ICT bill zeroes on changes in digital economy, media

21May 2022
Francis Kajubi
The Guardian
ICT bill zeroes on changes in digital economy, media

​​​​​​​OVERSEEING the digital economy and amendments to the Media Services Act of 2016 are the ranking priorities in the fiscal 2022/23 work plan for the Ministry of Information, Communication and Information Technology.

Nape Nnauye.

The minister, Nape Nnauye, made this observation when winding up debate and contributions to his 282bn/- budget proposals, which elicited a massive show of support by legislators, on his emphasis that digital economy is the only way forward.

Already $150bn has been secured by the government from the World Bank to facilitate the national digital economy strategy, to enhance internet accessibility and mobile money transactions coverage.

During fiscal 2022/23 the government will be involved in the construction of 150 telecommunication towers, with internet capacity of 2G and 3G speed bands, he said.

A portion of funds will be used to upgrade 350 telecommunication towers to access 3G and 4G internet communications from the current 2G general level, he said, underlining the focus on digital economy.

The government is similarly prepared to provide 5G internet speed licence to service providers demonstrating they have the right equipment and skills to manage the ultramodern version in internet services.

The minister expressed confidence that 68 per cent of the population lives in areas with reliable access to 3G and 4G internet services but just 27 per cent are capable of accessing internet services through their mobile phones. The government was committed to helping the private sector in bridging the gap, he stated.

Internet subscriptions had increased to 29.9m in April 2022 from 29.1m a year earlier, representing 2.7 per cent of growth, which roughly reflects population growth.

In realising the digital economy, the government has deducted voice interconnection charges to 2/- per minute from 2.6/- per minute set in April 2021, a 23.1 per cent reduction, he stated.

The Media Service Act 2016 will be tabled for amendments that will benefit journalists, he said, laying emphasis on welfare issues instead of media freedom.

The proposals the minister cited include contested suggestions like ‘ending the miserable life that journalists are living by working without contracts,’ and instituting a minimum level of education for media practitioners.

During fiscal 2021/22 the government was targeting to connect 532 wards with  total of 1,100 villages and 5.21m residents with mobile phone communication facilities, billed to cost 82.2bn/-.

As of April 2022, a total of 123 wards comprising 314 villages and 1.38m residents had been reached, while the remaining 409 wards have different levels of project execution, through the Universal Communication Service Access Fund (UCSAF).

Through UCSAF the ministry will soon be tendering for installation of five free hotspot Wi-Fi centers likely to commence anytime from next month, he said.

A residential address codification exercise billed at 45bn/- had attained 12,171,320 addresses, overtaking the set target, meanwhile as TANESCO infrastructure will be put to enabling the UCSAF access remote areas. The facility will cut down costs of expanding connection to the national broadband main frame construction.

Telecommunication cables covering 4,442 kilometers were laid, from 1,880 kilometers expected before the accord was reached, extending the national broadband coverage to 12,761 kilometers by the end of the year, with the total project set at 171.40bn/- in costs.

Sold timecards increased to 55.37m by April 2022 from 52.97m by April last year, an increment of 4.5 percent.

Mobile money subscribers topped 35.75m from 27.33m a year earlier, a 30.8 per cent increase, with communication infrastructure service providers increasing to 23 from 19 in April 2021, a 21.1 per cent rise.

Application services and those adding value increased to 102 from 66 service providers, a rapid increase of 54.5 per cent.

Radio stations have increased to 210 from 200 a year earlier, a five per cent rise, television stations reaching 56 from 50, a 12 per cent increase, while cable television stations topped 59 from 40, a hefty increase of 47.5 per cent.

Registered newspapers titles rose to 284 from 272, a slight 4.4 per cent increase, 663 registered online televised channels from 552, showing a 20.1 per cent rise. Similarly 148 blogs were operating from 134 earlier, a timid 10.4 per cent increase. Online radio stations increased to 27 from 25, an eight per cent increase, adding up to 285 registered media outlets after issuing 19 licences to new newspapers in the past year, the minister observed.

A report on the National Economy Status 2020 prepared by the National Bureau of Statistics, says the information and communication technology sector was growing at 8.4 per cent annually, with a survey last year showing that 69 per cent of the country’s land surface has access to mobile phone communications, he added.

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