June 30—The government has plans to increase the budgetary outlay for innovation and technology to stimulate sustainable social economic growth and transformation. In the financial year 2017/18 the new Ministry overseeing the sector was allocated just under UGX70 billion (around $19.5 million) which is less than 1% of the total budget.
Prime Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda was speaking at the inaugural retreat for the science, technology and innovation sector. He said the government as part of its Vision 2040, has identified the sector as key in helping to develop different economic sectors like agriculture, tourism, health and finance.
“The government is putting in place initiatives that are geared towards enhancing and facilitating ICT and innovations, because they are crucial for social economic development. We are going to give benefits to scientists, especially those who work in remote areas. We are also going to increase sponsorship for science students in both private and government universities as well as tertiary institutions,” he said.
Dr. Rugundu said the government will recruit 67 science teachers in the next four months as well as as other officials to work in research.
Speaking at the same function, the Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Elioda Tumwesigye said as a newly formed Ministry, they are still facing structural and financial challenges. He said however, his team are dedicated to making policies that will help young innovators achieve their dreams as well as grow into more developed business people.
“We are going to establish training innovation centres/training hubs for young innovators in different parts of the country to give them the needed knowledge and skills to go on with their work,” Dr Elioda said.
Dr. Tumwesigye said,”We are working with government and other development partners to collect a big fund that will be put in the Uganda Development Bank specifically for innovators so that they can access capital at a low interest rate. Where it is necessary, we are ready to give grants as long as the innovation is developmental to the economy,” Tumwesigye said.
The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga said, there is a strong need to start implementing the policies and laws that have been put in place to protect and facilitate the country’s innovators if the country is going to benefit from them.
Kadaga said she is getting complaints from innovators that their products and knowledge were being used by outsiders and some Ugandans without their consent and the government was not doing anything to protect them.
“We have been encouraging Ugandans to buy and support Ugandans products however we have not been able to protect their patent rights. Their knowledge and ideas are being stolen and we are not giving them any protection,” Kadaga said.
The three-day retreat which took place at the Uganda Industrial Research Institute, was intended to evaluate the work of the new Ministry and mediate on how its can work better for the good of the people. It was formed in 2016 after separating it from the Ministry of Education to provide better coordination for science, technology and innovation efforts in the country, build effective linkages with all actors and provide clear policy direction and supervision.