent of the population is between 15 and 64 years of age. Kampala, the capital city, has a population of 1.659 million (2011, CIA World Factbook). English is the official language.

Uganda is a fertile country with regular rainfall and mineral deposits of copper, cobalt and gold. Oil has recently been discovered. Agriculture is the most important sector of the economy, employing over 80% of the work force, followed by services and industry.

In relation to Communications, according to Uganda Communications Commission there were 19.5 million subscribers (fixed and mobile) and a teledensity of 53.3% as at June 2014. There were 4.19 million mobile internet subscribers, 106,900 fixed internet subscribers and an estimate of 8.5 million internet users as at June 2014.

Uganda is striving to meet the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) development objectives laid out in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Plan of Action.

In terms of ICT Infrastructure, there are three Submarine cables supplying Uganda: TEAMS, SEACOM and EASSy. The National Data Transmission Backbone Infrastructure (NBI) and Electronic Government Infrastructure (EGI) are being implemented by NITA-U as a public-private partnership project. Phases I and II of the NBI / EGI have been completed. This resulted in the laying of 1536.39Km of Optical Fibre Cable across the country to build the National Data Transmission Backbone and setting up of the NBI primary data centre and Metropolitan Area Network (MAN). The MAN network consists of the connectivity of 27 ministries and some departments through the laying of optical fibre cable onto the e-government network. Twenty-two district headquarters across the country have so far been connected and are benefiting directly from the project.

The completion of the 2nd phase also enabled the connection of NBI to the borders of Southern Sudan (Elegu) and Kenya (Malaba and Busia) thereby linking the country to other regional backbone infrastructure and the expansion of the Government Metropolitan Area Network into a Wide Area Network covering the towns of Kampala, Entebbe, Bombo, Mukono, Jinja, Busia, Tororo, Malaba, Kumi, Mbale, Soroti, Lira, Gulu, Masindi, Nakasongola, Luwero, Mbarara, Kasese, Fort Portal and Kyenjojo. Twenty-seven Ministries, some Departments and twenty-two district headquarters across the country have been connected. There is a plan to optimise utilization of the existing NBI, implement Phase III of the NBI, implement the alternative route to the submarine cables (Masaka-Mutukula via Tanzania), implement the Masaka - Katuna OFC network and implement last mile connectivity to Local Government Services, Universities, research institutions and hospitals. The EGI component consists of the e-Government Infrastructure installed in 27 main line Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and the Primary Data Center. This infrastructure is supporting the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS), Video Conferencing Services, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and the Secure Messaging and Collaboration Platform (SMCS). The SMCS platform has been successfully piloted in three sites namely: State House, Ministry of ICT and NITA - U. Other MDAs will follow the roll out of these pilot sites through the IT Rationalisation Program.

The Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF), which has been established over 5 year ago, is the Universal Service Fund, which facilitates services to be provided as public private partnerships in rural areas. UCC subsidises these interventions, which has resulted in Internet Points of presence, Internet cafes, multi-purposes community tele-centres, ICT laboratories in schools etc.

There are six public Universities, 29 Private Universities, 40 public Tertiary Institutions and 51 private Tertiary Institutions in Uganda.

ICT Background

Uganda's Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector is one of the most vibrant and fastest growing sectors since its liberalization in 2010, supported by a good ICT legal and regulatory framework. The sector is growing steadily and has contributed 2.5% to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2011 and 6.2% to GDP in 2012. The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector is now regarded as a vital pillar for the social economic development of the country as indicated in the current National Development Plan (2010/11 - 2014/15). It is committed towards improvement of government service delivery through eHealth, eEducation, eGovernance, eCommerce and trade. The ICT sector is divided into three areas namely; Policy, Regulatory and Operational with the Ministry of ICT as the lead agency.

There are five telecom providers: MTN, Airtel, Uganda Telecom Ltd, Orange and Smile. Infrastructure capacity is rapidly improving. The National Data Transmission Backbone Infrastructure (NBI) and the Optical Fibre Cable across the country is well developed, connecting major economic centres.

Although still small, export of ICT services has started generating foreign exchange inflows. With virtually no earnings in 2001, the sector now earns over US $10 million per annum. ICTs in Uganda have been identified as a major tool for achieving socio-economic development. In order for the government to implement the long term National Development Programmes (NDP) timely, relevant information must be available at all levels of implementation. The integration of ICT into the NDP will increase growth, income and employment through skilled and semi skilled job creation.

The Government of Uganda has recognised the critical importance of ICT in national development, and has initiated a policy framework to implement these technologies throughout the country. A number of policy and regulatory reforms have been undertaken over the past decade to promote development of ICT infrastructure and increase access to affordable communications and IT services. The main policies that support Innovation in Uganda include:

- Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (August 2009) - Implemented through the National Science, Technology and Innovation Plan 2012/2013 - 2017/2018. Expected outputs include a Science and Technology Park and Incubation Centres.

- Information Communication Technology Policy (October 2003) is currently under review.

- Rural Communications Development Policy implemented by Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) as Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF) / Universal Service Fund

- eGovernment Strategy, formulated in 2004 and approved by Cabinet in June 2011

- Telecom Sector Policy (1996) combined with the Uganda Communication Act 1997 (Laws of Uganda Cap 106) resulted in licenses being issued to telecommunications operators, an independent regulator and deregulation of the market

- National Broadcasting Policy is currently under review

Uganda has received substantial support from donor agencies in the area of ICT for development. This has translated into a myriad of ICT projects being implemented in various sectors of Ugandan society, most notably in rural infrastructure, education, livelihoods and health.

The following projects have been implemented by the Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF):

Projects Completed Number
Internet POPs 76
Internet Cafes 106
ICT Training Centres 78
MCTs 13
Public Pay Phones 4,099
Web Portals 78
Postal Tele-Centres 45
School ICT Labs 708
Health ICT Facilities 175
GSM Sites 90
Content Development 10
Local Governance 2
Institutions of Higher learning ICT labs 548
Unique Projects i.e. Adv Tele-Med, Post Code, Broadband 31

A lot of milestones in terms of policies were achieved during FY 2011/2012 including approval of IT Policy by Cabinet; IPv6 Transition Strategy; National Information Security Strategy; IMS Policy submitted to Cabinet for approval; Framework for the Institutionalization of ICT Functions in MDAs finalized and submitted to MoPS for further management; and concept paper on the establishment of IT Parks developed and approved by the NITA-U Board. The main achievements during FY 2012/2013 is not yet published.