January 6, 2023
February 8, 2023

Serving the unserved and underserved sectors of the Ugandan Economy


  1. Context

Uganda is ranked as one of the world’s most entrepreneurial countries. Yet for all its entrepreneurial vibrancy, many sectors of the Ugandan economy remain unserved or underserved by ICT innovations. The country is also bedevilled by low levels of innovation and limited deployment of ICT tools and applications by businesses, particularly in the rural areas, yet, while just over 25% of Uganda’s population live in urban centres, over 75% live in rural areas (UBOS, 2021).

Notwithstanding these challenges, Uganda has initiated projects aimed at bridging this internet gap. However, there remains limited uptake and demand for ICT-enabled solutions and applications, particularly in the countryside and amongst the poorest of the poor, the poor and older sections of the population.

These challenges mean that many sectors and rural communities remain unserved or underserved by government and the private sector. While there’s not a universally agreeable definition, unserved communities are generally defined as sizable groups of people that have been ignored or overlooked by profit-oriented business enterprises, while underserved markets are those where there are few providers who are delivering solutions to those markets’ set of known and unknown needs. Besides solving unmet needs, these unserved and underserved markets present new business growth opportunities for entrepreneurs and businesses that are people-minded and profit-minded. Ignoring these markets has left many citizens economically inactive and unemployed, which has greatly impacted the country’s tax base. It has also led to a high level of economic exclusion because the communities do not have access to knowledge, information, and economic opportunities.


  • Adoption of Technology by SMEs in Uganda

Despite the challenges highlighted above, Ugandan SMEs continue to be the backbone of the economy, contributing about 90% of private sector production, and providing employment and income opportunities for over 2.5million people (UBOS, 2022). In a world characterised by competition and technological change, innovation and ICT are essential for any business that wants to thrive, let alone survive. ICT impacts business competitiveness in terms of customer satisfaction, volume of sales, speed, and market. Digitisation of different sectors of the economy also offers numerous benefits to government, including easy monitoring and backstopping of government initiatives, both at national and local levels.

Because of these benefits, governments are realising that only by supporting businesses to adopt ICT solutions; only by championing digital inclusiveness in the general population; and only by narrowing the digital-divide gaps, particularly between rural, urban populations and social-economic classes, can they influence their competitiveness, and stem off the increasingly fierce competition from regional markets.


  • UCC’s Recent Efforts to Bridge the Digital Divide


According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), there is a positive link between the dissemination of digital technologies at sectoral level and productivity growth. Yet, for millions of people who are unable to connect to the internet, they continue to be unserved or underserved by these innovations.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing measures implemented to curb the spread of the disease, resulted in hundreds of businesses having to adjust their operations to include a digital element, with some seizing the opportunity to innovate and come up with new products and services targeting hitherto “unconnected” communities in rural areas.

As part of the government’s efforts to bridge the digital divide, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has in the past, through the Uganda Communications Universal Service and Access Fund (UCUSAF), used schools’ computer laboratory infrastructure as a platform to provide basic digital literacy skills to the communities around the schools, which significantly contributed to the reduction of the digital divide in the country. Up to 4,000 community members were trained in the period 2017/18 to 2019/20.

UCC also embarked on a digital literacy campaign throughout the country with a goal of equipping over one million informal sector people with the digital literacy skills they need to boost their businesses and improve their daily lives. Close to 10,000 MSMEs were trained under this initiative.

UCC and the Uganda Institute of Information and Communication Technology (UICT) in the FY 2020/21 also collaborated to conduct a training of trainers (TOT) programme involving five hundred (500) participants. The participants were equipped with basic and intermediate digital skills as well as trainer skills. With this training, participants are expected to support the Digital Skilling Programme in communities across the country. Besides, the participants were later used to train a further 5,000 community members. Through the same collaboration, a Learning Management System (LMS) was developed.

During the COVID-19 lockdowns, UCUSAF undertook some initiatives at the border areas, including WIFI hotspots which were established in these areas, to assist in the ease of doing business, easy access to COVID-19 information for its mitigation and to enable local communities access free internet for the various social economic benefits.


  • Proposed Intervention


To build upon these initiatives, and address the country’s ICT bottlenecks, Uganda Communications Commission has made available funds to identify and support brilliant ICT solutions that are innovatively deploying ICT applications to solve societal challenges in the unserved and or underserved sectors of the economy. The funds will support the identification and acceleration of innovations, with the aim of improving business results for participating businesses, whilst bridging the digital-divide between the rural-urban and social-economic classes. The support package includes grants and a series of activities designed to identify and support the successful applications under this programme.


  • Target Areas

It is believed that ICTs are the main enablers that will accelerate the achievement of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the voices of people must be included. Indeed, “the 2030 agenda for sustainable development recognises the great potential of global connectivity to spur human progress. It challenges us to ensure universal and affordable internet access for all”- Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General. The project will be looking to support ICT solutions that are pursuing one of the tenets of the SDGs, NDP3, and the Parish Development Model, but require modest funding to gain traction and scale.


  • Project Key Actions


  1. UCC will provide financial support in form of grants to facilitate successful proposals with potential to impact socio-economically. The successful proposals must demonstrate inclusive ICT solutions that actualize the participating businesses’ growth plans within 24 months.
  2. Grant payments will be milestone or performance based to ensure commitment and adherence to the growth plans, as agreed with the businesses from the onset.
  3. With the help of the partnering institution, the grants will be coupled with a Growth Accelerator[1] programme to help steer the participating businesses through the non-traditional fast-paced transitional challenges.
  4. As well as the deployment of ICT solutions by the successful businesses, the project will create a learning opportunity for UCC staff, empowering them to support the implementation of similar initiatives in the future.



  • Roles of the Implementing Partner (IP) Institution


The IP institution shall be responsible for:

  1. Delivery and providing overall coordination and advisory services for the entire project
  2. Stakeholder engagement and management
  3. Designing a nationwide search and identification of the participating businesses
  4. Judging and overall vetting of the businesses and their ICT solutions
  5. Advising on grant disbursement, and ensuring successful deployment of ICT solutions by the successful businesses, post grant disbursement
  6. Knowledge transfer – create a learning opportunity for UCC staff in supporting the implementation of similar initiatives in the future.

  • Role of UCC


  1. Provide project support staff
  2. Provide financial support in form of grants to facilitate successful proposals with ambitious and inclusive ICT solutions
  3. Leverage its internal processes to manage the disbursement of grants
  4. Support a Growth Accelerator programme to help steer the participating businesses through the non-traditional fast-paced transitional challenges
  5. Create a learning opportunity for UCC project staff in supporting the implementation of similar initiatives in the future
  6. Use its internal Monitoring and Evaluation team to keep track of the project deliverables and immediate outcomes
  7. Provide the Project Support role, including administration, overall management, and technical support to the implementing partner as required by the needs of this project
  8. Support the successful enterprises in rolling out to the targeted communities/markets and facilitating the registration and protection of Intellectual Property
  9. Knowledge management for sustainability of the intervention.


  • Eligibility of Applicants


  • Industry and Academia Criteria


  1. Alliances and collaborations between industry and academia are a strategic and integral part of economic growth in developed countries, mainly due to the ability of the partnerships to leverage the generation, acquisition, and adoption of knowledge. While Uganda is considered one of the most entrepreneurial countries in the world, her innovative capabilities have not been helped by the country’s insufficient exploration and exploitation of university-industry linkages. This is partially responsible for the low commercialisation of high growth and highly innovative start-ups and spin-offs, including within and around universities. To enhance Uganda’s level of technological sophistication, and to move the country into an innovation-driven era, there is need to support start-ups and ICT enabled innovations to tap into the huge reservoir of knowledge in the country’s higher education institutions. To this end, the lead applicant will be a legally established and reputable Higher Education Institution, particularly one that has a track record of supporting high growth ICT innovations, so as to tap into its experience, networks and reservoir of knowledge.
  2. The lead applicant should have a functional Innovation Hub or Business Incubation Centre.
  3. Demonstrate evidence of solid linkages between industry and academia
  4. Evidence of knowledge transfer partnerships between industry and academia
  5. A deep understanding of the Uganda entrepreneurship ecosystem, and its challenges
  6. Membership of bodies supporting the entrepreneurship ecosystem of Uganda and the East African Region
  7. Demonstrable knowledge in entrepreneurship research around business innovations.


  • General Criteria


  1. To address the diverse needs of the programme, it is likely that a solution will be delivered through consortia of providers. The applicant organization (in case of consortia both lead and Co-applicant organization) will assume overall responsibility and sign a memorandum of understanding with the UCC to enforce joint accountability of action.
  2. The applicant organization must be in satisfactory financial health and have adequate financial structures and systems to report to UCC as shall be required.
  3. The lead applicant must have over 10 years’ experience working with SME training of similar nature.
  4. The applicant must have documented experience in mobilizing, coordinating, and delivering similar initiatives at national scale, especially working in rural areas.
  5. The lead applicant must have a clear strategic plan incorporating such projects.
  6. The applicant must have capacity to network and mobilize complimentary resources to sustain the initiative.
  7. The applicant and co-applicant must have an established working relationship spanning at least one year.
  8. Co-applicants must demonstrate complimentary competencies to the applicant.


  • Technical Criteria


The bids shall be evaluated based on the bidder’s responsiveness to the Terms of Reference, applying the evaluation criteria and point system specified below. Each responsive bid will be given a technical score (St).  A bid shall be rejected at this stage if it does not achieve the minimum technical score below.

  1. Specific experience of the provider related to
    the assignment (Experience of a bidder in provision of consultancy services related to sensitisation at national level, and experience of the bidder in undertaking customer engagement campaigns) (50)
  2. Adequacy of the proposed work plan and methodology
    in responding to the Terms of Reference (To include proposed methodology, approach, sequencing of activities, suitability of work plan, organisational and key staff proposed, as well as innovative suggestions and comments to TOR) (30)
  3. Qualifications and competence of the key staff for
    the assignment (To include general academic qualifications, experience of key staff and comparable technical assignments of key staff) (20)
  4. Experience of running national innovation competitions both in Uganda and internationally
  5. Evidence of mentoring start-ups and SMEs
  6. Experience in management of high growth start-ups and high growth SMEs in Uganda
  7. Experience of designing and running innovation bootcamps for start-ups and high growth SMEs
  8. Experience of grant disbursement and management.


  • Preference


Preference will be given to applicants whose Business Plan proposals demonstrate the following:

  1. Clear understanding and experience in supporting innovative start-ups and SMEs
  2. Clear understanding of and experience around SDGs, NDP3, and the Parish Development Model
  3. Clear understanding of challenges experienced by businesses working in the unserved and or underserved sectors of the economy
  4. Experience in running similar competitions that identify and support ICT solutions
  5. Qualified human resource in-house or working in an established and proven consortium to implement the proposed project within the proposed timeframe
  6. Greater innovations in addressing digital inclusiveness in a sustainable manner
  7. Clear financial and material contribution from the applicants over and above the grant amount
  8. Proposals that demonstrate higher value for money.


  • Assessment Criterion


The grant applications will be assessed based on a 3-stage process (Administrative, Technical and Financial) process:

  1. Administrative – focusing on assessment of the eligibility
  2. Technical – focusing on clarity of the motivation, smartness of goals, appropriateness of methodology and project management, feasibility of work plans, innovativeness, and potential impact of the project. Also, qualifications of key staff, ability to meet project priorities, addressing of crosscutting issues and project sustainability capacity to deliver
  3. Financial – focusing on value for money, sustainability, and ability to mobilize more resources to scale the initiative.


  • Risk Assessment


The UCC Assessment Team will carry out a risk assessment of the indicated and non-indicated risks. The assessment based on the risks assessed will consider the totality of an applicant’s submission in assessing whether a potential engagement would involve low, medium, high, or extreme risk to UCC.

  • Required Applicant’s Legal Documents


  1. Certificate of incorporation or registration for the lead applicant providing a legal name –the name that identifies the applicant for legal, administrative, and other official purposes
  2. Memorandum and Articles of Association for lead applicant
  3. Applicant address (physical, postal, email, template, and web site)
  4. Contact person details – the name, position, phone, and email contact for an authorized representative of the Applicant and co-applicants (if any)
  5. Letters of support from affiliated entities or proposed implementing partners if any (co-applicants)
  6. Applicant’s audited financial statements for the last two years
  7. Signed Code of Ethical Conduct in Business for Grant Applicants and Providers – Template provided by UCC.


  • Business Plan Requirements


  1. Project motivation, objectives, and outcomes
  2. Project linkage to UCC strategy and the National Development Agenda
  3. Experience managing similar projects
  4. Project implementation methodology
  5. Project management framework
  6. Project work plans and associated milestones, with clear description of responsibilities for each partner
  7. Project implementation budget with clear allocation of resources to implementing partners
  8. Sustainability approach
  9. Monitoring and evaluation approach
  10. Risk management framework
  11. Integration of crosscutting issues of gender, youth, and digital divide, among others.


  • Application Timeline


The grant application is open effective 23rd January to 13th February 2023.


A pre-grant application meeting will be held on-line 1st February 2023 at 10.00am. Meeting registration and log in details are as below:


After registering, you will receive a confirmation e-mail.


For clarification or guidance on the grant application process, please contact telephone +256414339099 or email


Final applications will be submitted to:


The Executive Director

Uganda Communications Commission

Plot 42-44, Spring Road Bugolobi

P.O. Box 7376, Kampala



Or by email to: and




Personal information supplied in an application will be used by UCC in accordance with the Laws of Uganda.

[1] a support programme that guides to understand components of a business and identifying growth challenges to develop clear goals and a comprehensive strategic implementation-ready growth plan.