In Summary
  • In Nigeria, an institute similar to UICT called Digital Bridge Institute (DBI) has had political and financial support to the extent that the government has opened six similar institutes in the six-geopolitical zones of the country intended to bring ICT services nearer to the citizens.

The 9th National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) exhibition that took place from March 9-11 was attended by a number of both public and private universities and other tertiary institutions, including professional bodies throughout the country to showcase their products, services and level of innovation. Government should uphold the NCHE for the initiative, clearly showing abundance of talent in our people. The theme, “Nurturing Youth for Employability and Wealth Creation: the role of Higher Education Institutions” augurs well for the institutions to channel their effort into igniting the abundant talent of the youth useful for the innovation of products and services towards socio-economic transformation.
A lot of talent was displayed in different disciplines; engineering, agriculture, commerce, economics, education, medicine, services, to mention but a few. The most interesting thing is how the use of information and communications technology (ICT) has been embraced by all institutions for innovations, effectiveness and efficiency in the operations of these institutions, meant for competitiveness in today’s turbulent economic environment.
However, many of these institutions grapple with achieving what they have been able to present in the exhibition. Tertiary institutions such as Engineering and Management Institute rightly address the new government initiative of Buy Uganda, Build Uganda (BUBU). Most importantly the only government’s own communications institute – Uganda Institute of Information and Communications Technology (UICT) would play a great role in this initiative. The BUBU would not only mean buying the physical products, but extend to services such as recruiting Ugandan trained technicians and engineers and providing in-service training in form of continuous professional development for public servants in ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs)! Such institutes require sound financial and political support to be able to deliver to the needs of society.
In Nigeria, an institute similar to UICT called Digital Bridge Institute (DBI) has had political and financial support to the extent that the government has opened six similar institutes in the six-geopolitical zones of the country intended to bring ICT services nearer to the citizens. The youth being the target group develop applications locally to support development. ICT is now recognised world over as a necessary tool for development, and enshrined in the National Development Plan II.
The only government communications institute should be a pride and spokesperson of government in the field of ICT. The government should borrow a leaf and invest in infrastructure so that each region gets a similar institute to show government’s presence, championing its effort in effective service delivery to its citizens. In my opinion, this is how governments world over are credited and maintained in power, despite opposition.
The private institutions should embrace good corporate governance practices to tap talent in its human resource. Many institutions are grappling with motivating and maintaining their employees to the extent that they are not paid for about four months of service, and this also applies to the government institutions!
How then would one expect professionals in these institutions to support the creative and innovative ideas of the students we just witnessed at the exhibition? Therefore, the government should support its institutions by timely release of grants and maintain its promise so that the institutions meet their objectives. For the private institutions, the government should extend a waiver on some of the taxes.
NCHE as a regulator is equally grappling with its operations with inadequate capacity to monitor and effectively supervise the mushrooming institutions in the country. As a consultant occasionally hired to perform work of the council, I can authoritatively state that NCHE has inadequate human capacity to carry out its operations.
The liberalisation of the education sector is good , but efforts must be directed to quality control, the mandate of the NCHE. As at 2016, there were 46 universities and 160 (2014) other tertiary institutions in the country to be overseen by a body with less than 40 out of 100 expected workforce in the NCHE!
This is a huge backlog for the NCHE, understaffed to oversee the operations of these institutions and provide logistical support to the experts in; recruitment of more personnel, programme assessment, exhibitions, inspection and monitoring to ensure that all institutions operate within the established minimum standards comparable to regional and international institutions. Therefore, government should support the work of the council and increase its budgetary support to enable maintain its regulatory framework to global standards.
The temptation by council and other institutions to charge other fees has inevitably accounted for a drop out of many brilliant and talented students who could have contributed tremendously to the innovations for the socio-economic transformation of society towards middle income status.
Government’s funding to these institutions is not adequate and timely as the turbulent economic environment directly affects the acquisition of innovation materials.
All in all, there is hope for Uganda as indicated by signs in the take off stage of Rostow’s economic development theory. Let government walk in its steady progress path by adequately supporting these institutions of knowledge creation.
fokware@uict.ac.ug