PARTNERING WITH UN TO DELIVER SDGs THROUGH ICT -Commemoration of the UN’s 75th Anniversary

As the regulatory authority of communications, the mission of the Uganda Communications Commission is “to drive the development of a robust communications sector” in Uganda.

To achieve that, UCC is mandated by Sections 5(1)(h) and 5(1)(q) of the Uganda Communications Act 2013 to coordinate and collaborate with relevant national and international organisations, as well as to represent Uganda at national and international fora in matters related to the Commission’s functions.

In commemoration of the UN’s 75th Anniversary, the Commission is highlighting Uganda’s partnership with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Universal Postal Union (UPU), as well as our contribution to the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Eng. Irene Kaggwa Sewankambo, Ag. Executive Director Uganda Communications Commission

Founded in 1865 to facilitate international connectivity in communications networks, ITU also allocates global radio spectrum and satellite orbits, develops the technical ICT standards that ensure networks and technologies seamlessly interconnect, while striving to improve access to ICTs among underserved communities worldwide.

On its part, one of UCC’s core functions is to drive uptake and integration of ICTs through increasing accessibility and affordability of ICT products and services, and amplifying the role of ICTs in social-economic transformation.

At its last plenipotentiary conference in Dubai 2018, the ITU through Resolution 200 invited ITU member states “to ensure that ICTs are central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

The ITU works through three (3) governing bodies:

  • Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R), which manages the international radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbit resources.
  • Standardization Sector (ITU-T), which standardises global telecommunications.
  • Development Sector (ITU-D), which helps spread equitable, sustainable and affordable access to information and communication technologies (ICT).

Through these project initiatives, ITU promotes global ICT usage, and advises governments on ICT strategies and technologies, among other functions. 

Asa specialised body of the UN, membership to the ITU is primarily at the governmental level, represented by ministries of ICT and ICT regulatory authorities in the respective member countries.

This multilateral environment enables the Commission, which is bound by the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) treaty Acts, to align its spectrum allocations to the global allotments, thereby benefiting from the economies of scale accruing from the harmonised policy.

It is through such frameworks that member states have undertaken regionally harmonised and treaty level initiatives such as digital migration, adoption and implementation of telecommunication standards and recommendations, as well as management of global frequency band allotments for ICT services.

In particular, Uganda has benefited from the following ITU driven projects:

  • Technical support in setting up UG CERT (national Computer Emergency Response Team)
  • Setting up an IPV6 migration testbed (testing new technologies for quality of service and interoperability)
  • Butaleja landslides early warning system
  • Topical ICT sectoral global studies and research initiatives
  • Capacity building through participation in specialised ITU study groups, training workshops, webinars and panels.

Indeed, through participation in the ITU study groups, UCC has cultivated capacity within its technical departments in their operational frameworks, standards development and general appreciation of the issues at a global level. This has facilitated the alignment of Uganda’s ICT sector to global trends and standards.

In addition, through ITU membership Uganda has positioned itself as a leading think-tank in international ICT policy and technical dialogue. Uganda is currently a member of the highly contested ITU Council for the 2018 – 2022 cycle. This Council membership has given Uganda an opportunity to contribute directly towards ITU’s governance and strategic direction.

Universal Postal Union (IPU)

UPU is another specialised UN agency with which Uganda enjoys a strong partnership. Uganda’s membership to UPU is coordinated by the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance, UCC and Uganda Post Limited, the state-owned Designed Operator.

Uganda became a member of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) in 1901, and is currently serving a second four-year term on the agency’s Council of Administration (2012-2016 and 2016-2020).

The UPU’s key role is to maintain a global postal territory and to establish rules for international mail exchange among member states. The agency also provides capacity building support aimed at transforming the entire mail supply chain – from acceptance, through sorting and finally to delivery.

As part of a collaborative effort in support of members, UPU has provided the following assistance to Uganda Post Limited:

  • CCTV equipment at the sorting centre and General Post Office (GPO) to improve on the security of mail and curb mail violation.
  • A stamp-cancelling machine to expedite mail processing in the sorting centre.
  • Post Office boxes and locks at Clock Tower Post Office.
  • Counter automation software to enable tracking of mail.
  • Fifty-one (51) motorcycles to improve countrywide end-to-end delivery of mail from and to the main office of exchange.
  • Twenty (20) computers, 2 servers, 1 firewall (spam and virus blocker) and 20 USB powered speakers to support the modernisation of postal financial services.
  • A mail delivery van for mail conveyance to hard-to-reach areas.
  • An X-ray screening machine to detect prohibited and dangerous goods.
  • Extension and migration of IPS to 48 district Post Offices; 64 barcodes, 54 receipt printers, 48 solar panels, 2 servers, 64 computers and 64 delivery scanners.

As Uganda joins the world to commemorate the UN’s 75th Anniversary, the Commission takes this opportunity to highlight partnerships with UN agencies and the resulting contribution to the social-economic transformation of our country, making this celebration all the more meaningful for UCC, for Uganda.

How UCC contributes to Uganda’s SDGs journey

In September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Building on the principle of “leaving no one behind”, the new Agenda emphasises a holistic approach to achieving sustainable development for all.

The 2030 Agenda recognises that “the spread of information and communications technology and global interconnectedness has great potential to accelerate human progress, to bridge the digital divide and to develop knowledge societies”.

The SDGs, which aim to end poverty, hunger, HIV/AIDS and discrimination against women and girls, while promoting quality education, clean energy and economic growth, among other goals, are integrated in such a way that action in one area will affect outcomes in others. This integration also speaks to the need for development that is balanced not only socially and economically but also environmentally sustainable.

ICTs are specifically highlighted in SDG 9, where the international community commits to “significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in the least developed countries by 2020”.

In line with its mantra of “Communications for All”, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) works to make this a reality in several ways, including equipping education institutions with computer laboratories and conducting digital literacy training for unserved and underserved groups.

ICTs are also prominent in SDG 17, where their key role as an enabler of social-economic transformation is articulated and their cross-cutting transformative potential highlighted.

Indeed, as catalysts that accelerate all three pillars of sustainable development – economic growth, social inclusion and environmental sustainability, ICTs are crucial in achieving all the SDGs.

Accordingly, in line with SDG3 – “Good Health and Wellbeing” – UCC promotes innovation and integration of ICTs in the health sector to improve service delivery efficiency in aspects as diverse as birth and death registration, COVID-19 prevention campaigns, and diagnostic solutions for malaria, breast cancer and other communicable and non-communicable diseases.

Furthermore, to reduce inequality in line with SDG 10, the Government of Uganda set up a Universal Service and Access Fund under UCC whose core objective is to provide access to affordable communications to the unserved and underserved segments of the population.

Through this framework, UCC has supported school children, teachers, market vendors and Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), among others; providing devices, broadband access and digital skills training. In one such intervention aimed at bridging the digital divide, UCC partnered with the National Union of Women with Disabilities (NUWODU) to equip girls and women with disabilities with digital skills.

Through the Fund, UCC has also supported the integration of ICT in learning and teaching, in line with SDG 4, by equipping more than 1,000 schools with computers, training and retooling of teachers, providing educational digital content, internet connectivity as well as implementing an E-learning platform that connects urban schools to their rural counterparts.

To stimulate economic growth in line with SDG 8, UCC has prioritised digital skilling for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). In Uganda, SMEs contribute more than 70% of the national GDP, provide employment for many youths, but their uptake of digital solutions remains limited.

Through this programme, SMEs are equipped to harness and leverage ICTs to improve their operations, boost profitability and create more jobs, which will, in turn, boost economic growth and development, and ultimately reduce poverty in line with SDG1.

To boost agricultural productivity and fight hunger in line with SDG2, the Commission recently conducted a study in which it sought to understand the gaps and challenges within the agricultural ICT innovation space.

Consequently, a project is underway to facilitate accelerated uptake of ICT4Agric innovations in a bid to increase crop yields and ultimately achieve the Zero hunger target.

Lastly, through its participation in ITU-R and WRC activities, the Commission ensures that its spectrum plans and projections are aligned to protecting the global satellite and space services that support meteorology and climatology, thus safeguarding human life and natural resources in line with SDGs 13, 14, 15.

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