Frank Kanyesigye, New Times
March 6, 2013
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) predicts that there will soon be as many mobile phone subscriptions as people inhabiting the planet, with the figure set to nudge past the seven billion mark early in 2014.
According to ITU's 2013 latest global ICT report, by the end of this year overall mobile penetration rates will have reached 96 per cent globally, 128 per cent in the developed world, and 89 per cent in developing countries.
Presently, mobile access rate stands at 6.8 billion with more than half in the Asia-Pacific region (3.5 billion). In Africa its about 700 million subscriptions.
Rwanda's mobile phone penetration rate seems to be improving greatly, as 55 per cent of the population now has an access to the devices.
In December 2012, the mobile phone subscription was at 53.1 per cent, an indication that the penetration has increased by 1.9 per cent within one month.
Latest statistics from Rwanda Utility Regulation Authority (Rura) indicate that out of a population of 10.5 million, a total of 5, 902, 630 Rwandans now have access to a mobile phone.
Mobile applications not only empower individual users, they enrich their lifestyles and livelihoods, and boost the economy as a whole.
Rura statistics show that by January, about 3,454,270 had subscribed to MTN Rwanda, followed by Tigo, a subsidiary of Luxembourg-based Millicom International Cellular SA (MICC), with 1,877,621 and a new player in the market, Indian telecom giant, Airtel has 570,739.
"I thank the people who invented mobile phones and their applications because now I can use my phone to communicate with my family back in Rwamagana without going there," said Louis Karemera, 37, a motorist operating in Kigali City.
He talked of how the phone applications like mobile money have changed his life.
"Whenever I get money I send it to my wife for the family needs like education and other necessities," Karemera added.
Speaking to The New Times, yesterday, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, the Minister of Youth and ICT said government's target was indeed to achieve 55 per cent mobile phone subscription by June 2013, adding that, the target may even be surpassed due to the importance of mobile phone use among the people.
"Mobile phones have transformed our lives greatly, both economically and socially. We can use them for business transactions, emergency care and safety alerts among others," he said.
"We haven't reached where we want to, in terms of penetration in the country, because there is still a challenge of affordability among the local population. All our efforts are geared towards addressing the issue of affordability," Nsengimana explained.
Nevertheless new figures from ITU confirm strong sustained demand for ICT services, with uptake spurred by a steady fall in the price of broadband Internet.
ITU estimates that 2.7 billion people - or 39 per cent of the world's population - will be using the Internet by end of 2013.
Mobile Internet access, however, will remain limited in the developing world, with only 31 per cent of the population projected to be online at the end of 2013, compared with 77 per cent in the developed world.
Europe will remain the world's most connected region with 75 per cent Internet penetration, largely outpacing Asia and the Pacific (32 per cent) and Africa (16 per cent).
"Increased penetration of mobile phone ownership in Rwanda is really encouraging considering the fact that many government and private sector services are delivered over mobile phones. It makes the ideal platform for service delivery in the country," said Alex Ntale, Director ICT Chamber Private Sector Federation.
In the regional countries mobile subscriber base stands at 72.2 per cent in Kenya, Tanzania 56 per cent and Uganda 47 at per cent.
"We have made the most extraordinary progress in the first 12 years of the new millennium...and yet we still have a long way to go," said ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré in a statement.
Mobile broadband is clearly going to be a vital part of the solution, and we must continue to 'mobilise' to ensure that the entire world's people have affordable land, equitable access to the Internet."