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Low technology impedes innovative solutions — Expert

Uganda’s low levels of technology intake are hindering the uptake of innovative solutions that could solve existing challenges, unlock incomes and propel economic development, an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) expert has said.

Eng. Innocent Orikiiriza, the founder and chief executive officer of KaCyber, a software company that builds digital ticketing systems for public transport operators, said while Uganda has had several ICT start-ups that could solve the existing challenges, uptake is still low, given several challenges, such as low smartphone usage and low levels of internet penetration in the country.

While there has been an increase in the number of smartphones in the country to about 27% and internet penetration to about 37.9%, it is still low, compared to the sub-Saharan Africa average of about 50%.

This is mainly attributed to the high cost of smartphones and the internet.

“At times someone could have a smartphone, but when they don’t have money to buy data,” Orikiiriza said.

He said while the challenge could be solved by integrating the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) technology, it is also still very expensive for most ICT start-ups as they have to pay annual access fees of about $10,000 (sh36.5m) to the Uganda Communications Commission.

Orikiiriza, however, said KaCyber is exploring the avenue of partnering with a telecom service provider, as it seems to be a cheaper option.

KaCyber, which is one of the incubatees under the Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI) incubation programme, offers online ticketing services via an application (App) to bus and the passenger trains.

They are currently working with four transport operators — the Uganda Railways passenger train, Star Link Transporters, Highway coaches and Malayika Transporters.

One is allowed to select their preferred seat number, according to availability.

Orikiiriza said over 20,000 travel tickets are issued through the KaCyber platform per month.

He added that they are currently in talks with the transport ministry to add MV Kalangala on the app.

He said they also have plans to support other modes of transport, such as bodaboda, taxis and private car rentals.

Patrick Muhoozi, the Starlink Transporters manager, said the app has enabled them close revenue leakages which they were suffering while using the manual system and also reduced congestion at their offices for people booking travel tickets.

Muhoozi said the online system came in handy following the emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic as a means to curb the spread of the virus by eliminating the long queues.

The UIRI ICT manager, Boaz Oguma, Origumisiriza said the KaCyber innovation will help improve Uganda’s transport sector by increasing efficiency, customer convenience and ensure revenue growth for transport operators.

“The world is going digital and, therefore, using technology simplifies so many things.

As UIRI, we are always looking out for people with innovative ideas that are feasible and we support them to actualise their ideas to solve existing challenges,” Origumisiriza said.

Uganda’s public transport system is chaotic as transport operators lose a lot of revenue to untrustworthy conductors.

Idro Taban Jr, the founder and chief executive officer of Taban Invest Group, said there was improved revenue collection, resulting from using the online ticketing solution.

Photo caption: Travellers at the bus park in Kampala. Passengers are now able to book tickets online

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