In move to harmonize of the ICT sector in Uganda, the ICT ministry has scripted along letter to the Ministry of finance expressing their dissatisfaction in regards to the directive that was passed that mandated all Ministries Departments & Agencies (MDAs to buy Internet from UTL. In letter dated 5th October 2017, signed off by the ICT ministry Permanent Secretary Mr Bagiire Vicent and copied to all major stake holders, not only expressed his discomfort with the directive but also advised all accounting officers not proceed with the implementation.
An old Generation network
The letter further invited all parties including the Finance Ministry, National ICT Technology Association (NITA-U), Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), and UTL in Administration, to a harmonization meeting on the 16th October 2017. Among the burning issues raised by the Permanent Secretary was the fact UTL is operating on an old 2G network which was not even maintained due to end of life of most of its equipment. “This would compromise government data and security”, he noted.
Additionally the ICT ministry noted that UTL’s 2G footprint is not wide enough with the absence of a distribution network of airtime and mobile money. The National telecom also has less than 250,000 (213,765 Subscribers to be exact) based on the last SIM card registration exercise and this would technologically retard the country. They however had not objection with the Fixed lines services offered by UTL but insisted that the company needs to upgrade its infrastructure in order to deliver quality services.
According an recent revelations, UTL in administration team believed they can upgrade UTL to a full 4G network by December 2017.
NITA-U Vs UTL
When the Finance ministry issued the the directive for all MDAs to procure all internet services from UTL, it was assumed that the move would lower the costs of sourcing internet to Government and its agencies. In response the ICT ministry sought to clarify the issue below;
- What happens to the existing National ICT Backbone Infrastructure (NBI) investment? It should be noted that the government has already invested over $ 140 million in this project managed by NITA-U.
- What happens to section 4 and 5 of the NITA (U) Act 2009, a cabinet directive that selected the NBI as the primary vehicle for all government Internet Services ?
- Who owns UTL now? As it is believed that despite the government’s efforts to revive UTL, they are not the majority shareholders of the company.
- Under which arrangement will UTL provide these services without offending NITA-U and PPDA Act of 2013?
Additionally, the ICT ministry pointed out that other telecom companies have written to them, objecting the manner in which their competitor (UTL) was awarded these services without any competitive bidding process and also questioning whether Uganda is still a liberalized economy.
Cost of Internet
Finally, there is the issue of internet costs in Uganda. One of the reasons why the directive was passed was due to the fact that NITA-U’s internet price per MB was about $ 190 which is not the lowest in the country, as opposed to local market average of $243 and regional average of $ 203 per MB. The ICT Ministry shared NITA Uganda’s plans to reduce the cost of internet up to financial year 2021 as more entities connect to the NBI as follows.
- 2017- 2018 – $ 190
- 2018 – 2019 – $ 95
- 2019-2020 – $ 70
- 2020- 2021 – $ 49
- 2021 and beyond – less than $20 (if all MDAs and Local Governments are connected to the NBI)