On Monday morning , Dr. Aminah Zawedde andMs.Vivian Ddambya were awardedNational medalsfortheiroutstandingcontributiontothefieldofInformationand CommunicationTechnology(ICT)inUganda.
DuringtheNationalLabourDay Celebrations in the Busoga district of Namutumba, the President of Uganda, H.E Gen Yoweri Museveni,heralded the two ladies for Distinguished Service to the Nation in the field of ICT for their exceptional work in promoting and advancing the use of ICT in Uganda.
The National Medal is one of the highest honors bestowed upon individuals by the Government ofUgandafor their exceptional contributions to society. The medal recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the country’s development in various fields, including science, technology, arts, and culture. Dr. ZaweddeandMs. Ddambyahave been at the forefront of promoting the use of ICT inUganda.
Their vision and leadership have helped transform the way technology isusedinvarioussectors,includingeducation,healthcare,andGovernment services.Theirtirelesseffortshavecontributedsignificantlytothecountry’s development and have helped bridge the digital divide between urban and rural areas. Dr.AminahZaweddeisthePermanentSecretaryoftheMinistryofICTand National Guidance. She holds a PhD in Computer Science (Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands), an MSc. Computer Science (Makerere University), a PGDip in Educational Technologies (University of Cape Town, South Africa), PGD in Education(IUIU)andaBSc.(StatisticsandEconomics)(MakerereUniversity,Uganda).
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Dr. Zawedde is an experienced IT professional passionate about embracing digital transformation to improve business models, service delivery and transform people’s lives. She provides strategic and technical leadership on how various sectors can leverage innovation and digital solutions to solve their problems while creating employment opportunities for the youths. To this end, she has played a big role in strengthening the linkages between Government, the private sector, academia and development partners.
She is a Rotarian and also serves on the boards of Uganda National Bureau of Standards, Uganda Telecommunications Corporation Limited, DFCU Limited and Mustard Seed Junior School. Dr. Zawedde joined the National Information Technology Authority Uganda (NITA–U) board in 2016 as the youngest memberof the board. She chaired the Digital Transformation Committee and was Acting Chairperson of the board for one 1 year.
At the helm of the NITA–U Board, shepresidedover the expansion of the Government ICTFibreacrossUganda.Additionally,sheensuredthatUganda’scyberspace became more secure through the enactment of the Data Protection and Privacy Act.
Dr Zawedde is the first female Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance, a testimony of H.E President Museveni’s intentionality to drive inclusion and gender equality. During the 18 months that Dr. Zawedde has been at the helm of the ICT sector, Uganda’sinternetusersgrewto23.7million,withmobilephonesubscriptions growing to over32 million users and 40.7million digital wallets being recorded as active. Solving youth unemployment is at the heart of Dr.Zawedde’s efforts in the sector, and the reason as to why she has prioritized Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) as a solution tounemployment. As a start to the fight against unemployment, she enabledtheappointmentofaBusinessProcessingOutsourcing(BPO)and Innovation Council.
The first of its kind in Uganda, the council is now operational and works with the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance to formulate strategies for creating jobs for the youth through ICT outsourcing and Innovation; and prescribe regulatory frameworks/reforms and projects relevant to the growth of the BPO and Innovation industry.
Within her 1st year inthe sector, a campaign known as Discover Africa’s Innovation Powerhousewaslaunched.Duringthecampaign,theGovernmentcelebrated Ugandan excellence and industry by profiling Ugandan talent and inviting the world to discover the opportunities abound inthe Pearl of Africa. The campaign highlighted howinnovationsbyUgandanshavecreatedsolutionstothevarioussocietal challenges.
The campaign saw the participation of Ugandan innovators at the Dubai Expo and the branding & marketing of Uganda as a destination for BPO & Innovation investment, engaging in a global conversation with other innovators from around the world, and job creation through great partnerships.
Following the campaign, it should be noted that in January 2023, the Ministry of ICT & National Guidance on boarded a global partner, Helpware, the largest and fast–growing BPO company in the United States, to launch a ‘people as a service’ facility in Uganda. Within the calendar year 2023, over 1,000 youth will be employed in this facility to support operations of global brands like Tik–Tok and Netflix. Dr. Zawedde led the development of the Parish Development Model Information System (PDMIS).
The landmark system was locally developed and is being used to collect all parish data across Uganda and is being used by all partnering institutions to track all Parish Development Model implementation initiatives. Cognizantthat the job to digitize the nation is not borne of Government alone, Dr. Zawedde has nurtured partnerships with the private sector.This is in–line with government’s commitment to create a digitally driven economy and realize universal goals inclusion, sustainable development, economic progress and poverty eradication through digital innovation.
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These partnerships include: United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), United Nations Development Fund (UNDP), Airtel Uganda, MTN Uganda, Huawei Technologies Uganda, Centenary Technology Services, to mention but a few.
In addition to the above partnerships, Dr. Zawedde has sought out andengaged the world’s most digitized nations to nourish ICT–centric innovation and generate new jobopportunitiesforUganda’youngpeople.Thisengagementhasledtothe committing of support from these nations through Memorandums of Understandings (MoU), these nations include: Japan, Estonia, Romania, Vietnam and South Africa.
Aware that Corruption can derail the digitization effort, Dr. Zawedde has deployed various technology types to reduce corruption by promoting transparency, opening government data topublic scrutiny, and by automating government processes, restricting discretion of officials and limiting citizens’ interaction with gatekeepers to access key services. The following key Government processes have been automated: ●ElectronicGovernment Procurement (eGP). This system has automated the entire Government procurement life cycle to eliminate use of paper and limit face to face interaction. ●Online Business Registration System (OBRS)–A digital service system that givesusersabilitytoaccessservicessuchasregistrationofcompanies, business names, legal documents and insolvency, among others, online. ●Electronic Document Management System (EDMS)–This system automates records and eases workflows across Government Institutions.The system eliminates the use of paper across all Government processes. ●EducationManagementInformationSystem(EMIS)–Providestimely statisticsandinformationforpolicydevelopmentplanning,budgetand evidence–based management practices for education sector.
The other female titan that received the National Honour fordistinguished service totheNation in the field of ICT is Ms. Vivian Ddambya. Ms. Ddambya is a National Digital Transformation Expert who also serves as a Non– Executive Director on the board of Centenary Bank, Uganda’s largest indigenous bank under theregionally dominantCentenary Group.
It is during Vivian’scurrentterm as Non–Executive Director that Centenary Bank recordedsubstantial growth in 2022 in profits, deposits, gross loans, and total assets despite challenges in the economy. A key highlightof the bank’s performanceis the Profit after tax that increased to UGX 249.6Billion, a growth of 18.0% compared to 2021.
Throughout Vivian’s 18year career, she has focused on leveraging technology to create a more equitable and inclusive world. Her experience spans both the private and public sectors, where she has had the opportunity to work with diverse teams to deliver impactful digital solutions.
WhensheworkedasDirectorTechnicalServicesattheNationalInformation Technology Authority Uganda, she led the development and implementation of the country’s digital infrastructure program, which was a key component of Uganda’s Ministry of ICT & National Guidance Digital Vision Uganda.
It should be noted that owing to Vivian’s sterling project leadership skills, she successful delivered Component 2 of the World Bank Regional Communication Infrastructure Program project in Uganda which saw the extension to Government’s ICT Fibre cable to over 4000 Kilometers and providing internet connectivity to over 1000 Government offices and ensured the reduction of the cost of internet from $700per Mbps to $70 per Mbps.
Another success story that Vivian weaved was leading construction of Uganda’s industrial grade Tier 3 Government Data Centre in Kampala & Disaster Recovery site in Jinja. These assets that Vivian oversaw saved over USD. 60M of tax payers money that would have been lost through duplication of data centres across Government.
During her tour of duty in Government, Vivian established a framework for the provision of broadband services to all parts of the country, which was critical in ensuring that all Ugandans could access the internet and benefit from the digital economy.
Before joining NITA–U, Vivian served asNetwork Manager, National Social Security Fund (NSSF), where she demonstrated unparalleled leadership and expertise in managing the complex network of the pension fund.
Vivian was acknowledged asa champion of innovation, leveraging technology to streamline processes and enhance service deliveryat NSSF.Herforward–thinking approachwasinstrumentalinensuringthatthepensionfund remainsatthe forefront of the industry.
Vivian’sstrategicvisionwasinstrumentalinensuringthefund’sstabilityand financialsecurity,providingmillionsofUgandanswiththeassuranceofa comfortable retirement. Theseawardsareparticularlysignificantastheyrecognizetheoutstanding achievements of women in a male–dominated field. Despite the challenges they faced as women in ICT,Dr. Zawedde and Ms. Ddambyapersevered andovercame adversity, blazing a trail for other women in the field to follow.
Their success serves as an inspiration to young women across the country who aspire topursuecareers in ICT.Throughtheirhard workanddedication,theyhave demonstrated that gender should never be a barrier to success and that women can excel in any field, including technology.
Theseawardsalsohighlighttheimportanceofinclusionanddiversityinthe workplace. The field of ICT has historically been male–dominated, and it is essential to encourage more women to enter the sector and create a more diverse and inclusive industry. This recognition of Dr. Zawedde and Ms. Ddambya serves as a powerful message to the industry, that women can and should play a more prominent role in the development of ICT.