Local business leaders have decried the low level of penetration and application of ICT among the business community across the East African Community (EAC) saying that this was among the major impediments to doing business in the region.
This was observed Thursday during a dialogue dubbed ICT for Business, which was organised by the East Africa Business Council (EABC) a regional body that brings together private sector associations and corporates from EAC partner states.
The meeting was aimed at collecting views from business owners on the best approach that can be used to fast-track the adoption of ICT in their daily business dealings at the regional level.
Dennis Karera, the vice chairman of the council said that though governments have championed the campaign on ICT penetration and adoption, there has been slow uptake in this area among the private sector across member states.
"We are all aware of the benefits ICT can bring to our businesses from time-saving to being compliant with government regulations like paying taxes on time but it is regrettable that still, you conduct business with someone and they invoice you using a pen," he said.
Karera also warned business leaders, that if they continue to shun ICT, it will be very difficult for their businesses to survive, saying that governments are striving to broaden the market through initiatives like the African Continental Free Trade Area.
"We therefore have no option but to embrace ICT," he said.
Going forward, Daniel Murenzi, the Principal Information Technology Officer at the EAC Secretariat said that they are developing a new approach to ease the adoption and quicken penetration among the private sector because they realized the old approach turning ineffective.
"We are changing the approach because in the past, we have been putting much emphasis on the young people teaching them ICT but we have come to realize that majority of business owners in the region are 50 years and above so now we want to integrate them," he said.
With this approach, Murenzi is convinced that it will change the status quo.
What could be the solution?
Germain Rwibutso, the Chief Executive Officer of Binary Earth a local tech startup, said that entrepreneurs especially those in tech industry have to revise their business models to encourage business operators to embrace the solutions they are providing.
"We as innovators have to rethink our business models if we are to convince business owners locally and regionally to buy and apply our ideas in their businesses because it may be very difficult for them to really understand the benefit of the solution we try sell them" he said.
Rwibutso added that the innovators have to start and offer free services to business owners especially during the piloting phase so that the latter can be able to see what impact the solution brings to their business.
Ben Ruhinda, Senior Systems Officer at the Inter-University for East Africa said that the consumption of ICT will still remain small if areas like skills development are not attended to.
"We have to first close the skills gap by skilling and reskilling both those already in the industry or just entering the industry so they can be in position to develop and create very attractive solutions which business owners will embrace and apply to their businesses.