Digital TV migration among five 2012 Tech predictions in the Ugandan Tech industry

2011 has been an exciting year of new and exciting industry developments. Now it’s the end of the year and we’re looking into what’s in for us in the next.These predictions are based on observing technology developments this and the past year and my broad knowledge about the tech industry in Uganda and Africa as a whole.

Android phones increase in the wild
There are about 200 million Droids (Android phones) worldwide and this number is growing by some 550,000 daily (or 3.85 million a week, 16.5 million a month) according zdnet. The android market marked a staggering 10 billion downloads this year. Popularity of android handsets is attributed to their ease of use and low cost. Here in Uganda, thanks to Samsung and Huawei, you can get a decent android phone at less than $200. This price is even lower if bought on contract with a local Telecom. Orange’s android Gaga goes for UGX  299,000 ($120) and Google ideos at UGX 345,000 with MTN Uganda.  By the end of next year, and android device will be selling at lower than $100 at least on contract with a Telecom which is affordable for most Mobile subscribers.

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High interest in Solar energy

This year, Ugandans realized they can no longer rely on UMEME, the power distributing company for all their energy needs following the rampant load shedding that has trended this whole year. Even though UMEME is not entirely to be blamed because it’s only a distributing and NOT a power producing company, consumers really don’t care. They shoot anyone who is at the fore front of the supply chain.
I’ve noticed a number of businesses dealing in solar systems cropping up like ASE. You can a can basic system at about UGX 250,000($100) in down town Kampala. This system is equipped with a 12W panel, 10Ah 12V battery with it’s inbuilt regulator enables you to charge phones and have about 4-6 hours of lighting on full charge.

The Television industry gets a makeover

According to the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), on December 31, 2012, the country will switch from analogue to digital broadcasting. Ugandans currently own analogue television sets and will therefore require a set-top box to receive and decode digital television (DTV) broadcasts. The cost of these peripherals will determine how easy consumers make the switch. However, some Digital TV service providers like Smart TV, GoTV will make it easy for consumers since their customers are provided with these set-top boxes on subscription.

Startups really start up
Expect to see a number of young and enterprising Ugandans brings their lab projects to the market. If you’ve been attending local tech events like MoMoKla, techfest, Orange expo,  then this is not a surprise. Occasionally, I meet fellow young enthusiastic developers and tech entrepreneurs full of passion, talent, ideas and vision. Expect to see mainly web applications and mobile/android apps that add business value to your company, distribute content and valuable information to users, empower farmers get timely information on pests, food prices among others. The fact is, there’s a lot of untapped local talent that tech service providers, telecoms and government can exploit.

3G comes of age
First was Orange Uganda, then MTN and more recently Warid telecom. By the end of next year, I expect all the telecoms to have fully rolled out their 3G network across the country. Last year sparked off a series of price wars mainly in voice, but next year I predict a fierce price war on data services. Currently it costs UGX 0.9 per Kb on Orange and UGX 0.1 per Kb on MTN. For a smart phone user, this is still expensive. A 3 min Youtube video takes about 10MB(10240Kb) of data to stream which is UGX 9,216 on Orange and UGX 1,024 on MTN based on the above rates. Am I ready to pay that much? No. Smart phone apps also run a lot of processes in the background like app updates, server polling for chat applications that consume data even without the user actively using them. So for consumers to enjoy apps on their data hungry smart phones, then telecoms have to sell them data plans at a reasonable cost.

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Energy is going to be a key factor because this is what runs everything especially in the tech industry. From running huge data centers, to small server rooms to staff computers, this 24 hours load shedding is simply unacceptable for businesses. Secondly businesses and consumers alike will need fast data access for their work, smart phones respectively both in the office and on the go.
So 2012 will be a year of Energy and Data.

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