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  • Uganda's science to go 'from policy to action'

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[CAPE TOWN] Uganda came a step closer to creating a fully-fledged science, technology and innovation (ST&I) strategy this month, as it launched a process for implementing such a policy.

Its ST&I policy, approved by the government in 2009, aims to strengthen the national capability to generate, transfer and apply technologies, but it had not set out practical plans for doing so.

So stakeholders met in Kampala at a policy dialogue 'From Policy to Action: Strategy Setting for Science, Technology and Innovation in Uganda' (2–4 December) to kick-start the plan of action.

The new plan will draw on a four-year World Bank study of industrial applications of ST&I in Uganda, which will be published early next year, and identifies six areas where funding could have the greatest short-term benefits to the society. These are: computer science, civil and transportation engineering, environmental science and engineering, ecology, food science and nutrition, and agricultural science and engineering.

Sara Farley, chief operating officer of the Global Knowledge Initiative, a Washington-based organisation specialising in forging global science partnerships, and one of the authors of the study, said: "This move is significant because it offers a first step toward migrating from policy to action".

The strategy will set out clear priorities for all groups that work on bringing ST&I to bear on development challenges, including government, academia, civil society and the private sector.

"By identifying the ST&I needs and resources required to implement the national policy, the diverse stakeholder community is forging a path toward focused, shared priorities," said Farley.

"It is through this effort that Uganda will position itself to invest its ST&I resources in the most strategic and transformative manner possible."

This year, Uganda saw other science-friendly moves: the president Yoweri Museveni has promised to dedicate some of the expected income from newfound oil wells on science and technology, and the Ugandan government gave public sector scientists a 30 per cent pay increase.

But despite improvements over the last decade, the country's technology resources remain patchy and important skills are still missing, says the World Bank study.

Also, regulations and quality assurance need strengthening, industry-academia links are weak and national statistical reporting is inadequate.

The study was produced using a new methodology, known as THICK, designed to engage the whole innovation system of a country. It addresses constraints and opportunities in technology, human resources, institutions and infrastructure, collaboration and communication, and the knowledge base.

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