With the support of Team Europe, Uganda moves forward on its digital transformation journey
When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in 2020, much of the world moved online, accelerating a digital transformation that was underway for decades. Uganda was no exception to this trend. Faced with strict lockdowns and school closures, the country was confronted with the need to speed up the adoption of digital technologies to keep its society running and make sure that no one was left behind.
Since then, the Government of Uganda has made it a top priority to invest in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and online services to become a more resilient, productive, and competitive economy. In just a couple of years, the country has made great strides in its digital transformation journey. Examples of important achievements include the rolling out of an electronic tax system and an online visa application portal.
In line with its mandate to support African institutions to lay grounds for an inclusive and sustainable digital transformation, the African Union - European Union (AU-EU) Digital for Development (D4D) Hub is working with the Government of Uganda to realise its digital transformation ambitions. The project has provided an effective platform for the European Union and its Member States (collectively referred to as Team Europe) to leverage their joint expertise and resources to become a trusted partner for Uganda to collaborate in the digital policy field.
Laying grounds for Uganda’s digital transformation
The AU-EU D4D Hub began collaborating with the Government of Uganda in early 2022 – just when the country started re-emerging from prolonged lockdowns. Enabel, the Belgian Development Agency, organised a benchmarking trip for Ugandan civil servants to visit Estonia to identify gaps, needs, and opportunities to advance their own digital transformation.
One identified issue, for example, was limited coordination between the government and other actors working in the digital field. The Ministry of ICT and National Guidance requested the AU-EU D4D Hub to organise a first multi-stakeholder dialogue to meet with Uganda’s digital ecosystem.
Since then, the AU-EU D4D Hub has continued to work with the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance to foster coordination between digital stakeholders, but its services have expanded to cover technical assistance and knowledge sharing activities – also supporting other government institutions.
An example of such collaboration is a technical assistance to improve data flows in the education sector, which is being carried out by Estonian experts.
“The AU-EU D4D Hub’s technical assistance is enabling us to do the groundwork for the digital transformation of the education sector. We now have a mapping and a process to integrate our information systems to ensure secure data flows.” – Patrick Muinda, Assistant Commissioner for Communications and Information Management at the Ministry of Education and Sports
Other examples include a feasibility study to increase the provision of digital public services through the postal system (led by Enabel), and technical guidance on the digitalisation of Uganda’s public procurement system (led by GIZ).
While the activities are varied in scope, they all aim to enable the Government of Uganda to have solid foundations on which it can build its digital transformation; for example, clear strategies and work plans, reliable project appraisals and mappings, structured coordination between government institutions and with other actors, and increased technical expertise among policymakers.
Team Europe, a trusted partner in the digital field
At the European level, one of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic was the prioritisation of digital cooperation in international partnerships. As part of the Global Gateway – the EU strategy to boost investments in secure connexions around the world – the European Union and its Member States have significantly stepped up their commitments to accelerate Africa’s digital transition.
“The AU-EU D4D Hub has been really instrumental in operationalising the Global Gateway by making sure that it lands in the country and that we can launch the preparatory work for new projects-” – Caroline Adriaensen, Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation to Uganda.
In Uganda, the AU-EU D4D Hub has also helped nurture a close cooperation between the European Union and some of its Member States – namely Belgium, Germany, and Estonia. This approach has allowed “Team Europe” to build on each other’s strengths to become a more attractive and effective partner to accompany Uganda’s digital transformation.
“Our collaboration with Team Europe (through the AU-EU D4D Hub) has made us, and them, appreciate the fact that working in silos will not take us anywhere. It has also given us exposure to engage with and learn from other countries’ experiences that will help us realise our digital transformation agenda faster and quicker.” – Dr Aminah Zawedde, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance.