Sweden-Uganda ICT conference gives insight to the ICT sector

Important to note, Sweden is a leader in the ICT sector. According to the World economic forum. Sweden ranks second as the most innovative country worldwide, and the Swedish’ government committal to enhancing the power of ICT, leading global business brands in ICT. The Ugandan counterparts in both public and private surely have a lot to learn from the former.

It is in this premise that Sweden-Uganda ICT conference  hosted by Business Sweden, the Embassy of Sweden in Uganda and  in collaboration  with Ericsson was pertinent for the ICT key players in Uganda, and the region as it is to be followed by a conference of the same kind in Nairobi Kenya on 30th January.

Themed  “Meet Swedish entrepreneurs to discuss how ICT will grow and empower people, business and society”

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The conference was opened with keynote addresses by the Swedish Ambassador to Uganda, H.E Mr Urban Anderson,  Introductory speech by H.E. Mr Jonas Hafstrom Ambassador and senior advisor to the minister for trade Sweden and Hon. John Nasari Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Uganda.

Mr Jonas Hafstrom Ambassador and senior advisor to the minister for trade Sweden highlighted on the significant role ICT had to play in trade in the region, basing on the Swedish experience he stressed how increased connectivity in the region increased potential for growth.

He lit a torch upon prospects of improved trade relationships between Uganda and Sweden, knowledge transfer and institutional partnerships with Uganda. Job creation opportunities and the impact of ICT on Sweden:

Sweden is ranked the second most innovative country, according to the world economic forum

9 out ten homes in Sweden have broadband, relating to the situation in Uganda, where 50% of the population have a mobile connection which has fostered the terrific growth in Mobile Money transfers, a remarkable  innovation from the region that presents an opportunity for Sweden to learn from Uganda as well.

Hon. John Nasasira gave a retrospective on the ICT sector in the country  on the government’s position on ICT and steps taken to foster an enabling environment for the ICT to grow within the public and private sector, citing investment in the countries Internet backbone infrastructure, 1,500km of optic fiber laid by the government  and 3,700km by the private sector, signifying a boost in connection speeds. Government’s awareness of the Job creation opportunities in the ICT sector through Business Outsourcing and IT enables services.

A key frame work stimulating growth in Sweden is the private-public sector partnership, where the government partners actively with  the private sector who provide their expertise and rely on favorable government policy and legislation and infrastructure to provide a conducive business ecosystem, In light of this private-sector partnership, the Swedish delegation  consisted key private sector  partners including Ericsson, EKN (The Swedish exports Credits Guarantee Board), Eltel Networks, Flexenclosure, Greenlight project management, ICT networks, Swedfund and Transmode. Statistically lavish presentations by both public, private sector partners from Sweden and Uganda on how ICT is empowering people and creating welfare for the society, the role of government in driving ICT, Developing ICT infrastructure, Innovation and Mobile services.

MTN has 2,800km of fiber across Uganda

Deductively Representing the private sector in Uganda, was Ernst Fonternel, CMO, MTN Uganda, who talked about how MTN was transforming the ICT environment in Uganda. Boasting of MTN continued investment in its infrastructure of about 150 million dollars, pointing how MTN 2,800km of fiber across Uganda with two routes to the sea one via Kenya and Tanzania, ascertain the reliability this guarantees in case of encumbrances on either side. He also showcased MTN’s multi-million data center at Mutundwe that would offer businesses, world class services, citing MTN’s cloud services transforming how businesses handle their IT solutions.

From the Swedish private sector was a world leader in telecommunications solutions Ericsson who also organized the conference. A myriad of Ericsson delegates lead by Mr Fredrik Jeijding, Head: Ericsson Sub-Saharan Africa were in what I would call “top-pitch” mode, with highly engaging presentations. Highlighting on the role they have and plan to play in Uganda. Quoting  Mr Frederick:

“Ericsson has been around for the past 100 years, and it will be around for the next 100 years to connect every device that benefits from being connected”

A very relevant agenda, the exponential growth in mobile phone usage coupled by  the impact  ICT  has on  the welfare of citizens and the GDP of the country. Indicates what great promise ICT has for an investment in the sector in terms of returns on investment  and also for the government that reaps on the intra-sectoral benefits accruing from ICT.

No need to wait for Google!!

Uganda has a lot to learn from Sweden. One thing that awed me was what Dr Bo Anderson, Chief Economist, Swedish Post & Telecom Agency, called the Do it yourself Swedish model of village owned broadband where deployment of fiber is done by the people themselves connecting their homes in the sparsely populated rural areas. No need to wait for Google!!

Aren’t the Swedes late for the party? Well, they were here first. Astoundingly, Ericsson first arrived in Kenya in 1897 to set up the telecommunication infrastructure for the Kenya-Uganda railway, however their performance in the region is somewhat lackluster!

Beaten by competition from china: Huawei and Zte come to mind. One reason is because of their cheaper products plus a range of other political factors pertinent in the region as-well. The Swedes know the potential lies here as shown by the regional growth statistics in mobile phone usage, mobile money payment and they must up their game!