Over the past three decades, the internet has become an integral part of our daily lives. Technology has transformed the way we communicate, obtain information and do business.
However, the benefits of the internet have not reached everyone equally, especially in the underserved areas of Uganda.
The lack of access to the internet has created a digital divide that has hindered the country’s development in many ways.
But with concerted efforts to expand internet access, there is a unique opportunity to unlock immense potential for growth and development.
Despite some progress in recent years, Uganda still faces significant challenges in expanding internet access to underserved areas.
One major challenge is the lack of infrastructure including; electricity, internet cables, and telecommunication masts or towers, in rural areas.
Secondly, the high cost of internet-enabled devices and limited digital literacy also pose significant barriers to internet access for many people that do not live within urban areas.
According to the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) 2022 Q2 Market Performance Report, the total number of internet-enabled gadgets connected to the networks stood at 10.9 million gadgets, as at June 2022.
This translates to only a little over 20% of the population of Ugandans that are connected to the internet.
The count of feature phones and basic phones connected to the network grew to 25 million gadgets reflecting the growth in adoption of new phones and corporate marketing activities.
The expansion of internet access and growth in mobile phone usage in rural areas in Uganda will unlock numerous benefits for citizens and also spur social-economic development of the country.
One of the most significant opportunities is the possibility of an increase in access to educative information.
The internet provides a whole lot of free and paid information and educational resources, and expanding its availability could provide a more level playing field for the masses.
Education is one of the most untapped areas when it comes to inter linking it with the internet, especially in rural areas.
Children in villages face a challenge when it comes to accessing educational material both in terms of e-books and online reading material.
This presents an opportunity to bridge the gap with local project such as the Hello Hubs in Seguku, Wakiso district.
Hello hubs are a project spearheaded by Hello World, a charity organization in partnership with home grown brand Roke Telkom.
The hubs are solar powered, Wi-Fi enabled and are aimed at bridging the digital divide by connecting hard-to-reach communities to online education and WIFI connectivity.
Outside the education sector, the internet is also a powerful tool for economic growth and business transformation.
Increased access to the internet facilitates the growth of e-commerce, allowing small businesses to reach a wider market and grow their customer base. E-commerce in Uganda is now promoting what has come to be known as the gig economy.
This new economy is enabling more Ugandans to access online work opportunities that were previously unavailable to them.
Access to the internet and connected mobile phones or smartphones is also transforming and improving access to healthcare and the lives of our people in different ways.
For instance, through telemedicine services, Ugandans now have access medical services remotely.
Furthermore, digital-led healthcare facilitates the sharing of health-related information, which could lead to improved health outcomes and reduced health disparities within our communities
Finally, the expansion of internet connection to Uganda’s distant areas represents a huge possibility for growth and development.
While there are certain hurdles to overcome, the potential rewards are considerable. Expanding affordable internet connections could eliminate inequities and promote social and economic development by easing access to education, and other economic possibilities.
As a result, the Ugandan government and other stakeholders ought to prioritize efforts to increase internet access throughout the country.
By Michael Mukasa,
Chief Commercial Officer at Roke Telkom.