This week, Ugandans’ eyes were glued on screens, ears on radios and fingers constantly scrolled through #UGBudget16 the social media hashtag to keep up to date of the reading of the financial year Budget for the year 2016/17. On the other hand, i was patiently waiting to analyze how the ICT sector will be funded given its tremendous growth over time.
The Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Mr Matia Kasaija amicably read out the budget and as many dozed off, I waited until ICT was mentioned. He joked and then attention was restored and he went on to submit about what had been planned for the sector. I quote;
The Budget allocation to ICT
“Madam Speaker, Information and Telecommunications Technology (ICT) supports development of the financial services sector, telecommunications, public financial management and scientific research and innovation and e-Government. ICT contributes 2.5% of GDP (2015), employs approximately 1.3 million Ugandans and raised UGX. 484.4 billion in tax revenue collection in 2015. Telephone subscribers have increased from 19.5 million in 2013 to 23 million in 2015, while internet users grew from 8.5 million to 13 million in the same period. In further support for ICT development, land for construction of the ICT Park at Namanve Industrial Park has been secured and the feasibility study completed. In addition, larger land space has been acquired in Entebbe where a mega ICT park will be set up starting next financial year.” he started
Mr Matia went ahead to appreciate the fact that attention has to be put onto internet and he stated;
Madam Speaker, starting with next financial year, the sector will improve access to high speed broadband services from 512 Kilobytes per second to 4 Megabytes per second and 30 Mbps for rural and urban households respectively. This will support business productivity and facilitate communication. The National Backbone Infrastructure (NBI) will be extended to cover West Nile and Karamoja Regions under the Regional Communication
2016/17 Budget allocation per ministry (Image Credit NBS)
What saddened me after adding up all the values is that the sector was poorly funded (Only 93Billion out of the 26 Trillion that was placed) about 3% which not even near to implementing somethings. Well there has been an UGX 8 billion increment in the budget compared to 2015/2015 budget and the government should be given some credit for that. But realistically, the amount that was allocated to the ICT sector alone is still not enough to even set up a facility that can serve Ugandans with the said broadband services and also stifle innovation in the ICT sector especially if the government aims to propel Ugandan to middle income status.
The good news however is that the National Backbone Infrastructure project will be given boost. The fiber Project could be a success with the support from the World Bank. The Backbone will also be extended to neighboring countries (Kenya via Malaba and Busia, Tanzania via Mutukula, Rwanda via Katuna, South Sudan via Nimule and Democratic Republic of Congo via Mpondwe to further improve regional inter-connectivity.
For a moment I thoroughly thought about the theme of the day which was “Enhanced Productivity for Job Creation” thinking it could have been the reason the ICT sector was underfunded but then again I was wrong, because productivity is intended as well. The question that continues to linger in my mind is; Does the government want to sideline the potential of ICT or it’s simply self-reliant? You can leave us a comment below on your thoughts on this.
Featured Image Credit: ugandajournalistsresourcecentre.com