Harriet Nakkungu, a businesswoman based in Namataba town in Mukono district had for over 12 years, desired a smartphone to boost her business but she could hardly afford one due to the high cost of genuine smartphones.
Last year, her odds changed following a partnership between MTN and fintech platform M-KOPA. She was able to secure a smartphone that she could pay for slowly, for 12 months.
Additionally, she gets free mobile data from MTN during the one-year smartphone financing period.
“I always wanted to post my business on social media platforms to get more customers but I didn’t have a smartphone,” Nakkungu recalls.
Now equipped with a smartphone and free MTN data, she is able to share her work with a wider base of customers.
“Every time I install glasses, I post photos of the work on my WhatsApp groups for my friends to share with their contacts. Within four months of doing this, I got over 20 customers through WhatsApp alone. Within a year, I will get even more customers,” says Nakkungu.
Beyond the availability and affordability of data, digital inclusion requires access to internet-enabled devices that enable people to connect to the internet in order to enjoy the benefits of being online and to use technology confidently to improve their day-to-day lives.
For many people in Uganda, smartphones, which are the most affordable internet- enabled devices, remain unaffordable.
Only one third of the population own smartphones, leaving a huge gap to be filled as the country embarks on a digital inclusion journey.
In a past interview, Ali Monzer, the MTN Chief Technical, and Information officer noted that Smartphone adoption will not only improve the network experience but also improve people’s lives as well.
“We understand that the devices pose an affordability challenge; that is why we started our device financing program to avail affordable devices with ease, just to push the user to experience higher technology,” Monzer said.
Brenda Nambalirwa, the M-KOPA Uganda spokeswoman says: “Stories like Harriet’s emphasize the success of the partnership and the importance of accelerating smartphone penetration in Uganda to close the digital gap.
“By applying affordable payment terms to 4G devices, customers instantly connect to a world of services that improves their everyday lives and also create opportunities to boost their income,” Nambalirwa says.
Like Nakkungu, many people have been able to turn around their lives by harnessing the power of the internet.
So far, over 100,000 smartphones have been sold through the MTN and M-KOPA partnership with several thousand smartphones sold through other partners.
MTN has also partnered with companies such as Tecno and itel to support smartphone customers with free data for up to three months as a way of supporting them to connect to the internet with ease.
Additionally, MTN has over the years worked with manufacturers to sell internet-enabled devices such as Kamunye and Kabode devices with the aim of narrowing the digital gap in the country.