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Mobile Technology Transforming Lives in Uganda

If you took a closer look around any coffee shop or shopping mall in Kampala, it is highly likely that you'll see people engrossed and constantly tapping away at their mobile devices, thanks to laptops, tablets and smart phones.

Technology has rapidly evolved and as a result, it is possible to surf the web on the go; whether it is sending an email while in a taxi, editing an important presentation in a restaurant during your lunch break, video chatting with friends and family from your living room or listening to your favourite song in the gym, the latest generation of websites and apps makes all this possible just at the click of a button.

In an interview with the East African Business Week recently, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, Uganda's Minister for Information and Communication Technology said that the mobile phones used by many Ugandans to access the internet contribute about 5% to the country's GDP.

"They contribute to the national budget through the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and they are now the single most powerful sector that contributes money to the tax body," Rugunda said.

Just over a decade ago, it was difficult for information to flow from urban to rural areas and vice versa because mobile devices were very rare.

Mr. Matovu Bulaisio, a proud owner of a Nokia phone and a resident of Kiboga district, 125km west of the capital

Kampala, says that he always had difficulty getting messages from his son in the city.

"I would send a parcel delivered by a taxi driver to a boda cyclist (bicycle taxi) at the stage, who would be asked to deliver it to my church then I would only get the information on a Sunday when the priest would make announcements, that is if it didn't get lost.

"But now, I simply use my phone for anything including receiving and sending money. I get information from my son in real time, life is just easier," says Matovu.

Rugunda says that telecoms have enabled people to make well informed decisions and are destined to do more.

"Today, producers through their phones can find out the ideal market price before selling their produce. Telecoms for

instance have empowered people to make well informed decisions and with internet becoming more readily available andcheaper, this will make e-services like e-Gov't, e-Learning, e-Health," he said.

However, it's time to create a streamlined, personalised user experience; The digitised web.

This digitised web, in which users enjoy a consistent and relevant Internet experience, regardless of what device they're using to get online, is really important and it's one of the reasons why many developers like Google recently launched Chrome for Android, a mobile version of their web browser, and Google Drive, a virtual 'filing cabinet' for all your digital information.

The Google drive enables one to store more and information online, rather than on one vulnerable hard-disk that needs to be constantly backed up. A recent study shows that British consumers alone have around £2.3bn of 'digital assets' saved online.

In Uganda today, one can easily pay tax obligations using phones; whether you have been pulled up by a traffic officer for over speeding, you clear up the offense and proceed, it is easy to clear utility bills online and even village people can access information they would have ideally not known.

East African Business Week
BY EMMA ONYANGO
25 June 2012

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