Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Uganda - harnessing mobile technology

Ugandan Minister: Africa Needs to Harness Mobile Tech

Africa needs to devise ways to harness mobile technology, considering the explosive growth the technology and services have had on the continent, Uganda's minister of ICT has said.

Africa today is considered the new growth market for mobile telephony. Despite the fact that operators on the continent bag millions of dollars in profit and phones seem to ring in everyone's pockets, there is still huge potential given that penetration stands at 18 percent.

The growth experienced over the last ten years clearly shows "that it is time to devise modalities to harness the mobile technology," Ham Mulira, Uganda's minister of ICT said that recently at the fourth international conference on computing and ICT research at Makerere University.

Mulira called for plans aimed at sustainable social and economic development.

Currently, mobile devices carry content in the English language with software that is not suited for people in this part of the world; all of the services are borrowed and transplanted to work in African environments.

Mulira spoke at a workshop on innovative mobile technology and services for developing countries that attracted international experts from academia, industry and public sector organizations, and addressed the issue of enabling policy that promotes the growth of mobile technology and services. Also under discussion was local content and language support, which is critical to reaching the rural population.

Mulira said it was important to harness mobile technology and services to promote a local mobile service and content provider sector.

A number of mobile voice and SMS-based services have been introduced in the last few years, but more relevant mobile data and Web-based services are needed to promote information access, communication and usage in sectors such as health, education, banking and payment.

Makerere University's faculty of Computing and Information Technology (CIT) is involved in a number of activities in the mobile sector, including research and software business incubation. CIT has established a research group in mobile computing, a mobile laboratory with support of Nokia and proposed curriculum for a masters degree program in mobile computing and application software development.

Mobile phone operators must link up with educational institutions to work together to harness mobile technology and services for societal development, Mulira said.

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