Uganda has potential to become digital innovation hub
Every sector of Uganda economy, expected to the second fastest growing in sub Saharan Africa after Sierra Leone if estimates from Economist Intelligence Unit are to be believed needs to transform because of the rise of IT. At a recent event on digital transformation, an expert said it was up to industry to tell government what was required to help it be successful. Although I agreed with his sentiment, it was equally important for such experts to know that different people would engage with the precincts in different ways, and from my experience it was vital universities like the globally famous University of Makerere and industry worked together to ensure what was built outlasted any particular government funding cycle. I think its absolutely right that innovation should be part of the bedrock of a country like Uganda that has some of the most talented youngsters in technology and not something that happens occasionally when he government decides to drop a little bit of money on top of it. There was already an existing concentration of tech startups and digital industry businesses running from Kampala, but other formidable towns like Mbarara, Entebbe, Jinja and Gulu need similar initiatives. The precinct is about doing what Ugandans can to foster those kinds of concentrations because interesting stuff comes out from the serendipity that happens in those kids of environments.
Mobile operators should also collectively support and offer start-ups an opportunity to create and develop applications and solutions that are useful and make Ugandan lives more convenient, easier and faster. Uganda smartphone penetration is growing so rapidly that technology-wise, the country users have whatever people in other countries have. Additionally, Uganda is one of the top countries in the Sub Saharan Africa in terms of the number of social media users. I believe that Uganda start-ups have the potential to grow and form one of strongest communities for start-ups in the sub Saharan Africa. From my work experience with the telecom industry in other parts of the world, I think it is the right time for start-ups here as the Uganda has experienced exponential growth in technology during the past four years. The extreme growth of internet and online application usage is largely the result of lower prices for smartphones, improved network quality and coverage, and increasingly popular social applications such as Twitter, Whatapp, Viber, Google + and Facebook. These are all the reasons why start-ups should focus on mobile applications and online services. Online services reach a wide range of users and create an excellent opportunity for start-ups to connect with their customers and to market and sell their products and services.