ICT Minister calls on Innovators to think business

CEDAT successfully holds 5th National Conference on communication

The Minister for ICT and National Guidance, Hon. Frank Tumwebaze, has called on researchers to focus on creation of businesses while innovating. The said the innovations must be demanded and therefore speak business. He was speaking to students, researchers, government agencies and the private sector during the just concluded 5th  National Conference on communication held Makerere University.

The conference was organized by the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology with support from the National Communications Commission.  The two-day conference, held on October 17-18 was under the theme ” Harnessing opportunities in emerging 4IR Technologies The conference attracted over 20 universities in Uganda, East Africa and Ghana. 

Hon. Tumwebaze called on researchers to ensure that their innovations are what is demanded and thus bring them income. He called upon senior researchers to offer training, skilling and mentorship. He also tasked universities to ensure the innovations are reliable, cyber-secure and efficient.

The Uganda Ccommunications Comission ED, Eng. Mutabazi Godfrey featured the continued innovation and skilling of graduates, asking them to embrace new technology for development. He said his organization, UCC was pleased to support the conference because it provided a platform for stakeholders to discuss and work together to accelerate the solutions to challenges that society faces. Eng. Mutabazi called on all to embrace the 4IR technologies for this is the road to human transformation.

The Principal of CEDAT, Prof. Henry Alinaitwe, in his remarks said the many revolutionary technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Blockchain, Internet of Things, Augmented Reality could be harnessed to revolutionalise the health, energy, water and sanitation, food security, public services and address climate change and gender equality.

“As academia, we have an important role to play in preparing the next generation to work in a changing world. The challenges are becoming ever more multidisciplinary in nature, requiring transdisciplinary teams to tackle them,” Prof Alinaitwe said.

The panel, guided by  Ali Ndiwalana vibrantly discussed how Uganda can Harness emerging opportunities in 4IR. The panel stressed that technologies is not the solution but an enabler to the solutions. They recognised that AI growing and mature AI will be more stable, trusted and even more widely used than at present. Therefore the ethics will evolve with the revolution underpinned by our unique cultural values according to Prof. Tim Brown. The main bottleneck identified to Ugandan’s 4IR readiness is the ideas which are not constrained by costs unlike previous technologies. “There is no charge to thinking big,” stressed Noah Baalessanvu (CryptoSavannah) who also showed the numerous possibilities of block chain later in his keynote.  Innovators were tasked to gain numerous skills and augument their solutions through massive collaborate across disciplines, sectors and stakeholders (industry, academia and government).

The second panel on the role of industry and academia as we prepare for the 4IR chaired by Dr. Drake Mirembe noted that even though there was room for new curses, not all skills can be taught. They however implored the educators and lecturers to embrace 4IR and creatively adapt their methods of training.

The conference, whose focus in local solutions attracted participants from over 20 universities in Uganda and Africa. A third of the over 70 papers and posters submissions were presented during the 2-days that included topics on Wireless communication, AI and IoT, Medical technology and their various applications. The papers on Determining the Location of a Bus in Real-Time using LoRa Technology discused by  Nathan Amanquah, and a Machine Learning-driven Diagnosis for Urinary Tract Infections presented by Kabwama Alvin were recognised as locally relevant solutions and received NCC awards. The participants were impressed by the poster sessions, notably by Gorret Namulondo and Olivia Nakayima who designed an artificial intelligence for Detecting in Passion Fruits Diseases.

In their closing remarks, UCC’s Irene Kaggwa Ssewankambo and the conference chair, Dr. Jonathan Sergunda of CEDAT, Makerere University re-iterated the significance of the 5th NCC as platform for our researchers; particularly students, emphasising that artificial will create more opportunities and they should be on hand to exploit them.

The fifth National Conference on Communications was closed by the Managing Director of Airtel Uganda, Mr V.G Somasekhar, who showed that the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) had started and that his organization was partnering with Uganda. He said that the previous revolutions advanced humanity for over 200 years but had their limitations and created challenges. He said that Ugandans, enabled by improvements in infrastructure and healthcare stand to benefit from the 4IR change compared to the developed world.  The key resources are a growing population and a niche in organic agriculture. “How do we make the world eat the big 5 – mangoes, pineapple, avocado, jackfruit and matooke?” He cautioned that future employability would be a bigger constraint than the  employment therefore presently leveraging quality services, mobility and skilling foreign languages was essential. “We are going to create our jobs” he enthused. He challenged the participants to improve the quality of life and make the benefits such as equal access to food, water and services (healthcare) available nationally and globally.