SMEs call for expansion of digital capacity

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SMEs call for expansion of digital capacity
FSME executive director, John Walugembe (center) receiving a certificate of appreciation from ICT minister Dr. Chris Baryomunsi (right) and UCC executive director Nyombi Thembo during the 14th Communications Consumer Parliament in Kabale.

The expansion of Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs)’s capacity to utilize Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) in their business operations, should be at the forefront of Uganda's digital transformation agenda.

MSMEs have said their ability to leverage the digital evolution will require not only individual initiative but also support in form of skills development and an enabling environment.

Under their umbrella, the Federation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, small-scale business owners said the high costs of digital devices and data, inadequate digital skills, fraud, counterfeit products and services, and cyber-insecurity, hinder business growth.

Over 500 SMEs from Kigezi attended the Consumer Communications Parliament at NTC Kabale.

This was during an interaction among stakeholders in the communications sphere at 14th Communications Consumer Parliament at National Teachers College in Kabale district on Thursday (June 20, 2024).

The event which attracted over 500 MSMEs in different sectors and communications players such as service providers, regulators, policymakers, and civil society, underscored the power of digital services in creating potential for small businesses.

Reducing costs

It was graced by the minister of ICT and National Guidance, Dr. Chris Baryomunsi who pledged government’s commitment to reduce the cost of accessing digital services in the country to enable business.

“As government, we aim to reduce phone costs through tax exemptions and presence of device factories in Namanve and Mbale. We are also working to bring data costs down, enabling digital services like banking and trade,” he said.

FSME executive director, John Kakungulu Walugembe said MSMEs need digital skills and tools to be able to compete in the modern business environment.

ICT, he stressed, helps business enterprises in accessing finances, management, production and marketing of goods and services.

"We cannot be innovative and competitive without leveraging ICT. Therefore, there should be continuous digital skilling and availability of affordable services and devices," he said.

Uganda launched its digital transformation roadmap, spanning a period of five years (FY2023/24-2027/28), which spells out key enablers aimed at actualizing aspirations embedded in the Digital Uganda Vision.

These include attaining 90% household connectivity; 90% broadband coverage by geography; and 90% citizens accessing e-services online, by 2040.

It envisions technology that serves as the catalyst for sustainable development, economic growth, and improved livelihoods for all Ugandans.

Digital solutions

Organised by Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), the event was a climax of 10-day activities in Kigezi subregion where consumers had closeup meetings as efforts to find solutions to recurring challenges MSMEs face while consuming communications services.

Under the theme ‘Promoting Impactful ICTs’, the activity had service providers ranging from Telecommunication Companies to PayTV operators.

UCC executive director, George William Nyombi Thembo said the dialogue allows real-time engagement on communication issues and fostering accountability.

"As ICT and  consumer protection evolve, we working towards empowering consumers with information and choice, ensuring consumer safety and  tackling cybersecurity risks, mobile money fraud, and  substandard devices," he said.

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