Reducing Costs to Encourage Private Sector Action
In a significant move towards digital inclusivity, Uganda's ICT minister, Dr Chris Baryomunsi, announced a 50% reduction in the cost of data provided through the national fibre backbone, from $70 per Mbps to $35 per Mbps per month. This decision is geared towards encouraging private internet service providers to follow suit and reduce their prices, thereby promoting the adoption of e-government services.
The National Information Technology Authority Uganda's (NITA-U) initiative is expected to lead to significant savings on the government's communication budget, which will be channelled towards further technological advancements in the country. This decision is seen as a step forward in making internet access more affordable for all Ugandans.
The National Backbone: Connecting Uganda
The National Backbone, managed by NITA-U, now reaches all regions of the country, connecting approximately 1,466 government offices, 53 districts, and nine border points, thereby increasing the reach and impact of e-government services across the nation. Despite the recent launch of 5G networks by private sector service providers, it is still unclear whether they will lower their prices in response to this governmental move.
Improving Access to E-Government Services
Director for E-government, Collin Babirukamu, voiced the need for lowering the cost of smartphones to improve access to e-governance services. He suggested that current taxes on smartphones are hindering e-government usage. Babirukamu expressed the desire for all citizens to access government services via mobile devices, thereby making governance more accessible and efficient.
Refugee-Hosting Districts to Get High-Speed Internet
In a separate development, NITA-U's executive director, Dr Hatwib Mugasa, revealed plans to connect refugee-hosting districts to high-speed internet under the Uganda Digital Acceleration Project (UDAP-GOVNET). The initiative will involve the deployment of 80 mobile broadband masts, the purchase of additional bandwidth, and the development of a telecentre for refugee-hosting communities.
As part of the project, 53 district headquarters have already been connected to the national backbone infrastructure under the last mile connectivity project. Also, 61 local government sites have been added to the digital network. This move is seen as an important step towards digital inclusion for vulnerable groups in the country.
Conclusion: A Step Forward in Digital Inclusion
Overall, Uganda's decision to halve the cost of data is a significant step towards digital inclusivity and the promotion of e-government services. As the world continues to embrace digital transformation, it is crucial for all nations, including Uganda, to make internet access affordable and accessible for all citizens. The success of this initiative will ultimately depend on the response of private service providers and the government's commitment to further reducing costs and improving digital infrastructure.