We all desire to have internet access at our own comfort and time. Nanyunja Sarah Rebecca is a 22 year old graduate. Her dream is to have internet in her living room. Nanyunja envisages sitting on couch with her computer on table browsing the web. She uses internet for searching for business ideas particularly making beads and necklaces. She also uses the internet to look for jobs.
Telecommunications companies have deliberately raised awareness on mobile internet. The public uses online services for payment of online services like utilities, using mobile phones. Nanyunja is among the Ugandans increasingly using mobile phone internet.
In a day Nanyunja uses 500 Uganda shillings ($ quarter) to surf using her mobile phone. In a week she spends 3500 Uganda shillings, and 15,500 ($ 6) for a month.
However, using internet on her computer is expensive, she buys internet bundle of 20,000 for a month as compared to mobile phone internet.
Social media for empowerment
On the other hand the 50 year old Amin Nabukeera is a chairman of women in Komaboga central zone in Kawempe division. She too loves to gain access to internet at home with her children.
During the training, she opened up a face book and yahoo account to enable her communicate with the children and others leaders in Kawempe. “It is my first time to use internet. I am amazed at the way face book connects a person to a chain of other users. You connect a face with a name. Social media is powerful”, she adds.
Unfortunately she won’t be able to access internet on her Nokia 3310 phone. Her phone does not have internet configurations. She intends to use internet cafe.
Limited access to capital and training threaten women’s full participation of using internet for different purposes. Elizabeth Gin a graduate scholar with Art Center College of Design in the Media Design Practice University in United States of America is conducting research how women use internet in their daily lives.
Nanyunja and Amina were attending training on Internet access and perspectives at Uganda Media Women’s Association headoffice in Kisaasi. The training will tackle this disparity head on, by empowering women with internet skills. The training will also enable women to understand and appreciate the need for internet in managing their small businesses.
Mobile phone subscribers
Today, Uganda’s communications sector is one of the fastest growing in Africa. Communication experts attribute the trend to the rapid expansion of mobile telephony. According to Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), the number of telephone subscribers increased to 10 million in March 2009 compared to 8.7 million in December 2008. This translates to one-third of the country’s population owning telephones. Of the 10 million subscriptions, 9.8 million are mobile phone subscribers. Whereas an estimated 200 000 are fixed-line owners.
Age of short message service (sms)
Nabukeera mostly uses her mobile telephone for short message service (SMS). UCC shows some 294 million SMS messages were sent between January to March 2009, compared to 190 million in October to December 2008.
The growing demand has created space for small medium companies to sell bulk SMS to the public. For example D-Mark, SMS media, SMS Empire are among the companies selling bulk messages to organizers of different functions.
U- Report an innovation
The U- report is a free SMS line that was designed and run by UNICEF to act as a feedback tool for the community on development issues. The U-Report was created in 2011. Currently UNICEF is running a U-report on several community radios. Mama Fm joined the band wagon of U-reporters in 2012. This is an alternative platform of engaging the citizens using their mobile phones
According to the marketing manager Mama Radio, Joanita Nankya, UNICEF creates ideas for people (U-reporters) who reply. The answers are used as statistics for policy makers and different stakeholders for improving service delivery.
“It is a free service that does not require any costs during registration and answering”, Nankya says.
The Association of worldwide mobile phone operators states that, Africa is the fastest-growing mobile market in the world, next to Asia.
The number of subscribers on the African continent has grown to approximately 20 percent each year for the past five years, the Global system for Mobile Communications report on Africa says.
The report predicts that more subscribers will double to 735 million subscribers by the end of 2012.
Africa’s mobile phone industry is growing at twice the global rate, according to the International Telecommunications Union.
The African Economic Outlook report of the industrialized countries’ Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) indicates mobile phones are handy and the infrastructure is cheap to start up. This has led to Africa’s revolutionary changes in mobile phone use. Several communication companies in Uganda are involved in fibre optic connections to increase on internet access.