The New Times (Kigali)

28 August 2012

Rwanda: 6 Billion Mobile Subscribers - How It Affects You

The global mobile phone penetration has improved greatly, according to a latest World Bank report, which says that more people worldwide have access to mobile phone than clean water, a bank account or even electricity.

The 2012 edition of the World Bank's Information and Communication for Development Report, says some six billion mobile subscriptions are now in use globally.

In Rwanda, statistics indicate that about 45 per cent of Rwandans now have access to a mobile phone.

Phones are arguably the most ubiquitous modern technology in some developing countries, it says.

Mobile applications not only empower individual users, they enrich their lifestyles and livelihoods, and boost the economy as a whole.

Claude Mutangana, 42, a mobile phone vendor at Star Phones says every day he sells approximately 10 mobile hand sets, which means that Rwandans are actively embracing the use of mobile phones.

"Over 50 clients visit our shop, even though not all buy, it motivates us to operate the business because we find it very attractive," he noted.

In a country of about 11 million people, over 4,619,429 have access to mobile phones and the number is expected to shoot up to 6 million by December this year, according to the Rwanda Utility Regulation Authority (RURA) projections.

Most Rwandans are connected to sector giant (MTN Rwanda), followed by Tigo, a subsidiary of Luxembourg-based Millicom International Cellular SA (MICC), and a new player in the market, Indian telecom giant, Airtel.

"Before we consider the use of mobile phones, we should look at a broader way of ICT usage in the country. Like how many Rwandans access TV's, radios, internet, and mobile phones as well," said Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Minister of Youth and ICT.

"About 45 per cent of Rwandans now own mobile phones, 6.3 per cent of homes have access to TV and 10.8 per cent have access to internet among others."

Nsengimana emphasised that mobile communications offer major opportunities to advance human development from providing basic access to education, agriculture or health information to making cash payments and stimulating social cohesion.

"We shouldn't look at mobile phones as a technology; instead we view them as a solution to social and economic challenges." He added that, the government's target was to see as many Rwandans as possible accessing ICT applications.

"This is very encouraging because it eases development process in terms of communication, when it comes to business transactions and social cohesion," he said.

Mobile communications make phones immensely powerful as portals to the online world.

A new wave of applications and 'mash-ups' of services, driven by high-speed networks, social networking, online crowd sourcing and innovation, is helping mobile phones transform the lives of people in developed and developing countries.

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