Nestled within The Innovation Village is a major organ that profoundly supports its core work. The office, filled with big computers perfectly planted in front of some of the best tech and data minds in the country, is key to assisting this ecosystem which has made it its life’s purpose to grow innovation in Uganda.
“All the latest innovations in the world are based on technology. If innovation is our business, we cannot do it without tech,” Wilson Kiggundu, Tech and Data Team Lead, says.
The thirteen experts on the team spend their time working in roles as data scientists, project managers and software engineers. Right now, an exciting project is brewing within the department. The team is working on building a virtual ecosystem that will provide linkages between developers and clients. The platform, now known as MyVillage app, will ease the relationship within the innovation ecosystem.
In charge of this project is Yashmin Mafabi, the android developer on the team.
“It is a challenging task but a good kind of challenge. The whole point of this platform is to provide linkages. People can sign up, create profiles and get a myriad of opportunities,” Mafabi says.
While Mafabi is creating something for the people to use, Regina Nnakasolya, a project manager, is directly working with the people running these projects. As a project manager, Nnakasolya coordinates the work on the various projects within the department and ensures that the team delivers timely as promised.
For her, this kind of job is work made interesting. “Having to work with people means that you must be diverse in your approach because of how dynamic they are,” she says.
Beyond Nnakasolya lies a huge task for the team including providing critical technologies to the community. The driving motivation is increasing the number of developers in Uganda.
According to the 2020 Google economy report, there are 11,000 developers in Uganda serving a population of 44.7 million people. The population is obviously underserved. The team is acting on this information and consciously implementing ideas to increase developer numbers.
This feeds directly into The Innovation Village agenda of creating 100,000 jobs. Working on a partnership with Google to get a scholarship for engineers and building capacity through events such as Tech Connect, Women in Tech series, Developer’s Fest, it is likely desired developer numbers in the sector will grow.
With technology evolving every other month, networking opportunities such as Tech Connect remain essential for the community to catch up on trending technology topics, data science and the gaps at hand.
The team has also imagined a time when Ugandans embrace local content as they seek talent that builds them the next big tech solution. Platforms built by the team like Tukole, an application that connects blue collar workers to their customers are already testament to what Ugandans can do.
“A lot of Ugandans in need of developer services reach out to developers across borders for services. They may go to India in search of developers yet there is local talent at home. We need more people calling us and asking for developers,” Kiggundu sums up the reason to prioritize building the developer community.
According to Kiggundu, the team has the unique ability to foster growth in small, medium and large enterprises through its software engineering services. This takes scanning the Ugandan context for problems that can be addressed using software solutions. The actual fix for the team is designing Enterprise Resource Packages for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). This means that SMEs can log on, self-serve and run their businesses efficiently. That is one place to see an opportunity for innovation. For the team, data is another place.
“So many businesses have systems that have collected a lot of data, but they are not utilizing it.” Kiggundu says, “What the tech and data team does is help businesses not only collect data but also find insights into that data. Besides this, they provide education on data privacy and storage.”
In a growing economy whose businesses lean more towards digital platforms for sustainability, there is equally a need for experts to support these business needs that will lead to their success. However, as digital platforms continue to grow, the question of data and its handling becomes unavoidable. These digital platforms need to be managed with the consciousness of the data protection laws in existence. Departments like Tech and Data are available to raise awareness of the existing data regime and the laws that govern it. The data department supports it by building infrastructure that helps the community follow regulation.
In regards to data, Kiggundu cautions startups on data sharing and advises that data is shared only after explicit consent to avoid violation of laws. He interests startups in enforcing good privacy measures, clear consent processes supplemented by good storage infrastructure. Businesses are also encouraged to engage data and technology experts to ease their understanding of the implications of any breaches.
The ideal future for this thirteen-member team is simple. The team hopes that its legacy will be a vibrant ecosystem with tech experts who have the ability and competence for any engineering or data challenge as well as helping businesses to build solutions that speak to their processes.