Dr Ruhakana Rugunda

By Omondi Julius Odera, Kampala, Uganda

Uganda’s ICT Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, has urged Ugandans to adopt paperless communication for the good of the country. Rugunda was speaking at a stakeholders’ meeting at the Ministry of ICT boardroom in preparation for the Africa ICT Week. The event was attended by Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), National Information Technology Authority - Uganda (NITA–U) and the Uganda Institute of Communications Technology (UICT).

The African ICT Week was adopted by the African Union and the Organisation of Economic Integration following the invitation by the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) to all African Governments to adapt ICT for sustainable development, while strengthening national, regional and international cooperation. 

The aim of the African ICT Week is to provide a constant reflection of the gains Africa has made in harnessing ICT to realise a knowledge-based economy. The week also aims at demonstrating the values and advantages of communicating digitally and how ICT could improve the people’s quality of life.

“We are living in an Information Society, where ICT tends to render paperwork redundant. However, the amount of paper that flows from the mailbox into our files and homes on a daily basis is still high,” Dr Rugunda said.

This year’s Africa ICT Week, whose theme is: ‘Promoting Pan Africanism and African Renaissance through ICT’, will take place from November 19-24, 2012. The African Paperless Day shall be observed on the first day of the week, November 19, with the aim of promoting the usage of digital and electronic means in communications and consequently advocating environment-friendly approaches using ICT.

Rugunda encouraged Ugandans to take advantage of the week to embark on a paperless society.  “I may not pay attention to paper correspondence sent to me during the Week,” he remarked, adding, “Don't let the endless stream of paperwork that our paper society keeps sending you get you down. Create a secure and environmentally friendly system for managing it that works for you,” he said.

The minister expressed optimism at the degree of development in Uganda. “Today, many people in Uganda pay their bills, buy goods and services as well as take classes online. Phone books, to-do lists, greeting cards, letters and calendars have all gone digital.”

Rugunda noted that when the Electronic Signature legislation is implemented, reliance on such paperwork as cheques would reduce, while e-mail and e-signatures would be legally recognised as ways of conducting transactions and official business.

While this shift to technology is often faster and more efficient than old-fashioned handwritten or paper-based options, critics of the technology have labelled it "The Electronic Straitjacket," that is letting our minds be "shaped rather than liberated."  However, like many other innovations, the degree of benefit derived is based on the approach to adoption of the innovation.

The prospects of a paperless society are great and developments are continuing to ensure the advantages that exist with a paper society are incorporated in the designs of the paperless society.

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