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Uganda’s path towards technology advancement

1. The need for the service/product providers to make as much money from individualized purchases and experiences;

2. Most of the money is in economies where people’s lives are highly individualized and commodities heavily personalized.

This approach works  well for the innovator that is keen on profits and recouping investment as quickly as possible, and it has worked successfully in developed economies. The big question, though, is whether this same approach towards  technology adoption is the best for Uganda, too.

What is unique about Uganda?

1.Some people  in Uganda still live a largely communal lifestyle. A neighbor’s son or uncle is as close to you as your own uncle.

2. There is a very small portion of the Ugandan population that has been sucked up into the individualized Western lifestyle.

3. The individual income levels are still too low to allow free-wheeler spending.

The aforementioned attributes certainly have an effect on the type of technology we are more likely to adopt. While mobile phones have become such a runaway success in this country, you can still see that the numbers of individual owners are low when compared to the total population. However, the real access to mobile technology is manifested in the public call services that are available in both urban and rural Uganda. A big chunk of users has been reached through this communal service approach as opposed to the individual approach.

Where does this lead us to? Because of our communal nature and relatively low incomes, any ICTs that are targeting personalized ownership will have a very low penetration rate as compared to those that target communal use. Let’s take the computer as an example: If village A was to take up a computer lab that has 20 computers in it, a printer, fax, scanner and the works, this would make a lot more sense than trying to have the individual villagers buy their own PCs to use in their homes.

1. Few would afford the computer and power costs as individuals.

2. The desire to utilize and partake in the benefits of technology with peers has a far reaching implication to the acceptance of the technology.

3. Communal access blends well with the desire to interact with peers at least once every day, usually in the afternoons or evenings for a couple of hours.

I, therefore, believe that for any person or organization focusing on technology adoption in Uganda, it is important to put at the forefront the factor of communal access. Just like there is a preference for the village well approach to fetching water, we need to look at technologies that reflect a similar concept.

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