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The COVID-19 pandemic brought about mass adoption of ICT tools and platforms across various sectors of society; from education, health, communication, and business among others. Despite this mass adoption of ICT, a number of challenges still exist which is limiting access to ICT platforms. Restrictions on some online platforms by the Government of Uganda is one of the challenges that need to be addressed if Uganda is to fully realize the potential of ICT as a tool for economic prosperity. In this blog, Gole Andrew shares highlights from the recently concluded #ICT4DevtUG online campaign by the ICT4Advocacy Community of Practice and why the Government of Uganda should take the messages from the campaign seriously.
When we talk about ICT, we are referring to information and communication technologies. If we had to define the term, surely, we would do it as "a set of techniques and devices based on new technological tools and the different supports and channels of information and communication". To this, we could add the process of obtaining, storing, processing and transmitting information digitally.
With the Covid-19 pandemic, the adoption of ICT platforms has been at a record pace, it has created opportunities and risks in some industries. The adoption of the industrial revolution 4.0 with a major transition into automation and big data leaves many wondering whether Uganda as an economy can adapt? An economy that has less of its population technology literate makes many wonder, how can we bridge the digital divide?
With these gaps, the ICT4 Advocacy Community of Practice which brings together 14 Civil society Organizations ran a campaign from 31st January – 6th February 2022 with the hashtag #ICT4DevtUG under the theme "Embracing ICT as a tool for Economic Prosperity". The goal of this campaign was to create awareness about the opportunities of ICT tools especially in Covid 19 era & to request govt to make sure the internet is everywhere, affordable and all social media platforms are accessible by users,
digital divide, increase innovation, job opportunities, improve service delivery leading to the economic development of the country.
With the growing number of tech platforms and software in the market, Uganda's ICT infrastructure is still lacking in terms of connectivity. The big telecom service providers across the country set up infrastructure but the reach is limited. In some areas, there isn't a network to access the internet thus creating a gap in adaptation to digital technology access. That, coupled with the high cost of purchasing equipment such as smartphones have proved a challenge. Thus, adapting is quite difficult for many people.
Also, the new unfair taxes like the 16% tax added on purchase of data bundles (MBs) seriously hinder the adoption of ICT platforms on the internet due to the cost implication on many Ugandans and causes a further divide between those in rural areas and those in urban areas.
Although the infrastructure has been lacking in some areas, we have seen the adoption of ICT for development in some sectors case in point, some businesses have moved away from transacting business at physical premises and embraced online transactions to stay afloat during the pandemic and boost their sales and revenue This introduced a new concept of remote work which eventually led to the adoption of a hybrid model of work. This has been seen in industries that adopted ICT pre-COVID.
Adoption of E-payment platforms such as Eversend to ease transaction costs across borders is an indicator that the Ugandan economy is ready to embrace ICT especially with companies and businesses that are already major players in the fintech business and are recognized by locals as being pivotal to online transactions.
Furthermore, many businesses have started moving away from transacting business at physical premises and have embraced online transactions to stay afloat during the pandemic and boost their sales and revenue. Therefore, it’s important for the government of Uganda to facilitate the adoption of ICT by the business community through unblocking platforms such as Facebook which are used by businesses daily to connect with their customers and market their products.
In conclusion, there is still a long way to go when it comes to capacity building among the populace. As the ICT4Advocacy Community of Practice, we believe that we can develop that capacity through training and creating awareness of the benefits of the digital economy which grows each day.