At All Saints' Cathedral-Kampala, the Church is using the same arrangement to keep their daily prayer and fellowship sessions running, following a ban on church gatherings. Ivan Naijuka, an officer in charge of Media and Communication at the Cathedral says they generate a link referring the faithful to the webpage in addition to the meeting identity number and password which one fills in to be granted access.
Ugandans are embracing virtual collaboration
to foster continuity of programmes amid a lockdown that affected the day to day
lifestyles and routines in the world of work.
This follows a ban on public
gatherings declared by the government as one of the measures to control the
spread of coronavirus disease –COVID-19.
As a result, companies suspended key meetings and major conferences were
cancelled, across the world as countries struggle to contain a disease which
has affected more than one million people in a space of three months.
But the unfortunate developments have
now given rise to a new way of engagement- giving rise to virtual meetings and
teleconferencing. Many Ugandans are now using zoom, Telegram GoToMeeting, and
Skype, among others, to engage with colleagues from wherever they are, in the
comfort of their homes, in offices, and even those on the move.
All one needs is a smartphone or
a computer with active internet to launch a meeting. The tools have now been
embraced by churches, government entities, Rotary groups, and a variety of organizations.
At All Saints' Cathedral-Kampala,
the Church is using the same arrangement to keep their daily prayer and fellowship
sessions running, following a ban on church gatherings. Ivan Naijuka, an
officer in charge of Media and Communication at the Cathedral says they
generate a link referring the faithful to the webpage in addition to the
meeting identity number and password which one fills in to be granted
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Naijuka shares that the hosting
administrator of the remote tool has to remain on alert to ensure that the
sessions are not hijacked by people with a parallel intention. His argument
rhymes with the fact that there has been a wide abuse of the tools in other
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University-KIU Vice-Chancellor Dr Mouhamad Mpezamihigo shares that for a
university, just as other institutions, meetings are a key component of their
operations and decision making processes.
He says that amidst social distancing guidelines, they opted for zoom
meetings and the university conducted its first Virtual Senate meeting on March
He says that the meeting which
was geared at ensuring the continuity of University business went on smoothly
as the senators forwarded motions and conducted business as if everyone was in
the same room.
Zaitun Nalukwago, the
communication and fundraising officer at Palliative Care Uganda-PCA says they
are now using teleconferencing for different engagements including meetings and
press conferences. She, however, observes that the system requires a strong
internet connection to avoid disruptions. Other challenges cited include a lack
of digital skills and technical knowledge among users.
The National Information and
Technology Authority- NITA has now acquired over 10,000 zoom application
licensees for the ‘critical’ staff in several government entities. Arnold
Mangeni, the Director of Information Security at NITA says they have been
piloting the virtual systems for applicability and safety and have already
issued guidelines on how the government officials will use them to keep
conducting their business during this lockdown.
“We have already identified the
necessary equipment needed. Security has been a priority issue during the pilot
and we have ensured that it will work. We have so far chosen zoom but we
together with our consultants we are also accessing other software like TEAM
from Microsoft,” he added.
By last week, over 81 government
institutions including 40 districts had key officials registered and enabled to
remotely video-conference in supporting government business continuity. They include
the Office of the Prime Minister, the Office of the President, Ministry of
Local Government, and Ministry of ICT and National Guidance.
This week, the government expanded
the usage of Zoom licenses to support government continuity. In a letter dated
April 6, 2020, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of ICT and National
Guidance, Vincent Bagiire Waiswa, wrote to all Permanent Secretaries, CEOs and
Accounting Officers in all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of
Government and Local Governments announcing remote working modalities for
Is this a Turning Point?
Nearly all those that have used
the software’s have since predicted a new-dawn making the potential of having
people either completely or partially working from their homes. Others also
think that after the COVID-19 pandemic, several companies and institutions
might completely formalize the use of the said tools.
Mangeni shares from the
perspective of government entities. He says officials spend a lot of time in
meetings which require them to meet somewhere thus foregoing service delivery
to the clients. With the use of remote tools, one can stay in his or her office
still attend a meeting or a conference.
“This is something NITA-U has for
long been working on. We tried it out with several ministries sometime back and
I think this crisis has given a face to such a project. There is no reason why
a chief administrative officer from Karamoja travels to Kampala to attend a
thirty-minutes or say two-hour meeting with a commissioner in Kampala,”
Michael Niyitegeka, an IT expert
and member of the advisory group for the Government of Uganda on the 4th
Industrial Revolution Technologies, agrees that the happening will have a great
impact and is going to enlighten many who had refused to embrace such
developments. He, however, gives a mixed reaction to explain why physical meetings
might not be easily phased out after the pandemic.
Niyitegeka bases his argument on
several factors including financial dynamics associated with the technology as
well as the physical meeting, the quality of the internet in different parts of the
country and levels of digital skills among Ugandans.
“Internet is still considered a
luxury yet it is now a means of production. If we are to benefit from this, we
need a lot of this done. The government should revise tax regimes on technology
equipment, we have to ensure that we have stable, affordable and quality
internet. Without those, we may get nothing out of this,” Niyitegeka told
Uganda Radio Network.