BREAKING BARRIERS! Two exceptional women awarded national medals for revolutionizing ICT on Labour Day

Dr. Aminah Zawedde is the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance (PHOTO/Courtesy)

Dr. Aminah Zawedde and Ms. Vivian Ddambya have been awarded National medals for their outstanding contribution to the field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Uganda. During the National Labour Day Celebrations in the Busoga district of Namutumba, the President of Uganda, H.E Gen Yoweri Museveni, heralded the two ladies for Distinguished Service to the Nation in the field of ICT for their exceptional work in promoting and advancing the use of ICT in Uganda.

The National Medal is one of the highest honors bestowed upon individuals by the Government of Uganda for their exceptional contributions to society. The medal recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the country’s development in various fields, including science, technology, arts, and culture.

Dr. Zawedde and Ms. Ddambya have been at the forefront of promoting the use of ICT in Uganda. Their vision and leadership have helped transform the way technology is used in various sectors, including education, healthcare, and Government services. Their tireless efforts have contributed significantly to the country’s development and have helped bridge the digital divide between urban and rural areas.

Dr. Aminah Zawedde is the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance. She holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science (the Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands), and an MSc. Computer Science (Makerere University), a PGDip in Educational Technologies (University of Cape Town, South Africa), PGD in Education (IUIU), and a BSc. (Statistics and Economics) (Makerere University, Uganda).

Dr. Zawedde is an experienced IT professional passionate about embracing digital transformation to improve business models, and service delivery and transform people’s lives. She provides strategic and technical leadership on how various sectors can leverage innovation and digital solutions to solve their problems while creating employment opportunities for the youth. To this end, she has played a big role in strengthening the linkages between Government, the private sector, academia, and development partners.

She is a Rotarian and also serves on the boards of Uganda National Bureau of Standards, Uganda Telecommunications Corporation Limited, DFCU Limited, and Mustard Seed Junior School.

Dr. Zawedde joined the National Information Technology Authority Uganda (NITA-U) board in 2016 as the youngest member of the board. She chaired the Digital Transformation Committee and was Acting Chairperson of the board for one 1 year. At the helm of the NITA-U Board, she presided over the expansion of the Government ICT Fibre across Uganda. Additionally, she ensured that Uganda’s cyberspace became more secure through the enactment of the Data Protection and Privacy Act.

Dr Zawedde is the first female Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance, a testimony of H.E President Museveni’s intentionality to drive inclusion and gender equality.

During the 18 months that Dr. Zawedde has been at the helm of the ICT sector, Uganda’s internet users grew to 23.7 million, with mobile phone subscriptions growing to over 32 million users and 40.7 million digital wallets being recorded as active.

Solving youth unemployment is at the heart of Dr. Zawedde’s efforts in the sector, and the reason why she has prioritized Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) as a solution to unemployment. As a start to the fight against unemployment, she enabled the appointment of a Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO) and Innovation Council. The first of its kind in Uganda, the council is now operational and works with the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance to formulate strategies for creating jobs for the youth through ICT outsourcing and Innovation; and prescribe regulatory frameworks/reforms and projects relevant to the growth of the BPO and Innovation industry.

Within her 1st year in the sector, a campaign known as Discover Africa’s Innovation Powerhouse was launched. During the campaign, the Government celebrated Ugandan excellence and industry by profiling Ugandan talent and inviting the world to discover the opportunities that abound in the Pearl of Africa. The campaign highlighted how innovations by Ugandans have created solutions to various societal challenges. The campaign saw the participation of Ugandan innovators at the Dubai Expo and the branding & marketing of Uganda as a destination for BPO & Innovation investment, engaging in a global conversation with other innovators from around the world, and job creation through great partnerships.

Following the campaign, it should be noted that in January 2023, the Ministry of ICT

  • National Guidance onboarded a global partner, Helpware, the largest and fast-growing BPO company in the United States, to launch a ‘people as a service’ facility in Uganda. Within the calendar year 2023, over 1,000 youth will be employed in this facility to support operations of global brands like TikTok and Netflix.

Dr. Zawedde led the development of the Parish Development Model Information System (PDMIS). The landmark system was locally developed and is being used to collect all parish data across Uganda and is being used by all partnering institutions to track all Parish Development Model implementation initiatives.

Cognizant that the job to digitize the nation is not borne of Government alone, Dr. Zawedde has nurtured partnerships with the private sector. This is in line with the government’s commitment to create a digitally driven economy and realize universal goals of inclusion, sustainable development, economic progress, and poverty eradication through digital innovation.

These partnerships include United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), United Nations Development Fund (UNDP), Airtel Uganda, MTN Uganda, Huawei Technologies Uganda, and Centenary Technology Services, to mention but a few.

In addition to the above partnerships, Dr. Zawedde has sought out and engaged the world’s most digitized nations to nourish ICT-centric innovation and generate new job opportunities for Uganda’s young people. This engagement has led to the commitment of support from these nations through Memorandums of Understanding (MoU), these nations include Japan, Estonia, Romania, Vietnam and South Africa.

Aware that Corruption can derail the digitization effort, Dr. Zawedde has deployed various technology types to reduce corruption by promoting transparency, opening government data to public scrutiny, and by automating government processes, restricting discretion of officials and limiting citizens’ interaction with gatekeepers to access key services. The following key Government processes have been automated:

Electronic Government Procurement (eGP). This system has automated the entire Government procurement life cycle to eliminate use of paper and limit face to face interaction.

Online Business Registration System (OBRS) – A digital service system that gives users ability to access services such as registration of companies, business names, legal documents and insolvency, among others, online.

Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) – This system automates records and eases workflows across Government Institutions. The system eliminates the use of paper across all Government processes.

Education Management Information System (EMIS) – Provides timely statistics and information for policy development planning, budget and evidence-based management practices for the education sector.

The other female titan that received the National Honour for distinguished service to the Nation in the field of ICT is Ms. Vivian Ddambya.

Ms. Ddambya is a National Digital Transformation Expert who also serves as a Non-Executive Director on the board of Centenary Bank, Uganda’s largest indigenous bank under the regionally dominant Centenary Group.

It is during Vivian’s current term as Non-Executive Director that Centenary Bank recorded substantial growth in 2022 in profits, deposits, gross loans, and total assets despite challenges in the economy. A key highlight of the bank’s peformance is the Profit after tax that increased to UGX 249.6 Billion, a growth of 18.0% compared to 2021.

Throughout Vivian’s 18year career, she has focused on leveraging technology to create a more equitable and inclusive world. Her experience spans both the private and public sectors, where she has had the opportunity to work with diverse teams to deliver impactful digital solutions.

When she worked as Director of Technical Services at the National Information Technology Authority Uganda, she led the development and implementation of the country’s digital infrastructure program, which was a key component of Uganda’s Ministry of ICT & National Guidance Digital Vision Uganda.

It should be noted that owing to Vivian’s sterling project leadership skills, she successfully delivered Component 2 of the World Bank Regional Communication Infrastructure Program project in Uganda which saw the extension to the Government’s ICT Fibre cable to over 4000 Kilometers and provided internet connectivity to over 1000 Government offices and ensured the reduction of the cost of internet from $700 per Mbps to $70 per Mbps.

Another success story that Vivian weaved was leading the construction of Uganda’s industrial grade Tier 3 Government Data Centre in Kampala & Disaster Recovery site in Jinja. These assets that Vivian oversaw saved over USD. 60M of tax payers money that would have been lost through duplication of data centres across the Government.

During her tour of duty in Government, Vivian established a framework for the provision of broadband services to all parts of the country, which was critical in ensuring that all Ugandans could access the internet and benefit from the digital economy.

Before joining NITA-U, Vivian served as Network Manager, the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), where she demonstrated unparalleled leadership and expertise in managing the complex network of the pension fund.

Vivian was acknowledged as a champion of innovation, leveraging technology to streamline processes and enhance service delivery at NSSF. Her forward-thinking approach was instrumental in ensuring that the pension fund remains at the forefront of the industry.

Vivian’s strategic vision was instrumental in ensuring the fund’s stability and financial security, providing millions of Ugandans with the assurance of a comfortable retirement.

These awards are particularly significant as they recognize the outstanding achievements of women in a male-dominated field. Despite the challenges they faced as women in ICT, Dr. Zawedde and Ms. Ddambya persevered and overcame adversity, blazing a trail for other women in the field to follow.

Their success serves as an inspiration to young women across the country who aspire to pursue careers in ICT. Through their hard work and dedication, they have demonstrated that gender should never be a barrier to success and that women can excel in any field, including technology.

These awards also highlight the importance of inclusion and diversity in the workplace. The field of ICT has historically been male-dominated, and it is essential to encourage more women to enter the sector and create a more diverse and inclusive industry. This recognition of Dr. Zawedde and Ms. Ddambya serves as a powerful message to the industry, that women can and should play a more prominent role in the development of ICT.

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