Digital Economy key to pandemic recovery but interventions needed

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption and use of digital technologies and highlighted the prominence and importance of the sector as an enabler of a speedy economic recovery and source of work.  

Today, digitalization is not just part of the economy – it is the economy itself with limitless opportunities for innovators who are thriving and a continued disruption and displacement for those who are unable to adapt. Entrepreneurs integrated into the digital economy have continued to build their capacity to deliver digitally and build their resilience against future economic shocks 

Recently, The Innovation Village held a round table discussion with stakeholders in the digital economy to share insights into the state of Uganda’s digital economy, the opportunities and challenges the sector presents and how the players are reinventing themselves to thrive within the current wave.  

At the event, Japheth Kawanguzi, The Innovation Village Team Lead said this was the season for entrepreneurs to get deeply rooted in the digital economy and make moves towards building strong partnerships, meeting customer expectations, and advancing their solutions.  

CK Japheth, Team Lead, The Innovation Village

“As entrepreneurs, there is no transformation that is more challenging than meeting the expectation of  a digitally empowered economy. Today, majority of the population has access to internet which gives them the power to break or make your business. As we take advantage of digital technologies, let’s offer our customers a superior experience, leverage on the use of big data to address societal challenges, and use tech to integrate our products and services into sophisticated industry solutions.”  

In the next few months, The Innovation Village in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation’s Young Africa Works will launch the “Digital Doors” project that is intended to accelerate opportunities for young people, women and small businesses.  

“The program will look at four key elements around stable technology infrastructure, digital literacy and skills, partnership opportunities to be able to build sustainability, and an agent network that can work to scale these solutions that have been built,” Kawanguzi said. 

He further noted that the development of the digital economy is a critical steppingstone to job creation in the new future of work but will require access to the right skills and education for dignified jobs, connection to employers and marketplaces. 

Tech companies in Uganda anticipate a massive change in the way businesses will operate in the next five years, as “digital” permeates every sector of the economy and daily aspects of individuals – changing the way they learn, work, transact and access products, services and information. They are also at the same time worried that the lack of an enabling environment and ecosystem will hold them back. 

William Luyinda, the Chief Executive Officer of EzyAgric, an Agritech company delivering agricultural inputs and value chain products to farmers and agribusinesses, said Ugandans see the value in digitization but choose not to use the digital solutions because of multiple government restrictions and policies inform of regulations and taxation. “To facilitate digital penetration, there is need to first enable the digital ecosystem to work effectively then we can onboard more people,” he said. 

Wiliam Luyinda, CEO, EzyAgric

Kenneth Kwesiga is the Chief Executive Officer of ioTech Limited, a soft and FinTech company. He highlighted the need to focus on customer experience, regulation, and investment as part of efforts to ensure that the digital ecosystem works for all players. “When it comes to the customer, we need to think about how relatable and user friendly our products and services are. Under regulation, we must keep an eye on conflict of interest and direct the regulator in formulating good policies and on investment, let’s ask ourselves how prepared we are to harness the investment opportunities out there,” Kwesiga said.  

Kwesiga added; “Collaboration is indispensable for innovation, both within an organization and beyond the ecosystem, with customers, partners, start-ups, and government. Therefore, it is important that in this emerging age of the digital economy, we co-create and ensure that our offerings work well with each other”  

The digitization of the economy is one of the most critical issues today since digital technologies are rapidly transforming every aspect of our business practices and societies. This transformation is integral to a speedy economic recovery. The Innovation Village is in the last stages of implementing interventions that will accelerate access to the opportunities in the digital economy. The hope is that enabling access to digital infrastructure, tools, and technical support will in the next five years, enable 300,000 young men and women (60% women) to find dignified and fulfilling work as local entrepreneurs, in start-ups, and MSMEs (Micro Small and Medium Enterprises). 

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