Bright future awaits Uganda app developers

In 2011, the telecom sector in Uganda was awash with promotions promising subscribers almost free calls. As a result, call prices dropped by over 70% and a number of experts warned that these (price wars) were unsustainable and would ultimately hurt the sector.

Cue to that, barely two years later, there was a consolidation in the sector. Warid Telecom that had reportedly triggered off the price wars was bought out by Airtel Uganda.

Fast forward, Uganda’s telecom sector has seemingly matured. Despite the hardships, attention has shifted from pricing to innovative and more practical solutions. That is maturity of sorts, isn’t it?

Well, MTN Uganda, Airtel, and the newly launched Vodafone are all launching innovations aimed at providing convenience to their respective customers. Even the Aga Khan’s Smart Telecom, though silent at the moment is also ‘cooking’ something for their subscribers, according to an insider who preferred to remain anonymous.

It remains to be seen whether Africell Uganda, that took over the operations of Orange Telecom in Uganda will revive the once popular Community Innovation Awards. One thing we are sure of is that once Africell, along with Uganda Telecom Limited (UTL) weather down their rough patches, the two telcos will surely embark on introducing innovations given that other players are making headway in that direction.

The underlying aim may be to woe subscribers and retain them on their (telecoms’) networks but the difference here is in the value the customer will ultimately derive.

The need to nurture brilliant ideas has seen the launch of a number of incubation hubs – now more than four in Uganda alone – and a host of many local and international competitions.

Later on this month, MTN Uganda in collaboration with Outbox and Garage48 will host app developers to the MTN App Challenge 2015.

PC Tech Magazine reported that in September 2011, Uganda’s first apps-development weekend-long challenge was held in Kampala and birthed 11 ICT solutions in the areas of transport, gaming, education, health and marketing.

Most of them were largely at prototype level, but the winner, an app called Somesha, was given the opportunity to compete at a global stage. That competition was organized by Garage48, and sponsored by Google, Nokia, and MTN Uganda.

According to high ranking MTN executives, the 2015 app challenge will help create solutions that, if successful, would continue MTN’s vision of a new, ICT-lead world. Airtel Uganda is also currently also engaging university students, offering them internship opportunities aimed at turning ideas into relevant local solutions for their subscribers.

The operator that has christened itself, ‘The Smartphone Network’ is looking to harness the potential of Smartphone usage to grow its data capabilities. Airtel recently introduced, Tugabane, the luganda word for ‘Let’s share’, a value proposition that allows more than one person to surf off the same internet bundle irrespective of their geographical location.

The regulator, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has not been left out either as it introduced the Annual Communications Innovations (ACIA) Awards.

The ACIA Awards is an annual initiative that fosters innovation through the recognition and reward of outstanding ICT innovations. ACIA provides a platform upon which outstanding ICT innovations can be showcased and propelled to further success.

With the deadline for migration from analogue to digital broadcasting fast approaching, telecoms are positioning themselves to benefit from the freed up spectrum.

Experts say that the migration from analogue to digital will free up more spectrum for mobile telecoms, boosting mainly broadband services. Countries worldwide agreed to the deadline as part of an initiative to free up spectrum — the “digital dividend” in the 700MHz and 800MHz bands — for mobile broadband.

This (digital dividend) will not only help the mobile operators to deploy more internet based solutions and applications but also grow the economy of the country through sale of ‘space’ or spectrum.

Experts add that Digital Migration will open up new market frontiers for content creators and distributors, mobile applications developers, and device manufacturers. This will help bring in significant revenue while enabling telecommunications companies deploy affordable and efficient broadband services to the country.

With the telecom operators already fronting 4G LTE as a new revenue generator that offers capacity and unrivaled data speeds, we can only speculate the expected benefits. One thing we all agree to is that the quality of user experience will greatly improve.

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