Reduce the Cost of ICT Infrastructure Rollout Increase Uptake of Broadband Services, Increase Government Tax Revenue

This concept paper provides a detailed discussion of an Action Plan that has the triple objective of:

  • Reducing the cost of rolling out ICT infrastructure;
  • Increasing uptake of ICT services, and
  • Increasing Government Tax Revenue.

The Action Plan is aimed at achieving the alignment of the three objectives to create synergy, leading to the successful implementation of the Digital Uganda Vision (DUV) and its contribution to the achievement of the Third National Development Plan (NDPIII).

It should be noted that while objectives (i) and (ii) are explicitly addressed, objective (iii) is an outcome of these two.

Improving Coverage of Services
a. Phase out 2G and 3G legacy mobile systems within the next two years to release spectrum for broadband to technologies that are 4G and above. The freed spectrum should be allocated in a manner that incentivizes the use of 4G and 5G networks. (MoICT&NG and UCC)
b. Require National Operators to provide minimum access speeds equivalent to 4G or higher. (MoICT&NG
and UCC)
c. UCC should identify populated/geographic areas without any 4G coverage or with poor quality coverage through measurement and develop a schedule for proper coverage through licensing obligations and service provider interventions (that are UCUSAF supported where justified). (UCC)
d. UCC needs to undertake, as a priority, nationwide verification of coverage and quality of service. This will provide an evidence-based approach to ensuring compliance of service providers with license requirements and planning for UCUSAF interventions. (UCC)

Reducing Cost of Access and Usage
a. Suspend a major part of ICT-sector-specific taxes for a defined period (at least two years) and monitor
resultant changes in access and volume of usage as well as government tax revenue as a basis for further
interventions. (MoFPED)
b. Waive import duty and VAT on low-cost smartphones within a set ceiling (to improve access to smartphones and hence broadband applications for low-income categories). (MoFPED)
c. Through UCUSAF, introduce guarantees through insurance for low-income brackets to acquire
smartphones from service providers on a pay-as-you-go basis; and provide subsidies for the most marginalized. (MoICT&NG, MoFPED, UCC, Operators)

Reducing the Cost of Rolling out Infrastructure
a. Develop a National Policy and Regulations categorizing and protecting critical infrastructure (public and private) to ensure safety, security, and compliance around any infrastructure or assets with significant social or economic impact if damaged or compromised. (Assign at Cabinet level – Involves MDAs covering other sectors outside the immediate Digital Transformation Sector Working Group)
b. Develop a Rights-of-Way Policy to guide and regulate the use of public and private land for the deployment of ICT infrastructure in a fast, safe, and responsible manner. This should especially address the excessive charges imposed by government agencies, municipalities, local governments, and private landowners. (Assign at Cabinet level – Involves MDAs covering other sectors outside the immediate
Digital Transformation Sector Working Group)
c. Establish and enforce a “Dig Once” policy, requiring licensed providers and other public works providers
to collaborate in any infrastructure rollout, regardless of who the initiator is. (Assign at Cabinet level –
2 Involves MDAs covering other sectors outside the immediate Digital Transformation Sector Working
d. Enforce existing regulations on telecommunication infrastructure sharing to reduce Capex and Opex for
all service providers. (UCC)
e. Require collaboration in rolling out any new ICT infrastructure (for both public and private entities).

Increasing Digital Literacy
Uganda needs to mount a National Digital Literacy Campaign at the Presidential level, backed by the related initiatives to increase access to devices, to ensure a rapid increase in digital literacy and skills over the next five years. Alongside this would be the long-term approaches that should include incorporating digital literacy into educational curricula at all levels; and requiring schools and education institutions to provide digital literacy as a requirement from the lowest levels of education (kindergarten). (Decision and assignment at Cabinet level as this would be an all-inclusive national program).

Addressing Exclusion
Different results cannot be expected from old approaches that have generally tended to address exclusion by catch-all sections added to different policies. It is necessary to include in the National ICT Policy (currently under revision) and its related major strategy (the Digital Uganda Vision) specific sections that will ensure that the challenge of exclusion is directly tackled as a stand-alone program. Fortunately, the United Nations Capital Development Fund, which has a strong presence in Uganda, has addressed exclusion from the digital revolution as a priority: They should be engaged as a major partner in doing this, in full consultation with the identified categories of the population that face exclusion, to come up with new ways of addressing this challenge. While the new Uganda Digital Acceleration Project-GovNet (UDAP-GovNet) funded by the World Bank includes a few projects that target dimensions of exclusion, particularly for refugees and refugee hosting communities, these are just a start, and much more needs to be done. (Assign at Cabinet level – a holistic approach involves MDAs covering other sectors outside the immediate Digital Transformation Sector Working Group)