Early last week, the first ever report on Uganda’s developer community was released, sparking a conversation about technology and the state of those who form a large part of the sector’s labor force.
Named the 2021 DevScape Report, the survey that reached 1288 developers is done by Uganda’s entrepreneurship ecosystem builder, The Innovation Village under its Tech and Data department. The report offers the most up-to-date insights into developer numbers, gender distribution, trending technologies, affiliation to hubs as well as work experiences. It is now expected to change Uganda’s developer landscape in the years to come.
One of the leads on this project, Technology Community Manager at The Innovation Village, Solomon Opio says in order to carry out any meaningful work in the technology community, the department needs to be guided by data.
“We cannot continue running the tech industry blindly. The Developer Survey will help us understand the tech ecosystem. It highlights the gaps in the sector and how we can close them. It is a guide to the solutions we need to offer the Tech community,” he says.
The full report is 51 pages but we have summarised the key findings but the report can be downloaded here to understand the realities of this tech community.
What The Innovation Village found out
- The number of developers has steadily increased with a steep rise in the last 5 years.
- 79.5% of respondents are based in the central region.
- 74.3% of developers are below the age of 30.
- 23.1% of Developers are female
- 63.1% code in a professional capacity and 48% are full stack developers
- 52.13%, 59% of these at The Innovation Village
- 64.9% of developers hold bachelor’s degree and up to 60% have an online certification.
- 53.1% are Full-stack Developers
- Over 85% of the respondents are hungry for knowledge.
- Only 30% of developers are in full-time employment and the majority earn less than Shs1m.
Opio attributes the employment trends to a lack of experience that employers are looking for, which ties into the statistical fact that shows the majority of Ugandan developers having less than five years of experience.
These insights reveal not only the landscape of the developer ecosystem but also the direction in which key stakeholders in the innovation ecosystem can go.
At The Innovation Village, the information from the survey is already informing initiatives that are going on in the Tech and Data department.
On bridging the gap between male and female developers, Opio says the department has put in place tech events that strictly cater to women. One of these events is the Women In Tech series, which has revealed that women in tech prefer to have their own skilling and community spaces as opposed to being in unisex spaces. With this discovery, he believes that the gender gap will narrow as the department’s programs for skilling and mentorship will be built with gender sensitivity in mind.
In regards to employment, Opio says that it won’t be long before the 30 per cent figure of developers in formal employment increases, especially with the establishment of My Village platform where tech talent will meet jobs. At the moment, Tech Startups are the ones still enjoying the lion’s share of developer talent consuming 47.7 per cent of it while only 7 per cent of developers work for the government. Opio says this disparity is not because of an absence of jobs, but rather a disconnect between talent and opportunities. With platforms like My Village that provide more visibility, other entities like the government will have a one-stop centre from which to shop for talent, and more developers will get into formal employment.
The survey’s illustration of a young developer population and their prefered forms of learning, interests and knowledge gaps will be used to inform the nature of programs that are designed.
According to the Tech and Data department at The Innovation Village, technology hubs offer the resources that are most in-demand by the developers like job linkages, online courses and networks. This is in relation to the feedback showing that Tech hubs are lacking in areas that are crucial to developers, these being, the lack of job opportunities, better career growth plans and free online study material.
Opio says there is already work being done by places like Refactory, which at 23.9 per cent, was found in the survey to have the second-highest number of affiliates in the developer ecosystem. Other hubs can benchmark some of the work being done to fulfil the developer needs.
Employers are also urged to take note of the age of the average developer and their experience and provide support in form of structures, mentorship and flexibility to multitask so as to get the best out of them.
The fourth recommendation is towards academic institutions and other stakeholders interested in skilling to enable young developers to access online learning material following the evidence from the survey that young developers find this to be more helpful than a traditional degree.
Lessons to note
Opio says the insights from the 2021 DevScape survey is a gold mine for any stakeholder in the innovation ecosystem and he hopes that the results will be used to inform efforts towards skills development, employment and innovation.
During the launch of the report last week, a lot of questions were raised on how more women can be encouraged to join the community, hiring more young people into jobs and ensuring they can thrive in those positions.
In her opening remarks, Mastercard Foundation Digital Economy Lead Renitta Nabisubi said opportunities can be harnessed to create dignified jobs for Ugandans now that barriers have been broken by technology. However, she was concerned about the low contribution of women in technology.
“Once we manage to overcome the mindset change and get into tech, we need to understand the other barriers that are not enabling them to give them the platform to do their best. This report helps us understand the challenges so we can focus to empowering young women. Being able to access a work opportunity from anywhere at any time, helps to bridge that gap that many women face because they have conflicting responsibilities,” she explained.
In a panel discussion, experts from the tech sector expressed excitement about the changes in the sector and the opportunities to come. The takeaways?
“What has been lacking in our education system is our ability to teach people how to solve problems because when you know that, then you can choose the tool to use. As we recruit, we emphasise that one should have ten years of experience and we are saying the narrative should change so that we look for people who can solve the problem whether they have two or three years of experience in coding.” Wilson Kiggundu, Chief Technology Officer, The Innovation Village
“If we want to keep women in technology, we need to improve the wellbeing of the workspace for women so that it is more attractive for them to stay. Women need to try and have the relative skills needed to stay relevant and also become aggressive enough.” Joannah Nanjekye, Developer IBM Canada and Director Python Foundation
“ICT is such a hot potato for us as government. My mind instantly goes to what we are doing to attract the youth and what laws we have in place to enable them thrive. We have pushed a law allowing government jobs below a certain amount of money going to local developers. We still struggle to get entities to take on local solutions for different reasons such lack of certification and right skills. We have a big role to play as government to ensure local developers have a fair chance at this.” Rowena Turinawe, Business Transformation Manager at National Information Technology Authority-Uganda (NITA-U)
“There are so many opportunities to fund training centers like Refactory so that we close the gap and mismatch between skills needed and skills developers have. Self-learning is great but if you don’t have a professional training background to that, it’ll be quite hard for you to navigate the field.” Lyllian Nakasujja, Operations Manager at Refactory Uganda
“Everyone is trying to increase the number of women in tech through training but no one is making the environment safe for women. Please be supportive to the people. To the people hiring, be considerate to the young people in this field.” Viola Nuwaha, Head of Talent at Tunga
With the DevScape Report now available and the perceptions about the sector understood, it is now a matter of time for ecosystem players to work together to address issues such as skilling, low remuneration and access to advanced technologies to enable developers reach their full potential be it in agriculture, education, health, business support, security, trade, energy or even governance.