Entrepreneurship and ICT in Uganda.

4 06 2009

The issue of entrepreneurship and ICT for development in Uganda today still remains a big challenge.

In a country where infrastructure is still poor and not well distributed throughout to benefit the local people as well as the urban people.

I should also acknowledge the issue of immense poverty, unemployment and lack of skills.

Different development schemes have come and gone. Some have made an impact and others have done no good at all.

Issues of ICT for development and entrepreneurship trainings are not new in our ears, but what is entrepreneurship really?

Mrs. Omara a 45 year old resident of Apac district (Northern Uganda) is a small scale farmer. Asked what kind of job she does she replied, “I am a house wife, I have no job really!” I went ahead to ask her what she does with her small produce. She said, “I have 8 children, and since I have no job, I have to produce more food crops than we consume. This helps me to earn an extra income to support the family and to take my children to school. We have an open market every Monday where I can sell my produce.”

She does not think she is an entrepreneur though because she does not have capital. But she generates some income out of her small garden to support the family.

ICT4Development on the other had still remains a very big challenge. Many people still do not understand what the term “ICT” means. All they know is ICT stand for Information and Telecommunication Technology. And every time the term ICT is mentioned, people quickly interpret it as “Internet and Computers”. So when you say Entrepreneurship and ICT, one question keeps crossing people’s minds; “How can computers and internet  help to improve on our enterprises?” Simply because thats their interpretation of ICTs in a layman’s language.

In a recent five (5) day “Training in Entrepreneurship and ICT Skills “ conducted in Apac District of Northern Uganda, people were surprised to learn that Mobile phones, Newspapers and Radios are also ICT tools. Out of the 45 women participating in the training, 39 own mobile phones and only 6 do not own mobile phones.

The training was organized by Women of Uganda Network with support from the NEPAD Spanish fund for African women Economic empowerment to support a project on  “Enhancing Income Growth among small and micro women entrepreneurs through the use of ICTs”.

The project targets women entrepreneurs from the three districts of Ibanda (Western Uganda), Mukono (Central Uganda) and Apac (Northern Uganda).

The purpose of this project is to promote the economic empowerment among small and micro women entrepreneurs in the three districts of Uganda.

Gender and ICT Girl Child Camps.

13 04 2009

Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) in collaboration with Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) have written a new chapter in ICT for Women through the Gender and ICT Girl Child camps.

The camps are aimed at improving on the computer literacy of secondary school girls in the three regions of Northern, Eastern and Western Uganda. The Camps are to be held during the school term.

In the recent Eastern Region Gender and ICT Girl Child Camp in Mbale, over 6 schools (all from the Eastern Uganda) participated in the 2 day camp.

The 150 or so girls who participated in the camp had hands on training on Introduction to Computers, and presentations from the Uganda Communications Commission and Women of Uganda Network about communication policies and Gender and ICT respectively.

The girls were also sensitized about the Gender Issues in the country and world at large.

More camp to take place during the next school term.

Mobile Technology for Community Development!

13 04 2009
Mobile Phones

Mobile Phones

In the recent 16 Days of Activism campaign Against Gender Based Violence (GBV) Raising Voices and EASSI in partnership with WOUGNET ran a campaign to create awareness of GBV through the use of Bulk SMS.
Throughout the 16 days, we (WOUGNET technical support) used the Bulk SMS tool to send messages to over 500 People around the world. Most of the people who participated in this campaign were from within Uganda however others were from countries outside Uganda.
This SMS tool is a Mobile Technology. Apparently many people in Uganda and around the world own cell (mobile) phones. In Uganda the distribution of telephone services is a phone for every 4 people. That implies that approximately 8 Million Ugandans owns mobile phones today.
This has been as a result of mobile phone prices becoming very cheap and also more service providers being licensed in the country. The tariffs (call rates) are also becoming affordable with offers to make cheap calls across the different networks.
In Uganda today people are using their phones for different purposes. And some of these purposes are not limited to special phones with a number of functionalities. For example last year I visited a local organization Kubere Information Center in Apac district (Northern Uganda) and here rural women farmers use their mobile phones to get updates on Market prices! Today I can get news headlines, forex rates and soccer updates on my cell from my service provider. Many people use their mobile phones to communicate and keep in touch with their friends and family most of these are youth. More advance users of mobile phones are demanding for more sophisticated mobile phones. To get one with all the functionality you need you will have to pay a good price for it as the prices vary from one distributer to another. Uganda Telecom one of the Telecom Service Providers has introduced 3G technology. This service provides a fast internet connection for mobile phones that are compatible with the technology. Other service providers are still using GPRS and EDGE technologies to provide mobile internet services. MTN (another Telecom Service Provider) had introduced mobile money. To use the service one has to subscribe on the MTN network and then register with mobile money dealers and then they can use their mobile phones to send and receive money.

Text To Change a Dutch organisation working here in Uganda is using mobile technology (SMS) to improve health and education facilities/ services through quizzes and SMS campaigns.
However all mobile phones support SMS. This is a basic function. And one of the most widely used technologies around the world.

Mobile technologies have been known to be “boring”, but with the new innovations they happen to be more cost effective and easy to use as compared to the web. Most of the web applications have been made available for mobile! Websites, social networking site like facebook, myspace etc.

Recently I was discussing with a friend about the innovative use of SMS and mobile technology and she told me that in Serbia people use their mobile phones to pay for parking space on the streets!