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MAKERERE HOSTS NATIONAL TECH CONFERENCE – “Connectivity, Resilience, and Innovation in the Covid-19 Era.”

MAKERERE HOSTS NATIONAL TECH CONFERENCE – “Connectivity, Resilience, and Innovation in the Covid-19 Era.”

Makerere University has asked Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to restore its defunct radio station and help the institution to set up a television station, which the Vice-Chancellor said will help in counteracting “fake” news.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the National Conference on Communications (NCC) hosted by Makerere University’s College of Engineering, Design Art and Technology (CEDAT) in conjunction with UCC, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe said Makerere had lost the radio license due to non-payment of license fees but was now capable of paying up.

Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, Vice-Chancellor of Makerere University

“We lost it (license) because we were poor, now we have some money,” he said, adding that the university is also interested in a TV license.

Unlike the broadcasting stations spewing out falsehoods and inaccuracies, Prof Nawangwe said, on a rather light note, the Makerere media house would live by the slogan “Amatuufu ddala ddala” (very accurate news).

Through its Department of Mass Communication, Makerere University had a radio station until the license was withdrawn for non-payment of license fees a few years back.

Reacting to Prof. Nawangwe’s remarks, the Minister of ICT and National Guidance Judith Nabakooba, who officiated at the event held at Golden Tulip Hotel on Wednesday, March 3, agreed that a radio and TV station would serve as a teaching aid for journalism and ICT students as well as a tool to share accurate information.

She advised Makerere University to table the matter before UCC officially.

On the Makerere Vice Chancellor’s other request for a specialised fund to facilitate research in universities, Hon. Nabakooba said her ministry would look into the proposal. 

Held annually, the National Conference on Communications is a platform for IT researchers, industry actors, academics and students to deliberate on solutions for local challenges and proposals to improve ICTs in Uganda.

The opening ceremony of the two-day event was attended only by invited guests as other participants followed virtually in observance of the COVID-19 safety guidelines.

In recognition of the impact that COVID-19 has had on people’s ways of life and the communications sector, in particular, NCC 2020 is being held under the theme, “Connectivity, Resilience, and Innovation in the Covid-19 Era.”

In her speech, Hon. Nabakooba said the Government is committed to putting ICTs at the forefront of Uganda’s transformation agenda, hence the significant investment in ICT infrastructure, as well as the robust legal and regulatory framework, which she said, are evident in the positive indicators registered in recent years.

Hon. Judith Nalule Nabakooba, Minister of Information and Communications Technology

“Our vision as Government is to leverage ICTs to spur economic transformation and improve people’s lives. Technology per se will be of no or little consequence if it doesn’t translate into higher standards of living for our people,” she said.

The Minister, however, noted that while ICTs are an important instrument in the creation of employment and driving of economic development once used constructively, they can also be abused whereby the consequences could be dire.

“I call upon you to deliberate on how best Uganda can reap the benefits of ICTs and social media in particular while at the same time minimising the potential dangers such as cyber harassment, hate speech, terrorism and cyber insecurity, among others,” she said, before asking, “as researchers, how can we use social media constructively?”

On her part, the Ag. Executive Director UCC, Irene Kaggwa Sewankambo, challenged scientists, researchers and innovators to take the disruption caused by COVID-19 as an opportunity to identify and develop solutions to the critical problems people face today.

As the regulator, she said, the Commission “will continue to collaborate with other stakeholders, especially as a facilitator and enabler of the development of ICTs as part of our vision to create a digitally inclusive economy.”

With the opening ceremony out of the way, the day’s real business started with a keynote speech on Cognitive Autonomous Systems by Dr. Stephen Mwanje of Nokia Bell Labs.

The conference also held a demonstration of innovations by various researchers, including Ms. Morine Amutorine of UN Pulse Lab, Eng. Fred Isabirye of MoSTI, Nathan Tumuhamye of Eastern Africa RILab and Dr. Edgar Kasenene of IDEX Africa.

A Publishing Masterclass conducted by Dr. Abubaker Matovu Waswa of Makerere University and Dr. Eric Umuhoza of Carnegie Mellon University Africa was one of the highlights on Day 1.

Standing out on Day 2 was a keynote speech by Mr. Edgar Kasenene of IDEX Africa and a panel discussion on Guaranteeing Network Connectivity and Resilience in Emergency Scenarios featuring Mr. Donald Waigumbulizi, Country Manager Ericsson Uganda, and Ms. Elizabeth Ntege, CEO NFT Consult, among others.

REMARKS BY ENG. IRENE KAGGWA SEWANKAMBO, ACTING EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UGANDA COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION, AT THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE SIXTH NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON COMMUNICATIONS (NCC) AT GOLDEN TULIP HOTEL KAMPALA, MARCH 03-04, 2021

ENG. IRENE KAGGWA SEWANKAMBO, ACTING EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UGANDA COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

It is an honour and my privilege to welcome you all to and witness the 6th National Conference on Communications (NCC). NCC was conceived to strengthen communications research in Uganda and inspire innovations that take advantage of the various technologies to solve our contemporary problems.

Allow me to thank Makerere University, and especially the College of Engineering and Design Art and Technology (CEDAT) and Dr. Dorothy Okello, for accepting to host this year’s event. It is the fourth time that NCC is being hosted by CEDAT, and to us that demonstrates a robust partnership and mutual appreciation of the importance of this conference.

The Commission, in continuing to support the NCC, has three broad objectives:

  • To provide a national forum for the presentation of outputs of peer-reviewed research into solutions for local challenges and proposals to improve ICTs in Uganda;
  • To provide a platform for discussion of the local challenges and industry trends by stakeholders (industry, government and academia);
  • Facilitate networking of young professionals with senior practitioners and accredited training institutions.

Ladies and gentlemen, with COVID-19 in our midst, the 6th edition of NCC is like no other before it. As the theme, “Connectivity, Resilience, and Innovation in the Covid-19 Era” illustrates, the pandemic has stimulated a greater need to integration of ICTs in different sectors and aspects of daily life as many people globally moved away from physical to virtual contact, interaction and working.

Besides COVID-19, which has not only delayed this event (which had been slated to take place late last year) and thus the decision to have it mostly as an online event, what stands out about this year’s edition is the introduction of a Masterclass on paper writing.

The Paper Writing Masterclass was conceived to build capacity and improve on the quality of papers submitted to NCC, and in turn to international conferences and journals.  This we expect will not only improve the quality of papers submitted to subsequent editions of the NCC but also the quantity.

As we reflect on the disruption by COVID-19 to our way of life and the world around us, our challenge as scientists, researchers, academicians, and innovators is to leverage this as an opportunity to identify and develop solutions to the critical problems facing our society today and ways in which the various services can be improved for the betterment of our country.  We all recognize the importance of research in the successful integration of good as well as the disruptive new and emerging ICT trends and innovations in society.

Being knowledge industries, universities like Makerere, and others represented here, are already positioned and have a wealth of expertise as well as the capacity to contribute effectively to the realisation of that vision. 

The industry players on the other hand within the communications sector present an opportunity for identification of research needs and implementation of solutions.  With developments in the industry, these are also a great repository of data to facilitate the necessary research and innovation.

Government is also a great source of information and consumer of the outputs of such research and innovation to improve public service delivery and realization of national development objectives.

I, therefore, call upon the academia, private sector and Government to cultivate an even greater, solid and systematic collaboration in research and development for more homegrown solutions to our challenges as a nation.

On our part as the regulator of the communications sector, we will continue to collaborate with other stakeholders, especially as facilitator and enabler of the development of ICTs as part of our vision to create a digitally inclusive economy.

In this vain, the Commission is honoured and privileged to work with stakeholders of high repute such as Makerere University towards the realisation of this vision through interventions such as this conference.

A special thank you to the Minister of ICT and National Guidance for accepting to officiate the event.

Lastly, I wish to thank all the organisers of this 6th edition of NCC for making this a reality against all odds, and to all the participants, both here and online, for your attendance and input.

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