Prof. Patrick Ogao

Vice Chancellor | Uganda Technology and Management University

AfricaLive Interview with Prof. Patrick Ogao, Vice Chancellor of Uganda Technology and Management University (UTAMU)


Key Points:

  • Uganda Technology and Management University (UTAMU) is transitioning to Universal Technology and Management University to reflect its global mission.
  • UTAMU focuses on management and technology, offering a unique blended learning approach with both online and on-site students. The university aims to have a local, regional, and global impact through its research, teaching and community engagement.
  • UTAMU is setting up a digital transformation center, that will provide advisory services to local and national businesses and industry. The  mapping of local industries and businesses in readiness for this engagement is around its campus is already underway. 
  • UTAMU has embraced modern learning approaches that brings students, faculty and industry together. An example of these learning approaches is the challenge based learning approach that hinges around learning while solving real-world problems. 
  • The university is fostering a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation among students by establishing an incubation center to commercialize ideas and create employment opportunities, while also ensuring the university’s self-sustainability.
  • UTAMU is working on an upskilling platform for emerging technologies. The target audience will be civil servants and citizens in general.


“Everything we do in terms of research and teaching, we want it to have a local and national impact. For example, from the mapping of the industries and businesses, we are in the process of establishing a digital transformation center. This is an initiative that is going to help businesses around us embrace technology in a way that adds value to their products. We want to be an advisory hub to the industries and businesses around us.”


AfricaLive: What makes up the DNA of your organization? What would you consider your identity to be?

Prof. Patrick Ogao: UTAMU stands for Uganda Technology and Management University. We are at a point of transition and want to change to Universal Technology and Management University. The National Council for Higher Education has approved the name change. Our focus is global.

UTAMU was accredited by the National Council for Higher Education back in 2013 to offer diplomas and degrees. We’ve been operating for over 10 years now.

On the DNA part, I think we are unique from the perspective of our focus, which is basically management and technology. Those are the areas we concentrate on. We are also unique in the way we engage with our students. We were among the first universities in the country to really go online in terms of offering our courses. We embraced the e-learning platform over 10 years ago. So when we had the COVID pandemic, we were well-established. That was our norm, and there was a lot of business continuity.

Our focus on management and technology sets us apart from other universities, which are more general and have a wider spectrum of what they look into. Also, the way we engage our students in a blended manner is unique, especially within the Ugandan landscape. We have students online, and we have students who are on-site. We’re able to deliver our courses to both of them at the same time.


AfricaLive: Will you be looking to attract more international students with this upcoming name change and the change in identity to be seen as a global institution? What is the thinking behind this change?

Prof. Patrick Ogao: If you look at UTAMU’s mission, the focus is to be a global institution of excellence in the areas of management, innovation, technology, and sciences. That’s our key focus area. When we talk of global, of course, we are not limited by national boundaries. It’s part of realizing that mission.

We thought the name “Uganda” was a bit limiting. We will soon be establishing campuses outside the country. We’ll start regionally and then go global. With that in mind, of course, it informed the name change. We basically replaced “Uganda” with “Universal.”

This has already been informed by the students. We attract students from all over the world. We have quite a number of international students, most of them from Africa, but we also have students from as far as Europe and South America.

In terms of staffing, it’s the same thing. We have quite an international outlook. Personally, I’m Kenyan. We have staff from Tanzania, Sudan, and very soon, of course, with the opening of regional campuses, it will be more conspicuous at the international level as far as the name change is concerned.

We’ve already gone through the process. We must get approval from the regulators, so the National Council for Higher Education has already given approval for the name change. The next step, as part of the process, is to have it advertised in the national media channels for a certain period of time, a month or so, and then finally have it gazetted. Then, we can be in a position to use the name Universal Technology and Management University, but we will still be UTAMU. That’s our trademark. This should happen in the next two or three months. 


AfricaLive: What would you consider some of the key or flagship projects that have been underway at the university, or key areas of research and teaching you would like to let an international audience know about?

Prof. Patrick Ogao: That’s a glimpse of our vision, but the most important thing now with the vision is that it spells out very clearly that whatever we do must have a local impact, a regional impact, and of course, a global impact.

We are very deliberate on how we approach this. For example, at the moment, we’ve mapped out the area around our campus. The main campus where I am now is 20 kilometers from Kampala. It’s a little bit outside the city. What we’ve started doing in the two years we’ve been here is mapping all the industries around us. The area is called Kungu.

We are mapping all the industries, all the businesses around us. We are also mapping projects that are being undertaken by the local government around the Kungu area. As we broaden it up, we want to give it a much more national outlook, and we are doing this because of the kind of engagements that we want to undertake.

Everything we do in terms of research and teaching, we want it to have a local impact. For example, from the mapping of the industries and businesses, we are in the process of establishing a digital transformation center. This is an initiative that is going to help businesses around us embrace technology in a way that adds value to their products. We want to be an advisory to the industries and businesses around us.

So for the digital transformation center, we are going to collaborate with the businesses and industries around us, starting from our immediate surroundings. One of the areas that we look forward to, and are already in the process of working on, is digital transformation, especially embracing technology by the local businesses and industries.

Previously, we’ve had engagements in the health sector. Again, at a local level, we are interacting and collaborating with the local governments and health center units. We are looking at the challenges that are being faced by citizens when it comes to accessing health facilities.

We’ve come up with research solutions and products that enable patients to be able to know where the nearest health centers are and what kind of services are provided by those health centers. Again, it’s not just from around us. We start local and then try to broaden it up.

Another engagement that we are working on at the moment is with the local councils, especially when it comes to urban planning. If you think of infrastructure, the roads, Kampala is growing at a very fast rate. Kungu can be considered as being on the fringes of the city. There’s a lot of development in terms of housing and industry, but one challenge is infrastructure, especially the road infrastructure.

We are trying to team up, we haven’t come up with concrete projects yet, but we are trying to look at ways that we can work with the local council to be able to help the growth and development of housing, roads, and all that. So the development aspect is an area that we are very keen on.

We’ve had piecemeal projects in business computing, quite a number of ideas, but they’ve never gone to incubation. A number of them are actually in the process of that. But the whole idea of what we are trying to do is that whatever we do must have an impact on the local scenario. That’s our main focus. Anything that we work on, we try to reinforce to our staff that they must be aware that we must engage industry, businesses, and the local government around us. So that’s our focus.


AfricaLive: For you, what are the building blocks of a successful partnership, and what would you like the outcome of the relationships you’re building with the private sector to be?

Prof. Patrick Ogao: Three weeks ago, we had a forum in Uganda for vice chancellors. We call it the Uganda Vice Chancellors Forum(UVCF). We had a meeting in Jinja, and actually, one of the things that we discussed was partnership and collaboration.

In most cases, our universities, looking at the past, we always rush to engage with foreign partners. We always find collaborations with universities in the Netherlands, for example, or in China. But in this forum, one of the things that we were reminded of is that partnerships must begin amongst ourselves. First of all, let’s work together as universities in Uganda. Let’s work together.

For example, you find we don’t offer a course in journalism at UTAMU, and we know that one of the oldest journalism schools is in Makerere University. It’s quite established and well-equipped. Why can’t we collaborate in the sense that students can be able to access facilities there?

So that was part of the discussion, and one of the resolutions we came up with in that forum was indeed to come up with a framework for these collaborations among universities, especially in the areas of research, capacity building, and innovation.

At UTAMU, one of the things that we do when it comes to collaboration and partnership is we start with teaching. To us, innovation is more about doing things in unconventional ways, pushing the boundaries in terms of the products and services we come up with.

One of the things that we’re doing, I’ll give an example, is in teaching. We’ve trained our staff in modern teaching approaches. One of them is challenge-based learning. In challenge-based learning, when I’m in class delivering to my students, part of what I do is identify an industry. I identify an industry and I take real-world problems from that industry.

Again, I’m talking about one of the local industries around us. They will give us a real challenge or problem that they are facing. I use that problem as I teach a particular unit. Over the three months of teaching, as my students are taking in that content and knowledge, they’re applying it to solve the problem for our industrial partners.

One of the things that it does is, at the end of the day, we’ve helped the local industries come up with solutions to the problems they face. Of course, the other thing is we’ve exposed our students to real-world problems. But the long-term relationship remains between us and the industry.

So in the long run, you’ll find that we are able to even go into consultancies, partner with them in terms of consultancy, which is also an alternative source of income for the university. We are solving natural problems and exposing students to real problems.

It’s one of the approaches we’re using when it comes to partnering with industry. We help the local industries find solutions, and of course, with the resolutions now from the Ugandan Vice Chancellors Forum (UVCF), once the formal framework is approved, that means we can also widen our engagements, the way we partner and collaborate with universities locally, and of course, going regionally and internationally. These are just strategies that we are using at UTAMU when it comes to partnering with industry. I think that is key for us, and also when it comes to collaboration in research with other like-minded institutions in the country.


AfricaLive: How do you approach fostering a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation among students, and in the long run, what help can possibly be provided to commercialize the ideas that come out of your institution and translate them into viable businesses?

Prof. Patrick Ogao: Again, one of the things we are doing at UTAMU is creating a strong culture that we believe in, and we always talk about it to our staff members. We keep reinforcing that aspect of creativity and curiosity in everything that we do. We always say we don’t do things in the normal way. We want to do things in ways that have never been done before. It’s the mindset. We begin with the mindset and a lot of curiosity.

Of course, you see your students are prepared to face challenges, to tackle problems. At the moment, we are coming up with an incubation center at UTAMU. We are in the process of establishing a center that will be able to incubate ideas from our students. It’s a process, of course, but I hope by the end of the year, we will have that established within our Kongo campus.

The idea of the incubation center is to take our students’ ideas and products that they come up with and see whether they can go to commercialization. In the long run, we look at this as not only providing employment opportunities for the young people, our students, but also as a way that our university can be self-sustaining. Partnering with our students in growing these ideas and commercializing them, in the long run, at least the university also gets good value out of it. So that’s basically what we are looking at, especially with the establishment of the incubation center.

But I agree, the mindset has to change so that our students know that it’s not just about getting a job, but it’s also about creating job opportunities for yourself and for other Ugandans. So that’s the culture that we’re trying to bring up.


AfricaLive: How can we collectively work to ensure that the human is placed at the center of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and what role do universities have to play there?

Prof. Patrick Ogao: Last year, I was part of a project, a UK-funded project under the  Research and Innovation Systems for Africa (RISA) fund, and it was on emerging technologies. It actually focused on awareness of emerging technologies. We’re talking about artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, cloud computing, blockchain, and all that. It was a project between Kenyan universities, the University of Nairobi, and universities in South Africa.

I was able to interact with the universities and relevant stakeholders in South Africa and Kenya. The focus was on institutional awareness. What are universities actually doing about these emerging technologies that are going to impact directly on the industry and society?

We had audiences of university researchers and officers, but we also focused on politicians, the decision-makers at that level. We also interacted with them, both in Kenya and South Africa, on their role when it comes to emerging technologies. For example, if you think of artificial intelligence, regulation is key.

We are a bit slow at times. Things are happening, and we are talking about artificial intelligence, which can be a threat. But in terms of regulations, you find there’s nothing happening at the national level. It was more of an awareness project, but very enriching. I learned a lot, possibly.

In Uganda, it’s not much different from what I saw in Kenya. South Africa is a little bit ahead, especially when it comes to creating awareness. For example, they have platforms that are being hosted by the universities for people to learn skills such as artificial intelligence, just the same way it’s happening in Europe.

They have online platforms that the citizens can access to upskill in these technologies as part of awareness creation. At UTAMU, one of the projects that we have proposed to do is an upskilling platform for emerging technologies, and our focus at the moment is the government workers.

This would be a platform where government partners with UTAMU, and then civil servants can be able to upskill on the platform and learn the skills of emerging technologies. It’s about creating that broader awareness of these technologies and what they mean to the general population.

We are told that some jobs will become extinct very soon unless we upskill or reskill. So that’s part of what UTAMU is working on as a collaboration, getting awareness and helping the citizens to upskill in emerging technologies.

But generally, we need this discussion at an even higher level, especially at the policy level. Politicians need to come in because we have to come up with policies that will govern the use of these technologies, policies that will incentivize the use of these technologies, and all that. We are a bit slow in the country, but I hope very soon there will be a difference as regards awareness and also milestones in regulations.


AfricaLive: How are you feeling, and what is your confidence level regarding the future of the country, specifically the future of the development of the economy and the adoption of technologies in the country? If you could give us a confidence rating between 0 and 10.

Prof. Patrick Ogao: I’ve looked at the national development plan for Uganda, and of course, the Uganda Vision 2040 and the African Union agenda 2063. I think they are all in sync. One of the things they do mention is the need to tackle key issues, exactly the health issues, the gender issues, very much in line with the global sustainable  development initiatives (SDI).

One of the things that cuts across is the role of research in all this. Research will take us there. If we do invest in research, the products, the innovation, there’s a high potential that indeed we can come up with solutions to the challenges that we’re facing as a country.

I think universities are taking it very seriously, those challenges. I’ll give you an example. At UTAMU, our focus is to impact on the local issues and problems. Similarly, other universities are focusing on solving these problems.

Universities are no longer just islands or fountains of knowledge, but rather they’re trying as much as possible to use that knowledge to make a difference in societal problems. That means we are better off.

And again, with the government putting more money into research, the universities are also benefiting quite a bit compared to previously. It means we are better off than where we were. So the future is very positive, very bright for the country, especially from a technology perspective where so many young people are embracing technology and coming up with innovations, pushing boundaries.

I think it’s very promising that we’ll see the impact of technology on socio-economic development in the country, and it’s not going to take much time. It’s going to be a couple of years, say five years. We’ll be seeing these differences.

So if you look at fintech, for example, we will see more technology impact. Let me use the Kenya example of M-Pesa. The mobile money transfer system in Kenya is like a bank nowadays. It has impacted in a big way. Similar initiatives and innovations, I think, will pop up in Uganda and other countries.

And I think it’s kind of leapfrogging into the future. It’s very fascinating. So in terms of rating the confidence I have, I’ll give it a seven.


AfricaLive: Is there any final message you would like to send to an international audience who would be reading this, perhaps regarding opportunities for partnership or assisting in the development of the university or the country?

Prof. Patrick Ogao: I think we would want partnership-minded universities and people who want to make a difference, especially in the kind of challenges we face in Uganda. We are very open to partnerships. That’s the only way of beating the challenges.

You can contact us anytime so that we work together to make a difference in the socio-economic development of the country, the lives of the citizens of Uganda, but also regionally. So we are very open to partnerships and collaborations globally.


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