Mobile Phones in Rwanda

This week we discussed the use of mobile phones in developing countries. We read this article about how fishermen in India used their mobile phones to predict demand and anticipate which types of fish would be in demand. While reading more about this topic I found this article also from the ITID Journal that discussed how mobile phones impact “microoentrepreneurs” in Rwanda. Rwanda is one of the most underdeveloped nations in the world but even in this difficult situation in Rwanda mobile phones made a difference. Microoentrepreneurs are people who start businesses with 5 of few employees. In the developing world one household may be the site of multiple microenterprises. My article discussed the story of a baker in Kigali who credited his purchase of a mobile phone with the rapid expansion of his business. He claimed, “business increased 30% due to the mobile, so much so that he had been able to move his family into a larger more comfortable home.” Since buying his phone customers can call him to place orders, he can call his suppliers to buy materials, he can take orders from all over the city and not only his neighborhood, as well as constantly communicate with this employee. He has also been able to expand his business into wedding cakes orders, which are phoned in from throughout the country.

His mobile phone had the added bonus of allowing him to keep in close contact with his wife and children while at work.

Mobile phones expand the market place and make business owners better able to respond to the needs of their area. Microoentrepreneurs, like the baker in Kigali, can save time by calling suppliers and customers rather than having to visit them in person and increase productivity by expanding their customer base by taking phone orders.

There are countless uses for mobile technologies in the developing would but better technological infrastructure needs to be created to fully utilize all the possibilities of mobile technologies.

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2 responses to “Mobile Phones in Rwanda

  • jboleky

    From a economic perspective their seems to be a “critical point” at which mobile phones become saturated enough within in a population, that they become a “necessity.” An example of this would seem to be India’s fishing population where it seemed almost everyone had a phone. This is great because it means the system transitions from giving people phones to the private market providing them. However this point seems to be influenced by two major things, the demand for the technology, which we have already seen NGO’s and other groups can help foster. The second thing is the governments support for this sector in terms of infrastructure and other things, which we just looked at in our country ICT policy paper. I was wondering what tools can these NGO’s and other groups use to help to persuade governments to actually implement and support this sector. Obviously organizations like the world bank have this power, but i wonder if there is any way a smaller group can have this impact? If anyone has any relevant ideas or links, feel free to respond and post. Or just thoughts?

  • chesneyhardin

    I agree with the views presented in the previous post. And would this “critical point” also cause more stratification? If the government or local NGOs don’t step in and help support this sector, only the businesses with enough capitol will be able to invest in mobile phones. Then these businesses will continue to do better while the struggling ones may begin to lose business to the more efficient competitors.

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