The Minister of Information and Communications Technology and National Guidance, Frank Tumwebaze, has challenged ICT industry players to solve people’s day-to-day problems through modern and unique innovations.
Addressing the 5th National Conference on Communications (NCC) at Makerere University on Thursday as the guest of honour, the minister gave an example of medical doctors, who he said would have no job if humankind stopped falling sick.
“You are the doctors of the IT space,” Hon. Tumwebaze told his audience of mostly university students, academicians, researchers, tech enthusiasts and industry players.
The two-day event is being hosted by the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT) in conjunction with Uganda Communications Commission (UCC).
The National Conference on Communications was initiated by UCC in 2010 to offer students, researchers, application developers, and practitioners a platform to identify new research challenges, share solutions and discuss issues relevant to the communications sector of Uganda.
The organisers’ vision this year, whose theme is Harnessing Opportunities in Emerging 4IR Technologies, is to promote and stimulate research and debate around emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, robotics, Internet of Things, unmanned vehicles, 3-D printing and blockchain applications, among others.
In his speech, the minister called for innovations that will create employment and solve other challenges facing Ugandan and African societies. He advised that such solutions would have to “speak the business language”, meaning they must have demand, for them to be embraced.
On his part, the Executive Director of Uganda Communications Commission, Mr Godfrey Mutabazi, made a case for education being responsive to people’s needs.
“To successfully harness the opportunities presented by Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies, our challenge is how to make our education system responsive to today’s needs and challenges,” he said.
He noted that while African universities use the same fundamental principles as other top universities in the developed world, African countries are slower in transformation, something he attributed to linear as opposed to exponential thinking.
“Every problem we face in our day-to-day activities, in agriculture, health, business, education or entertainment, is an opportunity to exploit 4IR technologies to make life better. From farmers faced with fake drugs and diseases to Boda Boda riders targeted by criminals, to traffic jams in Kampala. Where problems exist, solutions can and should be found,” Mr Mutabazi said.
Earlier, Prof Henry Arinaitwe, the principal of CEDAT, thanked UCC for partnering with Makerere University to host the conference. He called for more such partnerships, noting the existence of facilities such as the modern auditorium where the event is being held.
With the opening ceremony out of the way, the conference got down to the business of the day with a keynote address by Prof Timothy X Brown of the Carnegie Mellon University in the United States.
The university, which he said is ranked number one in computer science, recently opened a campus in Kigali, Rwanda, and Prof. Brown urged Ugandan students to join it for cutting edge science and technology learning.
The keynote address was followed by a panel discussion on how Uganda can harness Fourth Industrial Revolution opportunities. The panel, which featured experts such as Eng. Irene Kaggwa Ssewankambo of UCC, Noah Baalessanvu of CyrptoSavannah and Stephen Tashobya of Wekebere, a global health company, was an engaging and enlightening affair that kept participants glued to their seats in the ultra-modern Central Teaching Facility 2 at Makerere.
The conference continues on Friday with discussions on blockchain technology and ICT for Development (ICT4D), among other topics.