16 November 2012

Uganda: Embrace the Digital Age, ICT Minister Urges Ugandans

Uganda's minister for Information and Communication Technologies, Ruhakana Rugunda wants Ugandans to go digital by fully adopting paperless communication in their everyday lives.

Speaking at a stakeholders' meeting held at the Ministry of ICT in Kampala on Nov. 14 ahead of the Africa ICT Week, Rugunda noted that Ugandans just like other citizens around the world are living in an Information Society, where ICT tends to render paperwork redundant. However, he observed that the amount of paper that continues to flow from the mailbox into people's files and homes on a daily basis remains high.

A paperless society is one in which paper communication - written documents, mail, and letters, is replaced by electronic communication and storage.

Besides its obvious contribution to saving the environment through reduction of deforestation, a wholly digitized society could provide a more democratic access to professional journals, newspapers, magazines, books and databases, notes a statement from the Uganda Communications Commission, the country's communication regulatory body.

Rugunda encouraged Ugandans to take advantage of the Africa ICT Week to embark on a paperless society.

"I may not pay attention to paper correspondence sent to me during the Week," he said.

However, the minister expressed optimism at the degree of development in Uganda as far as going digital is concerned.

"Today, many people in Uganda pay their bills, buy goods and services as well as take classes online. Phone books, to-do lists, greeting cards, letters and calendars have all gone digital," he said.

Dr Rugunda noted that when the Electronic Signature legislation is implemented, reliance on such paperwork as cheques would reduce, while e-mail and e-signatures would be legally recognized as ways of conducting transactions and official business.

Nonetheless, although this shift to technology is often faster and more efficient than old-fashioned handwritten or paper-based options, critics of the technology have labeled it "The Electronic Straitjacket," that is letting people's minds be "shaped rather than liberated."

This year's Africa ICT Week, with the theme, "Promoting Pan Africanism and African Renaissance through ICT" will take place from November 19-24 under the auspices of the Africa Union Commission.

The week aims at demonstrating the values and advantages of communicating digitally and generally seeks to show how ICTs could improve people's quality of life across Africa.

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