The Minister for Information Technology and Communications, Frank Tumwebaze has called on innovators in Uganda to focus on creating solutions that will respond to the current social problems if they are to win government support.
He said however much existing laws provide for preferential treatment for local products including technology innovations, they must be relevant.
Minister Tumwebaze was Friday speaking at the Léo Africa Economic Forum whose focus was on assessing the impact of disruptive innovations on growth and development in Africa.
The one day conference organized by the Léo Africa Institute brought together players in the technology space to discuss how emerging technologies can be leveraged for improved livelihoods.
“You (innovators) must tell governments what to do because they are spending public resources on several competing needs; building roads, hospitals and better salaries for public servants,” said Tumwebaze.
“So, it is up to us who understand the power of these innovations to speak sense to policy makers and heads of governments,” the Minister told participants.
He added that demonstrating how investment in innovation hubs can directly impact on GDP growth or create employment is the easiest way to attract the attention of policy makers.
“Governments will respond once they are convinced that ideas can revolutionize the way of life because they want to put money where they think they will get the population dividend lest they are voted out,” he said.
He challenged innovators to take advantage of the ecosystem including infrastructure and other enablers to create solutions that are relevant and able to solve challenges that go beyond expos.
In terms of support, Tumwebaze gave assurance that government under the PPDA law is ready to procure technological products, protect them and reserve work for the developers.
He said that standards and guidelines currently under development by National Information Technology Association of Uganda (NITA-U) will make it easy to assess the efficiency of innovations.
But some of the participants argued that a conventional mindset of doing things especially by governments in Africa still stands in the way of innovating through technology.
“Technology is new to most of our governments. Most of them are still working in analog although in the last 10 years we have seen then rally around technology. But it is execution that is still a challenge,” said Lucy Mbabazi, the Country Manager of Visa Rwanda.
She wondered why governments still prioritize experience in a field like technology which largely operates on a try and error basis.
Deliberations during Friday’s Léo Africa Economic Forum rotated around cross cutting issues, among them; need for significant investment in the areas of education particularly mathematics and science, as well as research and development both of which are critical for technology to thrive.