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From Frustration to Fast-Tracking: How Uganda Can Fix Its Internet

Airtel Uganda’s Managing Director, manoj murali (2nd R), Head of Information Technology and Security, Uganda Communications Commission(UCC), Michael Bamwesigye (2nd L), Customer Experience Director at Airtel Uganda, Joweria Nabakka (R), Public and Corporate Communications Manager at Airtel Uganda, David Birungi (L) unveiling a Data Usage Manager, a feature on the MyAirtel App, that shows users how much data is used on their devices and by what application. The innovation was launched at the Airtel Head Office at Clement Hill Road on 25th March 2024.

By Airtel Uganda

With a single “click” on her online job application form, Veronica Ssentongo, based in Kenya, bypassed geographical limitations and landed a dream job at DFCU Bank, Uganda. In the past, this would have required navigating the complexities of in-person interviews and travel across borders, but the internet has transformed the game. Ssentongo’s story shared during Airtel Uganda’s recent online discussion on data usage, exemplifies the transformative power of the internet revolution.

This surge in connectivity isn’t just about landing dream jobs. It’s about students in rural areas accessing educational resources once limited to urban centres. It’s about businesses, big and small, expanding their reach and customer base tenfold. Uganda’s internet revolution is unlocking a wave of opportunity, but with great connection comes great responsibility. As millions get online for the first time, a crucial question emerges:  Are Ugandans getting the reliable, secure experience they deserve?

But as millions get online for the first time, a growing chorus of voices demands a better experience. Social media was awash with discontent, evidenced by the “#DataTheftExhibition” movement. Ugandans suspect they’re not getting the data they pay for, and frustrations mount with unreliable connections.

Recognizing this disconnect, industry leaders like Airtel Uganda, the country’s first 5G network, are stepping up.  As they hosted industry experts on the “A conversation on Internet Data Usage In a Growing Connected World,” online X space, Airtel officials emphasized the importance of building trust through accountability and transparency. Daniel Odaka, Airtel Uganda’s Manager of Digital Channels, highlighted these principles as fundamental to the business. He stressed that customers deserve fast internet connectivity that is safe and efficient and that ISPs need to provide an avenue where they can track their data usage.

This focus on customer empowerment extends to tools like Airtel Uganda’s new Data Manager. Accessible through the MyAirtel App, this tool allows users to monitor data consumption by specific apps, understand usage patterns, and optimize their plans.  Veronica Ssentongo, now the Head of Digital Transformation at DFCU Bank, emphasized the crucial role of such advancements.  She highlights the ability to gather immediate customer feedback, both positive and negative, through online channels.

“This feedback loop, facilitated by the internet, allows institutions like DFCU to fast-track better service delivery,” she said.

The path forward in Uganda’s digital revolution requires a collaborative effort. As Joweria Nabakka, Airtel Uganda’s Customer Experience Director, emphasizes, “customers are urged to explore ways on how they can optimize their data usage to enjoy the best value for their money.”  This highlights the shared responsibility between users and providers.

However, the onus doesn’t solely lie with customers. The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), the country’s communications regulator, has a critical role to play. As the discussion on internet usage continues, the UCC is called upon to leverage its regulatory powers and ensure Ugandans get the best possible service.  This includes holding ISPs accountable for transparent data practices and infrastructure investments that guarantee reliable connections.

In conclusion, Uganda’s internet landscape is a story of immense potential, marked by both the excitement of newfound opportunities and the growing pains of navigating a complex digital world.  As stakeholders – ISPs, regulators, and users – work together to address challenges and build trust, Uganda can truly harness the power of the internet to unlock a brighter, more connected future for all.

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