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Digital Technologies Could Help Uganda’s Economy Recover Faster

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Uganda’s real gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2020 is projected to be between 0.4 and 1.7% compared to 5.6% in 2019, according to the latest edition of the Uganda Economic Update released by the World Bank today. 

The report, “Digital Solutions In A Time of Crisis” shows the economy has suffered from the triple shocks of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) related economic and social disruption, a locust invasion and floods. Up to three million Ugandans could fall into poverty due to economic hardship and a lack of alternative means of survival. 

Global and local restrictions in the movement of people and goods and provision of services to contain the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in lower consumption, loss of jobs and a 43% reduction in remittances. Due to a sharp drop in tax revenues, Government has also been forced to borrow much more to continue providing services to Ugandans. 

Uganda, however, remains at low risk of debt distress based on the April 2020 joint World Bank-IMF debt sustainability analysis. With total debt service (interest and principal due) expected to average around 55 percent of government revenues over the next three years, there is a need to cut back on non-priority spending in order to provide essential public services such as health, education, water and sanitation and electricity. 

A more widespread pandemic could pose significant risks to the outlook, as well as any further significant locust invasion. Weak economic growth in the post COVID-19 period will continue to reduce overall consumption and commodity demand. In addition, crude oil prices are expected to average $35 per barrel this year and $42 per barrel in 2021. Although this will limit external inflationary pressures for import-dependent Uganda, these prices are below the estimated breakeven price of $60 for oil production in Uganda. This could negatively impact Uganda’s prospects of becoming an oil producer within the next four to five years.

The increased use of digital technologies during the COVID-19 lockdown such as mobile money, on-line shopping, on-line education, digital disease surveillance and monitoring, and dissemination of public health messages shows the great potential to support faster economic recovery and strengthen resilience against similar shocks. 

“The digital space in Uganda is very 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,” said Tony Thompson, World Bank Country Manager for Uganda.

The report points to the current national ID system as one of the successes of technological advancement, which can be leveraged to support more efficient e-government systems and authentication by the public and private sectors while expanding financial inclusion, strengthening social protection delivery, supporting immigration control and refugee management. 

While Uganda has made reasonable technological strides, the analysis notes that it still lags with a phone penetration rate of 69.2% of the population, far below the average of 84%for Africa. There are gender and geographical gaps in access; for example, 46% t of female adults have access to mobile phone compared to 58% of male adults. Similarly, adults in urban areas are more likely to own mobile phones (70%) and have access to the internet (25%) compared to adults in rural areas (46%own phones and 5 percent have internet access).

The economic update makes several recommendations for the economy and ICT sector, including implementing supportive policies and regulation, review of taxation in the digital economy, leveraging technology to support the health sector and economic recovery through increased digitalization of agribusiness and manufacturing, expansion of social safety nets, and transparency and accountability of government’s response to COVID-19. It also recommends the development of a coherent strategy of ecosystem support and catalyzing regional and global integration of Uganda’s digital economy.

“There are areas of the economy that have shown resilience in the current crisis and by leveraging digital technologies are inventing new ways of operating and doing business,” said Richard Walker, World Bank Senior Economist for Uganda.

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Modernizing data collection enhances resilience of statistical offices in times of crisis

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A virtual UNECE workshop concludes today in which experts on surveys, censuses and alternative data collection methods have revealed their brand-new learning about the best ways to maintain core data collection, and collect newly-demanded data, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The need for statistics isn’t put on hold during a national or international crisis—in fact demand increases, as decision-makers rely on numbers to guide their next moves. National statistical offices (NSOs) are experienced in maintaining business continuity in the face of adversity, be it hurricanes, earthquakes, civil unrest or political upheaval. But never before have so many NSOs had to deal with a situation that has placed such enormous and wide-ranging restrictions on their ability to collect data. The businesses that provide economic and labour force data have been closed; the staff that conduct surveys and analyze data have been locked-down in their homes, with new staff hired and trained online; survey-takers and respondents have had to observe new and changing health protection rules such as social distancing and wearing personal protective equipment; and supply chains have been disrupted for the basic items needed to gather data, such as paper for printed questionnaires or tablets for electronic data gathering.

Maintaining essential data collection

From the very beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the official statistics community has recognized how crucial it is to maintain data collection. Users of official statistics, from banks to businesses and from politicians to school pupils, still expect to be able to look up basic figures such as GDP, population, migration, unemployment. They expect these figures to be reliable and comparable with those they used before the pandemic. And they expect them to reflect the new realities of the current situation, such as current unemployment and earnings figures.

Presenters in this week’s UNECE workshop outlined the lengths they have gone to to keep gathering data. In Mexico, the pandemic struck as the country’s census was underway. New social distancing rules meant some census enumerators had to call out questions to respondents through their windows. In the Netherlands, an online portal was developed and tested at speed to gather data from businesses without traditional surveys. Ireland, Italy and Poland have employed a variety of techniques to communicate with respondents to secure their vital responses to surveys, from sending postcards and handwritten notes to increased use of telephone calls. Discussions revealed that the more advanced an NSO was before the pandemic in their move towards modern modes of data collection (electronic devices, Internet responses, video interviewing and so on), the easier it was for them to make the changes required by the Covid restrictions.

Collecting new data to measure new phenomena

The world has changed in countless ways since the onset of the pandemic. Responding to these changes requires information about things that previously were not measured—or at least not by national statistical offices. NSOs have found themselves at the centre of nationwide efforts to collect, coordinate and disseminate statistics on the virus itself—cases, tests, hospital admissions, mortality rates. And new survey questions or whole new surveys have sprung up across UNECE countries to gather data about the impacts of working from home and school closures on mental health, gender-based violence and unpaid care work; the economic fallout of business closures and furloughs; and the envionmental impacts of reduced mobility and industrial activity.

Examples showcased in this week’s event included new questions on covid impacts in Finland’s Consumer Confidence Survey; and new modules in a plethora of surveys in Poland on science, technology, culture, tourism and civil society. In the United Kingdom, a Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey was developed and conducted every two weeks starting in early March.  

Long-term impacts on data collection

The UNECE programme on modernizing official statistics has for close to a decade supported countries in making a transition to using new modes of data collection, new data sources and new methods for integrating data from multiple sources. For many NSOs the pandemic has accelerated this transition, forcing the hands of cautious offices where the alternative may have been to stop collecting data altogether. The pace of change has been rapid, with one participant stating “we have had a greater impact in six months than in our whole careers so far”. While the panoply of new tools, techniques and statistical products may in time settle as the pandemic runs its course, the steps taken across the UNECE region in the direction of statistical modernization are undoubtedly permanent.

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World Bank Supports Digital Connectivity in Haiti to Build Resilience

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The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved today a US$60 million grant from the International Development Association (IDA) for the Haiti Digital Acceleration Project. This financing aims to increase access to broadband services in Haiti and establish the foundations of digital resilience to respond to health, climate and economic shocks.

“The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the essential role that digital technologies play both during and after crisis. More widespread and affordable internet access could make Haiti more resilient to future shocks,” said Anabela Abreu, World Bank Country Director for Haiti. “The World Bank is supporting Haiti to increase access and affordability of digital services, while building the necessary skills for digital literacy. Increased broadband connectivity can help drive innovations and new industries that create jobs.”

The lack of affordable and reliable internet connectivity is a key constraint to inclusive growth in Haiti, as only 35 percent of the population has access to broadband internet. The Haiti Digital Acceleration Project will address key bottlenecks to digital development, and help develop the digital economy as a driver of growth, a stronger recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, and the ability to more effectively respond to future shocks. Given the potential for the project to enable better connectivity and digital services, it is expected to benefit the entire population of Haiti.

One of the key project activities will include technical assistance to help develop strategies and regulatory tools to promote competition in the digital infrastructure and services market. The project will also better prepare individuals and businesses for the jobs and economy of the future through the development of their digital skills. This includes opportunities particularly for women, girls, at-risk youth, and the rural population to access skills training. The project will also provide equipment, broadband, and software for the public administration to improve the efficiency of service delivery and the modernization of the Haitian Government.

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What Cloud Business Solutions Will Enhance Your Enterprise?

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Running a business can be a challenging process, especially when you are looking to grow your business in the near future. But with cloud storage improving, this could be the next big step for your business at this time. In this article, we will be providing you with insight into how a cloud-based storage solution can benefit your business.

Enhanced Collaboration

When looking at cloud business solutions it is important to look at how investing in this form of technology for your business can provide both short term and long-term benefits. One of the biggest benefits that can come from this is the enhanced collaboration with everyone in the business. Whether this is a secure phone system or a collaborative workspace for teams to work on and store files to the cloud, this is a huge benefit that can aid in the growth of a company.

Reduced Costs For Your Business Regular Upgrades For Free

Another benefit that comes from cloud-based storage is the reduction in costs for your business. By paying just one payment per year or several monthly fees, you are gaining access to your own part of the cloud for all your business storage. This can be either public-facing, private or a hybrid of both, this is the perfect way of reducing costs for your business as you are not paying for multiple servers or even storage space within the office to keep paper versions of your files. This is ideal as this can provide you room in the office whilst ensuring that all your files are safe.

Easy Levels Of Scalability

Another aspect you want to consider when doing anything for your business is the scalability is can provide to your business. With several different packages out there, you can ensure that your cloud storage solutions grow with your growth as a company. This can be done by upgrading the package and ensuring you have the storage space that you need. This can be changed multiple times to accommodate your business as a whole regardless of whether you are a large or small corporation.

Reduction Of Carbon Footprint

As shoppers are becoming more eco-conscious than ever before there has been a huge surge in the number of businesses looking to bring down their carbon footprint and cloud storage can help them do exactly that. By using storage online, you are not only reducing the amount of energy being used from servers, but you are reducing the amount of paper you are using to print off and file important information. This is great for your business in the long term and can make you more appealing to potential customers in the future as you bring down your carbon footprint.

With this in mind, there are several ways that you can continue to use cloud-based business solutions to grow your business over time and create a profitable storage solution for your growing company. Will you be using this in the long term?

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