KAMPALA – While presenting the 2015/2016 National Budget, Matia Kasaija, Uganda’s Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development stressed that the ICT services sector is currently one of the most important sectors in the economy, contributing up to 2% to the national output.

He also said that the sector generated Ush416.7b in 2014 and currently employs over 1.3 million Ugandans.

Also the mobile phone penetration in Uganda currently stands at a staggering 19.5 million users which translates into a teledensity of 53%. MTN Uganda has the bulk of this; 10.4 million subscribers.

MTN Uganda is also currently the leading mobile eCommerce network having over 7.3 million registered mobile money users and over 25 million transactions per month.

Overall figures indicate that more than 85% of mobile bill payment collections in Uganda are made through the MTN Mobile Money platform.

In addition MTN has merged its mobile money platform with that of five banks; Bank of Africa, Centenary Bank, DFCU Bank and Pride Microfinace. This has increased access to financial services.

“Improving access to efficient and affordable ICT services is key to promoting private sector investment, by significantly reducing the cost of internet services and which also stimulates the growth of other related sectors of the economy,” Kasaija said.

He however acknowledged that there is still a lot more work needed especially from the government’s side.  As it appears, government is still reluctant to adopt eServices preferring to execute tasks manually.

The Finance Minister said that much as the operationalization of the National Backbone Infrastructure (NBI) has led to a reduction in government expenditure to the tune of Ush5.3b per year with only 30 public offices connected, eGovernment is still a challenge to implement.

“In the coming year, an additional 60 offices will be connected to further reduce public expenditure on connectivity by Ush9.4b,” Ksaija noted.

Adding, “The National Information Technology Authority (NITA-U) is currently consolidating the hardware and software licenses with the objective of accelerating delivery of Government services. Other developments include the connection of Public Universities to the National Backbone Infrastructure (NBI) to enable access to high speed internet connectivity and facilitate e-learning and technological research.”

Kasaija added that in the next year, interventions in Information and Communications Technology will include; completion of the third phase of the NBI extended to include Short Messaging Services (SMS) and Data Services by December 2015; connect more Ministries Departments and Agencies to the NBI to reduce the cost of internet connectivity and promote e-Government; strengthen the legal and institutional framework for ICT use and IT information security; establish a fully integrated one stop centre for investment linking the National Identity Card System, the Integrated Financial Management System, Government Payroll System, (IPPS) and Computerized Education Management System (CEMAS), among other interventions.

He also disclosed that construction of the National ICT Park and Innovation Center at Namanve will commence in the next financial year.