SEATTLE, Washington — Uganda is known to have the second-youngest population in the world. Approximately 78% of Uganda’s population is under the age of 35, and leading organizations like the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) expect this number to double in the next 25 years. With such a youthful population, Uganda has the potential to grow its technology industry sector as youths begin to invest in digital technology for information, education and services. Moreover, as new markets for technology are created, communities can improve their networks and maintain a more efficient lifestyle. The growth of technology in Uganda is expected to bring monetary and societal profits to businesses and citizens alike.
Uganda Seeks to Build Technological Infrastructure
As a low-income country, Uganda’s technology market has been relatively small compared to other countries in the past. However, recent years have shown an increase in technology startups, university programs and an overall presence in businesses. As “innovation is a key component of achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals,” the Ugandan government and several humanitarian organizations have begun to realize the untapped potential of technological innovations in Uganda.
App Developments in Uganda
Several humanitarian organizations like UNICEF are supporting technological developments in Uganda to further essential support such as education and stable learning environments for children. Through EduTrac, a mobile app developed by UNICEF and the Ministry of Education and Sports of Uganda, data is collected on school attendance and educational institutions’ needs that helps district education officers monitor and manage schools. EduTrac has contributed to the creation of improved curriculums and generates quicker responses to the flaws and needs of educational institutions.
In addition to providing better education, UNICEF-supported apps provide Ugandan youths with greater opportunities to voice their opinions and concerns. For instance, the mobile platform called U-Report develops the relationship between the Ugandan government and its citizens. U-Report is a free SMS-based platform with more than 300,000 members since its creation in 2011 that allows Ugandan citizens to message government officials regarding community concerns. As a result of U-Report, citizens’ messages on community issues have been influential to policymakers’ decisions, including the drafting of the third Peace Recovery and Development Programme for Northern Uganda.
Technology Boosts the Ugandan Economy
Beyond government-assisted apps, start-ups from Uganda have significantly impacted Uganda’s economy and lifestyle. An app founded in Uganda, called Safeboda, allows citizens to locate nearby motorcycle taxi drivers. Due to the app’s popularity in Uganda, Safeboda went international with an expansion in Kenya and Nigeria.
Additionally, the highly successful company Fenix International had grown its roots in Uganda. The energy company uses solar power to supply energy to African homes and accepts payments through their mobile app, creating affordable and environmental sources of energy for families around the continent. The technology-based start-ups’ successes in Uganda demonstrate not only the potential growth of Uganda’s technology sector but its positive reception by Ugandan citizens.
Uganda Millenium Science Initiative
The need for more innovations like EduTrac and Fenix International is evident. The Uganda Millennium Science Initiative, a project supported by the World Bank, looked into creating a future for the technology industry sector in Uganda. The project, which was active from 2007 to 2013, worked to increase the number of science and engineering graduates, generate more research and implement technology departments in firms to influence a larger market.
The grants awarded through this initiative succeeded in enrolling more than 6,000 students in science and engineering fields as well as quadrupled the number of active researchers from 158 to 700 by the end of the project. Moreover, in the years the initiative was active, poverty decreased from 51% in 2006 to 37% in 2013, according to the World Bank.
Gender Equality in Uganda’s Technology Industry
As organizations dedicate funds to technology-based innovations and educational programs, the rising growth of Uganda’s technology industry has a positive outlook. Furthermore, organizations like the Women in Technology Uganda (WITU) work to further gender equality in Uganda’s technology industry. In particular, WITU looks to help young women “[develop skills in] innovation, technology, leadership, and entrepreneurship.” WITU’s efforts toward gender equality provide young women with greater job opportunities and higher income prospects.
Technological innovations like EduTrac and Safeboda, along with organizations like WITU, have the power to improve Uganda’s education systems, society and economy. The future continues to look bright for technology in Uganda as the government and independent organizations realize the potential of the technology market on a regional and national scale.
– Jennifer Long