Knowledge is power and communication is key. These two vital ingredients are yet to fully take ground in the nation. Whereas the communication sector is extensively growing with over five GSM voice/data communication providers and multiple internet service providers, others may argue that this is still a dip in the ocean.
Internet coverage nationwide remains below 30% and call network quality remains a “nagging” concern. It is in such a market that app developers are struggling to make a foothold. On top of this , limited access to information has meant that a large part of Ugandans remain powerless to make informed decisions whether in purchasing products, setting up a business or choosing to take a trip.
As the government and private sector continue to grapple with reaching services to the masses, development of certain sectors remains stagnant and untapped. The four major sectors important to Ugandans on the basis of usage statistics are;
- Utility/Financial services
Let’s look at how companies and individuals in Uganda have utilized these sectors according to customer needs.
Communication is catered for by the success of telecommunication service providers who enjoy a market share in providing the channels (voice, SMS and data) in extending coverage to the “reachable” areas in the country.
The information sector is largely a free market that enjoys the frills of competition between media houses and private citizens. With social media platforms and a loosely regulated sector, success is measurable. Such as ticketing service Tikiti.
….cinema scheduling service Cine App
….and local stations that also serve as entertainment sources
However, even with this “open market”, opportunities to information dissemination remain largely untapped.
Information that drives an emerging economy includes technical skills, financial market, products, services and technologies. These in Uganda are barely available and if so grossly outdated. Based on experience, such information is only accessible through national census figures or government ministries. The lack of independent information collection, archiving and dissemination bodies means the existing information is questionable lest reliable.
The entertainment sector is by far unregulated and “chaotic” which has led to calls among local artists and citizens to cry foul over the abuse and misuse of creative content through lack of a copyright legal system. In this case, entertainment information providers are restricted to websites such as Big Eye, Proggie, Campuss Bee and Chano8.
The financial service/ utility market are largely established on the success or “relevance” of the mobile money platforms. Most of the available apps have tapped in to this platform in diversified forms such as payment of utilities such as water, electricity and pay TV.
The utilities sector is vibrant also largely in part to the fast growing e-commerce industry with players such as Jumia, Olx, Yoza and Lamudi (real estate).
Several locally Ugandan apps have failed to take off mainly due to inaccurate market assessment and lack of suiting the product or service to existing or desirable need. This has meant that several developers have failed to sustain their products for more than a year if they are not a major player. The international success of apps such as Matatu made by Kola Studios provides insight at how Uganda can tap into the global marketplace using “authentic Ugandan content.”
However, even as it continues to shine on the international success, its preceding app games have failed to garner the same user enthusiasm, largely in part to the “generalized” feeling of being “common”.
I think for any Ugandan app develop operational or likely to make entry into the industry, success can only be attained when we fit our products or services to the “needs” and “purchasing patterns” of the Ugandan economy. This calls for sustainable business models that are based on appropriate strategies to engage communication and access to information and services.
However, it is not entirely a gloom and doom affair, success stories still happen.