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ICT and Governance: Dialogue addresses key concerns PDF Print E-mail

By Esther Nakkazi

ImageI-Network held a stakeholder dialogue on governance last month, in a landmark three-way communication that could influence policy and check corruption in the Information Technology (IT) sector.

The dialogue was attended by members of the ICT committee in parliament, Ministry of Information Communication and Technology (MoICT) officials as well as members on the I-Network mailing list.

The trio agreed to have a permanent dialogue with the ministry of ICT that could be a true manifestation of good governance, promoting democracy and transparency in the Uganda IT sector.

“Through the dialogue, I have learnt that there is need to renew our working together as stakeholders. We had a few misunderstandings between us but let us now dwell more on the concerns of the people in the IT sector,” said Elisha Wasukira the coordinator I-Network.

The dialogue, first addressed by Dr. Jimmy Saamanya the permanent secretary MoICT, was demanded by the IT fraternity on the I-Network mailing list, who felt that some of the issues raised on the mailing list where not satisfactorily addressed by the line ministry, MoICT.
An adhoc committee, made up of I-Network members, Joachim Gwoke, Douglas Onyango, Badru Ntege, Robert Shaka and James Wire was set up to find mechanisms to engage the MoICT in dialogue with I-Network members on a permanent basis.
At the end of the dialogue, which was typified by hard questions and tension, I-Network members were able to get answers to some issues like NITA-U and an update on the National Backbone Data Transmission project.  
Image But also MoICT officials committed to increasing participation on the I-Network mailing list; to become active contributors, participate in quarterly dialogues and give feedback to all issues raised by the stakeholders in the IT sector.

“The level of your contributions to the list, is so high, that before I can answer to an issue raised, there are already tens of them,” said Saamanya.  “We shall endeavor to attend to this, but if it is not possible we could have answers for a number of issues you compile at a given period of time.”

Saamanya who pleaded that the feeling of suspicion for the MoICT projects should be overcome was answered by remarks like, ‘This is our ministry and we want it to be clean’. One of the issues raised and thoroughly discussed was NITA-U. 
National Information Technology Authority- Uganda (NITA-U)
NITA-U, the vision bearer and executor of the MoICT projects, was set up to deal with three aspects in the IT sector, policy guidance provided by the Minister, policy making by the board and the secretariat charged with operationalisation of the board’s decisions.

Enactment of the NITA (U) was agreed upon by 15th July 2009, and later gazetted and presented to cabinet. It was approved and commenced on 15th August 2009. Shortly thereafter the Minister appointed the NITA-U board members.

As soon as NITA-U board members were announced, the choices were questioned by I-Network members inquiring about the transparency of the selection process, which was exclusively executed by the Minister.

Members curiosity was aroused further about the composition of the NITA-U staff, especially the on going process of recruiting an executive director, to take over from the unknown acting Andrew Lutwama with no advertising for the process seen in the media.

But Saamanya, who tried to allay these fears, said that there was no motive to rig the process of recruiting staff and appointing NITA-U board members, and so far everything was smooth and open to the public. “It is going as the per the Public Procurement Disposal Act (PPDA) to ensure transparency. When the executive director is recruited then he/she will facilitate recruitment of other top staff,” said Saamanya.

But as the dialogue progressed, it was also revealed that three of the board members who were appointed by the Minister, Betty Kasimbazi, Ambrose Ruyooka and Ibrahim Kalisa had stepped down because of other commitments. What was not satisfactorily explained was why Ambrose Ruyooka commissioner for IT at MoICT was dropped as a board member.

According to the law, the commissioner of ICT –Ruyooka-is supposed to be a board member. MoICT officials however, said he was dropped because he is ‘a busy man’ and as a good governance principle he would not be allowed to sit on 3 boards.

“My appointment, was terminated to allow me, to concentrate on other duties within the Ministry and the ICT sector at large, including serving as a member of the Governing Council of the Uganda Institute of Information and Communications Technology among others,” said Ruyooka on the I-Network list.
Some press reports had indicated that Ruyooka’s withdrawal was to create space for Dr. Williams Ddembe but that was contravening the law, which required an employee of the MoICT to take up this position.
ImageEdward Baliddawa, one of the crafters of NITA-U said parliament would not allow appointments that are outside the law unless the law is amended and with enough justification to do so.

“To reduce suspicion and to impute the ill motive, MoICT should stop being defensive. There is not much secrecy in IT. We should be humble enough and come here and say we have made mistakes,” said Baliddawa. 

Baliddawa also called for reconciliation of the different players and proposed for the constitution of a new and credible NITA-U board. This could start with the old board being dissolved.

Ambrose Ruyooka, the acting commissioner Information Technology MoICT, Patrick Mwesigwa, the technical manager Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and Godfrey Mutabazi the Broadcasting Council attended the dialogue.

The I-Network discussion list provides a forum, for those interested in ICT matters, to exchange and share views related to the sector. I-Network, are overseers of the discussion list as well as the other fora which are used like the public seminars/debates, the website and the newsletter, which provide an open and neutral forum open to all stakeholders. For a blog on the NITA-U issues check out; Why NITA-U matters http://bit.ly/5K7lLw

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