Earlier this year, I had a discussion with one of the key officials at the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance in which I told him that Government of Uganda reminds me of the biblical individual who lights a candle and puts it under the table. I was led to make this statement after reviewing a report on various achievements by the ministry which had not been made known to us mere mortals.
Little did I know that the National Information Technology Authority (NITA-U) had designs to address the matter. After reading adverts online about the inaugural eGov Expo, I had initially taken it lightly thinking that there was nothing much worth my time there. However, come Friday 21st June 2019, the last day of the expo, I made a lightning decision to check it out for old times’ sake. I must admit that I’m glad I went.
At the turn of the century, we used to have the AITEC Computer show which was very big in the circles of the then limited technologists. This show was patronised by private companies that displayed clearly imported hardware and software solutions. There was literally nothing local. Government agencies hardly participated as they had nothing to show case.
Walking into the eGov Expo many years after the expiry of AITEC, I was impressed by the numerous locally developed solutions addressing localised issues. It was a stark difference from the past that I knew. For sure, I summed up my amazement in this tweet:
To kick off my tour was the Uganda Police App called UPF MOBI. These guys are serious about using technology to ease their work as well as citizens’ interaction. I went through a quick demo to test the service and was amazed at the performance. You can report crime, check any pending tickets on your vehicle, identify nearby police stations complete with contact numbers, search for missing persons as well as search for lost and found property.
National Social Security Fund, progressive as usual. After ditching their initial App over a year ago, I had given up on being able to enjoy their services using the mobile phone but I guess they had different ideas. The institution managing our Social Security Funds now has a phone and Web Apps aimed at giving clients a service experience across different technology platforms.
I was able to login and have a look at my account. With such a nice interface, one is able to do a lot including among others, adding or removing beneficiaries to your benefits. I noticed that only my first born child had been mentioned in my account but soon, I plan to put all the other family members too.
The ability to project how much money I am likely to have accumulated in the coming years was another very great insight. Worry of inflation aside, the figures look good 10 years from now. You too can just login and check out your account at NSSFGO on the web or the NSSF GO phone App.
Do you live in Kampala? Do you have a sewage pit that regularly needs emptying? How do you do it now? Weyonje, an App from Kampala Capital City Authority should be able to make your life easier. Whenever you have need of emptying services, you just get into the App and select a service provider of your choice who will then take care of the rest.
We have always been blaming Government officials for using free public email addresses like Yahoo to conduct official communication. I am glad the yells and criticisms never fell on deaf ears. The National IT Authority went ahead to design a collaboration system called Umail that shall be used eventually by all Government staff to do more than just email exchange. Impressive move I must say and already some agencies of government are hooked onto it. We are waiting for the others to kowtow.
The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Services was another surprise package for me. They have numerous technology solutions serving citizens. One that I can’t fail to point out is Sauti a child abuse reporting system. Simple and easy to use, one can always call Uganda Child Helpline on 116 a toll free line and submit an issue. Between January 2014 and December 2016, the helpline received 783,052 calls of which 9,709 were child abuse related. 3,543 of these cases were successfully concluded.
Have you ever carried out a research and looked around for secondary data that should be obvious? Well, it has always been hard to get quick access to statistics on Uganda. You sometimes have to download numerous pdf documents online just to seek out one small statistic. Thank God that the Uganda Bureau of Statistics has come to our rescue on this. With an App called UGSTATS, one can for example easily access the information on our annual beef or pork production straight off the phone.
These statistics are very important because for those with investment ideas, they offer a starting point in justifying potential gain or loss from an investment.
Do you now realise why I am excited? Oh yes, there were many other entities there with great solutions but time can’t allow me to cover all of them. However, the plain truth is that something very positive is happening in the Information Technology realm of the Government of Uganda and it requires applauding the efforts of all those toiling behind the scenes to realise it.
Most of the technological solutions are developed by local companies hence growing the employment base as well as keeping the revenue local in the spirit of Buy Uganda Build Uganda(BUBU).
Special commendation goes to the NITA-U team for pulling this off and it is my hope that next year’s event shall even be bigger. I do however hope that we can see the Uganda Communication Commission play a key role going forward because there is a lot they too have done that is worth amplifying.
James Wire is a Business and Technology Consultant based in Kampala, Uganda.
Follow him @wirejames on Twitter
Email – lunghabo [at] gmail [dot] com