What will Uganda look like in the next 50 years? A lot has been said of our past. It is now time to focus on planning for the future because that is where we will spend the rest of our lives. The first reality check is how many Ugandans aged 45+ will live to celebrate our 101st independence anniversary in 2063? You got it right – very few, if any!
We cannot continue living on hopes and ‘impressions.’ Life is short. It is time for action and accountability. As a leader, what does development mean to you? How are you using your office to grow our country? You can make so much money, but it won’t help you live past 130 years!
One of the top things that need urgent action is establishing a National Data Centre Authority (NDCA). The Authority, if well governed, would remove unnecessary duplication of data and enable effective planning for national development.
A robust NDCA would act as the sole custodian of all data being collected from various parts of Uganda. It would act the most comprehensive source of up-to-date and accurate information to all entities that need data. Cost savings from this initiative would be immense.
Today, data is fragmented and duplicated making national planning too difficult. The Electoral Commission has a database of voters. NSSF has a database of all savers. Lands Ministry has a database of all land titles. The Registrar of Companies has data of all registered companies. Ministry of Labor has a database of all public servants. Uganda Metrological Center has a database of weather prediction, aviation and environmental studies. A plethora of many other mini ‘national’ databases abound at URA (database of all taxpayers), telecoms (database of all mobile phone users on a given network) and at Ministry of Education (database of all schools in the country). Many of these are inconsistent with incomplete information. Given the absence of a data protection act, the problem is big. How do you protect people’s private data with such inconsistent and segmented databases? What is the minimum accepted security for anyone operating a public database? Who monitors the quality of the security over the data collected about the entities and people? A National Data Center Act, establishing a National Data Center Authority would be able to address all these challenges.
Now the National Identity Card project will create another ‘national database’, just as another had to be created to issue driving permits.
The ad hoc way of managing critical national initiatives is too expensive. And our planners know it. How do you talk of e-Governance implementation without first establishing a robust national data center? How can government meet the increasing requirement of high availability and reliability of mission critical applications without establishing a robust central databank linking to all the available databases throughout the country?
Time is now to commit resources for a national data center. It will reduce the cost of access to information, make national planning effective, and ensure effective e-government and mobile government (m-government) implementation, reduce data redundancy, make lots of cost savings and act as a source of revenue to government. Lawyers will no longer need to visit Ministry of Lands to search for land tittles. They will pay an annual subscription fee to access the database.
I wrote this article for Summit Business. It appeared in the October 2013 issue, (www.sbreview.net).
Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2013. All rights reserved.