By Rhona Batamukuwa Kazungu.
In order for our government to achieve sustainable development, innovation is a key component through partnerships between the government through the National ICT Initiative Support Program (NIISP) and Tech Start Ups (Innovators).
Startups are able to scale up fast in order to create more jobs and unlock income opportunities across emerging markets.
For a long time, the growth of the ICT innovation eco-system in Uganda was championed by the private sector with minimal support from the government. Innovators were primarily motivated to find jobs rather than work on their projects due to the uncertainty and financial constraints as well as financial pressure from family members.
Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye, at the 2019 Kampala Innovation Week captured this conundrum well, famously remarking: “You cannot eat ICT but you can cook with it.”
It is upon this background that our government through the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance and following H.E. Yoweri Museveni outlining his strategic objectives to cabinet in June of 2016, launched the National ICT Initiative Support Program to tackle challenges faced by Ugandan ICT Innovators.
NIISP is committed to facilitating growth and development of software applications and innovations industry so as to provide systematic and sustainable support to national ICT innovators, promote ICT products, services and solutions for improved service delivery as part of a wider digital ecosystem, establish and operationalize ICT innovation parks and promote local electronics manufacturing and assembly.
This program aims at being a key player in the transformation of the livelihoods of Ugandans as laid out in the National Development Plan (NDP III).
According to a study done by the Martin Prosperity Institute of the US, Uganda is ranked amongst the top three countries with advanced technological and innovation capabilities. This implies that Uganda has a lot of information and communication potential to tap into. We ought to note that the readily available help has in turn encouraged innovation in helping solve our social challenges, generating highly skilled jobs and wealth for individuals working with the companies as well as improving our national balance of payments through Import substitution.
A case in point is Pata Sente, one of the beneficiaries of the NIISP III award. Pata Sente is an online factoring platform with over 300 subscribers. Simply put it is an online supply chain financing platform that enables businesses to buy goods affordably. 3567 farmers work with Pata Sente to supply over 1.5 million liters of milk to Rainbow Diaries as well as Brookside Diaries. Essentially farmers and cooperatives are able to sell more milk to both the informal and formal sector and a lot more people are employed.
School Master Solutions is another beneficiary that provides reliable and convenient ways of managing schools’ information and processes by providing easy to use and customizable software. Schools are able to save time, resources and finances as this is a cost effective way of managing their affairs such as student and staff information, report card preparation, library operations as well as financial records of the students.
It focuses on the advantages of electronic data storage, processing and information dissemination to stakeholders.
Pata Sente, School Master solutions are only two of the more than 100 Innovators – Start Ups – supported by the government of Uganda through the Ministry of Information Communication Technology & National Guidance’s NIISP .
The setting up of Innovation hubs such as at Uganda Institute of ICT – Nakawa, by NIISP is primarily geared towards addressing challenges of “Space” and connection to the wildwide web that often plagues startups and innovators in Africa and elsewhere.
Besides the workspaces which can seat over 100 users at a go, the innovation hub also consists of meeting/presentation rooms, boardroom, and a 350-seater auditorium for workshops and other events. This indicates that the government ‘s efforts to assist innovators have not been futile as over 100 startups and innovators have so far benefitted from this initiative.
The National ICT Initiative Support Program is definitely a step in the right direction that a lot of the innovators’ challenges will in the long run be solved so that the innovation potential of Uganda is exploited in favor of the livelihoods of the population and the revenue of the country.
The Writer is a Communications Assistant at Ministry of ICT and National Guidance.