MTN group performance for 2016 indicates that attractive data bundles across markets increased data usage with revenue increasing by 19.7% to contribute 27% to total group revenue.
Currently there are somewhat good mobile phones that can connect to the internet for the low end users costing a minimum of Shs 100, 000 at some shops. For high end users, for instance, at accredited Samsung shops one unit of low cost version of say Samsung Galaxy s3 goes for Shs700, 000 while the second latest version, s7 is about Shs2.3 million.
These devices could be costly for many given that close to 20% of Ugandans still earn less than a dollar a day.
Vanhelleputte said soft loans for smartphones will serve the purpose. But he said only those with good records in terms of transactions on their mobile money accounts will benefit.
Simon Kaheru, a director at the ICT Association of Uganda told The Independent that as sector players think of strategies to increase data usage and device penetration, the key element would be to encourage (or force) internet service providers to maintain lower rates and more service options.
On whether deeper smartphone penetration would lower tariffs, Kaheru said: “That is likely to be true but cannot be the one-off solution. Many of us already own smartphones and other gadgets and still find access hard or expensive.”
Keheru said smartphone and internet penetration numbers will undoubtedly rise going forward “but not as significantly as we would want to see” because we need to acknowledge that the economic situation overall will hamper the speed of uptake, as it has hampered consumer spend in general.
But he said more access to internet is increasingly being considered as a necessity for development rather than a luxury.
“We heard recently the Parliamentary Committee on ICT ordering the Executive to supply computers to schools and equip them with internet access,” he said, adding that is a sign that we now recognise its (internet) importance nationally.
World over the internet is increasingly becoming important for enabling cheap communication via social media networks and for conducting research for academic and development purposes.
Unlike in the past where desktop computers and other tools like modems were widely used to fix and surf the internet, today mobile phones are increasingly becoming more popular and are slowly replacing old devises for internet use.
In a separate interview with The Independent on April 3, Anthony Katamba, the director for Legal Affairs at MTN said government needs to monitor the import of mobile phones on the Ugandan market to prevent substandard ones from getting in the hands of users.
He said such stance would ensure fair prices and reliability of the devices in terms of usage by customers. Katamba said smartphone penetration helps the citizens to access information from all corners of life but more importantly for government itself.
Findings from the latest edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report shows that by 2020 advanced mobile technology will be commonplace around the globe and smartphone subscriptions will more than double, reaching 6.1 billion, 70% of the world’s population will be using smartphones, and 90% will be covered by mobile broadband networks.