The World Bank said in a report Wednesday that digital technologies are critical in reviving Uganda’s economy, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The international finance institution said in the latest edition of the Uganda Economic Update that the country’s economy this year is projected to grow between 0.4 to 1.7 percent.
The report, titled “Digital Solutions In A Time of Crisis,” showed that increased use of digital technologies during the COVID-19 lockdown such as mobile payments, online shopping, online education, digital disease surveillance and monitoring, and dissemination of public health messages have great potential to support faster economic recovery and strengthen resilience against similar shocks.
World Bank Country Manager for Uganda Tony Thompson said the digital space in the country is innovative and has quickly adapted during the pandemic.
“Fintechs have offered payment options, and digital solutions have reinforced and enabled the health sector’s calls to social distance and limit movement and contact. These solutions, if upscaled and developed to their potential would boost the digital economy and maximize its benefits to Ugandans,” Thompson said.
The report recommended that the country implement supportive policies and regulations to the information communication and technology sector.
Uganda needs to review taxation in the digital economy, leverage technology to support the health sector and economic recovery through increased digitalization of agribusiness and manufacturing, and expand social safety nets and the transparency and accountability of the government’s response to COVID-19.
The report also recommended that Uganda develop a strategy to integrate Uganda’s digital economy into the regional and global economy.
Uganda’s national identity system, according to the report, can support more efficient e-government systems and authentication by the public and private sectors while expanding financial inclusion, strengthening social protection delivery, and supporting immigration control and refugee management.
However, the report also showed a mobile phone penetration rate of 69.2 percent of the population, far below the African average of 84 percent.
There are also gender and geographical gaps in terms of access to mobile phones.
For example, 46 percent of female adults have access to mobile phones compared to 58 percent of male adults.
Adults in urban areas are more likely to own mobile phones — 70 percent — and have access to the internet — 25 percent — compared to adults in rural areas, where 46 percent own phones and five percent have internet access, according to the report.