In August this year, Mr. James Saka, will be retiring from his position as the Executive Director of the National Information Technology Authority Uganda (NITA-U), after a successful completion of the legally authorized 10-year tenure. He will be replaced by Dr. Hatwib Mugasa who was appointed by the Minister of ICT and National Guidance, Hon. Judith Nabakooba early this month.
Speaking of his fruitful tenure, Mr. Saaka said; “I am pleased to have served Uganda for the last 10 years in driving the digital revolution. We have accomplished much but there is still a lot that needs to be done.”
Mr. Saaka; who has been at the forefront of digitizing Uganda operationalized the National Back born Infrastructure (NBI), decreased the cost of internet and automate government services. This is what NITA-U achieved under Saaka;
The NBI Project
When Mr. Saaka joined NITA-U in 2010, there was un-operationalized National Back born Infrastructure (NBI). And we report now, the government through NITA-U have completed four phases of the NBI laying 4,000 kilometers of Fiber, extending to 49 districts and connecting 480 government offices.
Meanwhile, the State Minister of ICT and National Guidance; Hon. Peter Ogwang says the fifth phase of the NBI project will address the issue of connectivity to the final customers like; Health Centers and Schools around the country.
Decrease cost of Internet
Mr. Saaka has been at the front of government’s deliberate effort to decrease the cost of internet. As a result, there has been a drop in internet prices from USD$1,200 in 2013, to USD$70 in 2017 and is projected to drop further to USD$50 by the end of 2020. However Saaka said, “We need to lower the cost of internet further to USD$20 per Mbps and I am confident the team I’m leaving behind will achieve this.”
The NITA-U cost of internet is 71% cheaper than what the private sector charges in Uganda. It is pertinent to note that this influenced a drop in market led prices for internet to USD$300 per Mbps, the lowest in the East African region. All these efforts in astutely managing the NBI/ICT backbone have resulted in government realizing revenue of USD$20 million from the operation of the NBI/ICT Backbone.
Automation of Government Services
A number of electronic services for government have been launched and operationalized. A government-wide messaging system-UMCS has been established and rolled out in 37 entities to provide standardized and secure email for all Government communications.
NITA-U and Ministry of Finance, Planning & Economic Development rolled out e-PAY, an electronic payment gateway that enables online payments for all public services. Additionally, NITA-U now provides subsidized SMS services which public entities are utilizing to provide USSD services, Bulk SMS notifications among others.
The automation of the various services of government have created efficiency in the delivery of services to citizens and also time is saved. In 2018, Uganda Ranked as the most cyber secure country in Africa in the National Cyber Security Index; a global index which measures the preparedness of countries to prevent cyber threats and manage cyber incidents. Saaka commenting on this, said “The ranking is a testimony to our efforts in ensuring that all digital transactions are carried out securely. Our citizens can trust that we have put in place world-class mechanisms that prevent cyber threats and manage cyber incidents, once they occur.”
Tier 3 Data Center
NITA-U set up a tier 3 cloud data center, the first of its kind in Uganda. The Data Center which was commissioned by H.E. President Museveni is strategy for the government to provide a centralized hosting services for its data and applications.
To-date, there are over 473 applications and web services hosted at the state-owned facility. Owing to this initiative of building a scalable Government Data Centre that all entities can use, NITA-U has saved government of Uganda UGX1.2 trillion in costs that’s individual agencies would have used to build their own data centres.
In the last 10 years, NITA-U has created an enabling environment for ICT to flourish by ensuring that the right laws, regulations and Policies are in place. These include;
- The Electronic Signatures Act.
- The Electronic Transactions Act.
- The Data Protection and Privacy Act.
- The Computer Misuse Act.
- The NITA-U Act.
In addition, they put in place the Certification Framework to ensure improved quality of IT products and services, ensure consumer/client protection, and standards applicable to the IT industry. Over 305 IT firms have been certified and over 2,000 firms have been registered for IT certification.
The efforts by government through NITA-U in digitizing services have yielded in improvement of the country’s e-Government global ranking. The Online service index improved from 50% in 2016 to 57% in 2018 putting the country in the high online service index bracket. In addition to that, the e-Participation Index improved from 0.07 in 2010 to 0.6 in 2018 putting the country in the high e- participation bracket.