NITA-U team with the delegation from Estonia

A delegation from the Republic of Estonia this morning visited the National Information Technology Authority Uganda (NITA-U) to discuss the transformation to electronic public services and further possibilities in cooperation towards digitizing Uganda.

The delegation which was led by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, Väino Reinart, included officials from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications.

Speaking during the visit, James Saaka, Executive Director NITA-U, said that the relationship with Estonia has provided a platform upon which Uganda can visualize the benefits of bringing services online.

“We know that Estonia has reached unprecedented levels of digitization with 99% of public services are available online 24/7. The level of transparency you have achieved is what Uganda is striving to attain. In 2017, for example, the Ugandan government saved 4 Million working hours from providing automated services.  We developed 297 applications/systems and 74 services are available on the national E-Citizens portal (www.ecitizen.go.ug),’’ he said.

NITA-U ED James Saaka with Director eGoverment, Peter Kahiigi & Robert Muwanga,RCIP coordinator

The visit comes almost seven months after Government of Uganda signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Estonian Government. The Memorandum of Understanding covered four areas of cooperation which includes: Electronic Government (e-Government), Policy & Regulation, Smart City Technologies and Research & Innovation.

Estonia has emerged as a global leader in e-government operations.  A citizen in Estonia only interacts with a public servant three times in their lives; for marriages, divorces, and real-estate. In 2014, Estonia even opened up its e-government to outsiders, offering an “e-residency” that enables entrepreneurs to start a business in the country while living elsewhere.

“In recent years, relations between Uganda and Estonia have moved very quickly to tangible cooperation and knowledge exchange. We are glad that there are already real outcomes of our cooperation in the ICT sector through shared learning and joint projects. The Estonian Government is committed to continue working with Uganda to realize their digital vision” said  Minister Väino Reinart.

“Estonia started building their information society about twenty years ago, there was no digital data being collected. The general population did not have the internet or even devices with which to use it.  Currently, Uganda has more than 16 million internet users, Government through NITA-U has completed the implementation of all the Phases three phases of the National Backbone infrastructure and phase four has commenced connecting the infrastructure to West Nile and Karamoja regions. This means that all regions of the country will have been covered by the end of phase four.  We definitely have no reason why we can’t be like Estonia’’, said Peter Kahiigi, Director eGovernment at NITA-U.

Such initiatives are in line with the benchmarking aspect of Uganda’s e-Government master plan. It is important to review the implementation experiences from those nations which have made huge leaps in the e-Government sector and incorporate their knowledge within Uganda’s design.