The minister of ICT and National Guidance is pushing for cheaper internet with the view that ICT is a driver and enabler of national development.
Hon Frank Tumwebaze made the remarks at Sheraton hotel in Kampala last Thursday, clarifying that internet was no longer just a luxury or an option for the few modern elite.
“It’s a basic necessity just like other utilities of electricity and water are.”
The commitment of government is to continue investing in all initiatives that will substantially scale up the internet infrastructure coverage and also make it universal and affordable for all, he noted.
Tumwebaze said the investment in the NBI was a very wise one since it managed to bring down the cost of internet from USD 1,200 to USD 300 per Mbps per month.
“This however needs to further be pushed down, and increase its penetration across the country so as to enable young ICT innovators to grow their businesses.”
He said Internet also must be fully subsidized for Universities and Research Institutions.
Global studies show that the impact of an increase of 10% internet penetration results into an increase in the GDP ranging from 0.25%- 1.38%.
Internet is as a good enabler to ICT innovators and young IT graduates getting jobs, and improving service delivery as electricity is to manufacturers.
With the digital revolution, most of the big infrastructure projects we are undertaking as a Country like SGR, Oil pipeline, Industrial Parks etc., will require internet backbone installations.
He said lowering the cost of internet, therefore, will not only help ICT innovations but also spur investment growth of e-services (e.g. mobile money, e-wallet, pay way and their attendant functions) and grow jobs.
Sharing of ICT infrastructure
He said when government develops ICT infrastructure at a high cost, efforts to make IT services universal and affordable get inhibited.
“I therefore would like to pause one question to some of you ICT experts dealing in the business of internet provision and to you the telecom operators.”
“Why don’t we think and discuss about sharing internet infrastructure as some known countries are doing for the sake of reducing heavy investment costs that finally end up being pushed to the consumer?”
If government has invested in the backbone infrastructure and is continuing to scale it up to the last point of a sub county in the medium term and eventually to a village in the long term, why should telecoms also invest in the same infrastructure and put the burden on the consumer?
“Why not share? What would be the purpose then of the huge investment of government? What is the problem here? I stand to be informed and educated on this; otherwise I find it a challenge to our dream of rolling out affordable and universal e-services.”