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PATRICK NDEGWA: Free Wi-Fi is just the start of Uganda’s digital transformation

Patrick Ndegwa, SEACOM Business Sales Lead for SEACOM East Africa

Patrick Ndegwa, SEACOM Business Sales Lead for SEACOM East Africa

The rollout of broadband connectivity is paving Uganda’s road to digital transformation.

In August, Dr Hatwib Mugasa, executive director of the National Information Authority, announced the government would install 2 000 wireless Internet hotspots to expand access to remote areas.

These free hotspots, available to the government and citizens at selected times, will be installed based on the availability of infrastructure and cover regions beyond major cities such as Kampala, Entebbe, and Jinja.

The expansion marks a turning point for Ugandan citizens and enterprises in their ability to access digital products and services.

Digital economies live and die by their level of access to connectivity. While there are challenges to confront along the way, the right initiatives set the stage for the adoption of new technologies and data-driven solutions.

Journey to the future

Despite efforts to embrace digital transformation, Uganda still faces some challenges with the availability of reliable Internet connectivity to its citizenry, especially in the rural areas.

But Uganda is stepping up to face these challenges.

When looking at the implications of digital transformation, it’s worth considering the role that Internet connectivity and services play in our national prospectus.

In 2013, the National Planning Authority launched Uganda Vision 2040, a plan to address our country’s socio-economic development. As a guiding framework, Uganda Vision 2040 makes specific reference to the ICT industry as a means to improve national productivity.

It also includes improving government and business efficiency and being globally competitive, automating government agencies and inter-agency connectivity, and promoting innovation.

Reinventing entrepreneurship

Possibly one of the biggest drivers for innovation, Uganda enjoys a strong culture of entrepreneurship that notably includes a high percentage of female engagement.

There is a real drive to achieve success, which helps cultivate economic activity and can uplift individuals from poverty and create local employment opportunities. And with the help of institutions, such as Enterprise Uganda, which aim to support SMEs through mentoring and business consultancy services, our country has the potential to become an African entrepreneurial and start-up hub like South Africa and Kenya.

With Internet access, local entrepreneurs in rural and urban areas can begin to grow their enterprises outwards. They gain access to new markets and means of communication and customer services.

They can digitise administrative and financial tasks and records. They become more competitive, setting the stage for regional, national and continental expansion. Many of the innovative products to come out of Africa have been those that extensively use the limited resources available both in terms of capital and digital infrastructure.

Everything is connected

Internet access is the bedrock on which we build new infrastructure and industries. Its continuing proliferation in Uganda opens the door not just for data-driven technologies but also for solutions that allow businesses to take their digitisation a step further.

While wireless Internet access is the go-to solution for many organisations, others can start to look at wired access in the form of fibre optic connectivity.

Subject to no data caps or shaping, Fibre Internet can offer a direct line for enterprises and gives them access to a global high-speed data network.

Enterprises can start to look at cloud services and solutions to augment and upgrade their business capabilities while also responding to the continued growth of Uganda’s data centre industry.

By working with providers such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, businesses can reduce their operating and network costs while keeping their data and applications secure.

Efficiency is the name of the game here, and in today’s fast-paced business world, cloud hosting gives businesses the edge they need.

To achieve digital transformation, we need to take a holistic approach. Everything is connected, and by working with public and private partners in a collaborative way, Uganda can lay the foundations of digital and ICT infrastructure that takes it and the rest of Africa forward.

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