KAMPALA – Uganda is currently set for times that were definitely set to come, but the public was not entirely ready for. Somehow, we all knew the time was bound to come, we just didn’t know precisely when or how the scenarios would unfold. The COVID-19 pandemic has made both businesses and individuals realize that the future is now and there are chances this will stay even after things get back to normal, hopefully in the near future.
For most, the use of internet or data has been mainly for social media access and email with a few using it for websites including intranets and a few other for education. There has been a rise in the use of the internet for entertainment and Edutainment among others in the last few years especially by the urban population.
Following H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s directive on 25th March, 2020 on the halt on public transport and businesses in markets that are not selling food, there is urgent need for businesses, entrepreneurs and individuals to make the most of the internet or data services available in the country.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have taken up and rolled out measures to support government’s call for social distancing and other guidelines on physical interaction and have put on offer very many services both discounted and free for the public. For example, at Roke Telkom, we have slashed installation costs from Ushs. 500,000 to Ushs. 300,000 and zero-rated all productivity and education sites for the home product users. These include; Google Classrooms, Google Hangouts, Office 365, Teams, Trello, Skype and Zoom to support and ensure that normal business is still conducted and students can still access learning tools and classes online.
Beyond this access however, is the question on how best to maximize internet while at home regardless of whether it is for personal use, education or business. Here are some tips that could guide anyone on making the most of their internet connection. These tips apply even when the status of things change.
- Disconnect all devices that are connected to your router or switch and are not actively in use. This is because most of them, though not in use may have background apps and data connecting to the internet for updates etc.
- If the situation permits, connect your computer to your switch via an ethernet cable for a more reliable and faster transmission.
- Video conference calls can best be held at non-peak hours after 7.00PM to minimize interruption with slow connections.
- If you must hold your online meeting at peak hours and where possible, use audio conferencing which consumes much less data.
- Share video conference call agendas in time and request for early team submissions for ideas, comments, presentations, reports etc for team members to read and review ahead of any meeting, so that the conference call time is used specifically for decision making only.
- Have your router or switch away from other electronic devices, especially the microwave, television, and others to minimize interruption of the WiFi signal.
- Your browser should not have many tabs open that you are not using. Keep only those relevant to the assignment you are working on active.
On Day-to-Day Use:
- If you are a business man whose offices have been locked, this is the time to reach out to online shops and register your business and add a small fee for delivery so that you still make revenue. This will need to be powered by an ISP of your choice.
- Larger businesses that were previously cash heavy, need to quickly consider working with aggregators and payment platforms to accept card payments on their websites.
- An entrepreneur or business man will want to open up a payments solution for their business which could include their bank wallet or even mobile money. Key is for them to have a means to collect electronic cash and minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus through physical movement of money.
- As a consumer, you want to consider some of the top 3-5 online shops or getting your market “Mama Mboga’s” WhatsApp number and your usual boda guy’s number too. In essence, Mama Mboga sends you pics or videos and prices of her stock, you choose what you want, she packs and your boda guy picks it up for you. Ride hailing companies are also a handy pick.
- Self-help and Do It Yourself (DIY) videos: This is the time to learn new skills, try out something new, a twisted cooking recipe for tastier rice etc. Just use your data to get better at your current skills or new skills; the choice is entirely yours.
- Education: There are a number of online courses you can take that are completely free and you can get a certificate for them. Register for one, get that certificate and add it to your completed items list.
- Research: This is a good time to do some general research and look for information on many things, like the laws of Uganda, our tourism industry, global and capital markets, business ideas, the list is long.
There also is a question on the capacity of the telecoms in Uganda to meet the current needs of Ugandans. The answer is; we have the capacity to meet Uganda’s connectivity needs even in this time. In fact, we have excess capacity by 100% that goes to waste daily because it has not been consumed. The COVID-19 situation in Uganda has paved a way for this excess capacity to be consumed.
Research carried out by National Information Technology Authority (NITA) in 2017/18 indicated that of the population sample surveyed, a mere 7.2% of individuals had used a computer and 12.1% had used the internet in the 12 months preceding the survey. It further showed that individuals primarily accessed the Internet at home (86.1%) and on mobile phones via the mobile cellular network (94.8%). This shows the need for a paradigm shift in use of data and internet services.
I therefore urge and call upon fellow Ugandans to embrace the times and make the most of the opportunity to learn and become technology savvy and prepare ahead for the future in the advent of fast-changing technological advancements.
This writer, Micheal Mukasa is Chief Commercial Officer, Roke Telkom.