Supporting development of the National Fourth Industrial Revolution Strategy

Technology has completely revolutionised the way we do business; it is growing in various industries and will change all aspects of life. That is why the Third National Development Plan (NDP III) Digital Transformation Programme goal for Uganda is to increase ICT penetration and use of ICT services for social and economic development. One of the key focus areas for the government is to support the development and uptake of emerging technologies such as Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies, writes Judith Nabakooba, former Ministry of Information Technology and National Guidance (MICT-NG). To implement this, it was deemed important to develop the National Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) Strategy.

Digital technologies, if harnessed, can support the country attain its social and economic goals including financial inclusion. For the financial sector, the value of 4IR solutions resides in the development of use cases that can reduce the cost of serving existing consumers as well as acquiring new ones, making new business models possible for previously unreachable demographics. Several financial service providers have adopted these technologies to minimise inefficiencies in their businesses, manage customer and business risk, and create more seamless experiences for their customers.

The Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Uganda, under its work on developing an inclusive financial system (infrastructure and environment) to support the digital economy, joined the Expert National Task Force on the Fourth Industrial Revolution to support development of the strategy.

To kick start the process, an in-depth foundational assessment of Uganda’s 4IR opportunities and readiness was conducted to identify the areas that must be further developed to achieve these objectives. The approaches taken by peer countries in formulating national fourth industrial revolution technology strategies were also considered. A comprehensive process of local stakeholder consultation to reflect the country’s developmental objectives was conducted and their input was included.

The findings from the assessment later informed the strategy which identifies opportunities in the Ugandan economy where 4IR applications would have the most significant positive impact and critical enablers required for execution. The strategy also specifies mechanisms to ensure the interventions are implemented effectively and efficiently. The identified opportunities are:

    • Unlocking productivity in agriculture by enhancing small-holder productivity from pre- to post-harvest to increase outputs to the value of 2% of GDP each year.
    • Transforming human capital development by broadening access to cost-effective, high-quality education and healthcare to improve school survival rates by 50% and increase average life expectancy by an additional two years.
    • Overcoming the economic opportunity shortfall by enhancing supply chains and access to digitally traded services to create 300,000 new earning opportunities.
    • Supporting urbanisation and governance by managing rising pressures on urban settlements by supporting the extension and delivery of critical urban services.
    • Tripling the uptake of e-government services and halving the current number of manual government processes.

These four critical areas of opportunity cover a variety of sectors and processes that will be critical to Uganda’s ability to navigate powerful forces of change. These forces include climate change, rapid urbanisation, the youth wave, and the global dispersion of production. Building and scaling the opportunities across these zones will be instrumental in Uganda’s ability to realise structural transformation, harness the demographic transition, and mitigate emerging risks facing the global economy.

Overall, the strategy’s vision is to create a continental 4IR hub that enables a smart and connected Ugandan society. Its mission is to transform and accelerate Uganda’s development into a creative, innovative, productive, and competitive society using 4IR technologies by 2040.

Executing the opportunities presented in the strategy requires 4IR connectivity, regulatory agility, upskilled population, eGovernment and cyber security, resource mobilisation and investment promotion. To harness the prospects the 4IR offers, coordinated effort between the government, private sector and civil society is key.

The strategy is now finalised and on December 8, 2022, FSD Uganda joined the Ministry of Information Technology and National Guidance to handover the National Strategy on 4IR to the Prime Minister.

The strategy awaits approval from cabinet, although implementation of key recommendations, like the development of the National Artificial Intelligence Ethical Framework, is already underway. Furthermore, the Government and other stakeholders are making use of the opportunities presented by the strategy to roll out innovative products and services that help them meet their goals.

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