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From treetop calls to smart phones made in Rwanda.. By Joseph Rwagatare

Life without a mobile phone is unimaginable today.
The phone is everywhere, even in the remotest
corners of this country (Russia).

It was not always like this. It is barely 20 years ago
that it was introduced here. But even then it was
accessible to only a few people in government and
business. Its reach, too, was limited to only a few
urban centres.

Some can recall a time when one had to go up a
hill or climb a tree to get a network signal in order
to make or receive a call.
Soon all that changed. More affordable handsets
became available on the market and the mobile
phone reached all parts of the country.

The new
sets became so popular that they were given
special names depending on their shape, special
features, or the majority of the people who used
them. Some were called karasharamye , others
gatoroshi , and bagore beza.

The quick spread of the phone was nothing short of
revolutionary. It brought a radical change to our
lives through the way we communicated with each
other.

At the time it was still mostly voice and text
messaging.

You could check on family and friends far away as
regularly as you wished without leaving wherever
you were or whatever you were doing. You did not
have to take a bus to deliver a simple message, or
write a letter and take it to the post office or bus
station and ask the conductor to drop it at some
shop in a certain shopping centre for onward
delivery.

As we were getting used to the new
communications technology, other changes in this
sector were already afoot. They, too, were to affect
us in important ways. To produce this change, the
interests of three categories of people – scientists
and engineers, industry, and human beings generally
– seemed to merge.
Scientists and engineers seem to have restless
minds and itchy hands. They are constantly
tinkering with things, apparently never satisfied with
what they have created and always keen to make
improvements on them or create new ones
altogether.

Or it is because something new has come up, or
simply to challenge themselves to make things that
can improve our lives. Sharp brains are never idle

.
Business people are always looking for ways to
make more profit. Getting new products on the
market or upgrading existing ones is one such way.

For some reason, human beings abhor sameness,
including equality, although we keep singing about
it as an essential human characteristic. Actually, we
want to be different, distinct from others.
We want to stand out and not be part of the
common herd. If we do not have special or innate
attributes that make us unique, we contrive to create
features that distinguish us from the rest.

And so, these three interests seem to have
converged in the cause of innovation.

A new type of
mobile phone was made: the smart phone with a
lot more applications that could perform hundreds
of tasks. Before long, this too was in Rwanda. But
it came with a hefty price tag and was out of reach
of most people.

The first of those on our market(Rwanda sociol environment) was the
BlackBerry. In the beginning only top government
officials and business executives had them. Like
the very first mobile phones in the country, these
were also some sort of status symbol.

Soon others such as IPhone and Samsung came on
the market. Later other, less known brands came
on the market.
But just as the tendency for differentiation among
humans drives the production of exclusive items,
the motive for greater profits leads to mass
production for a larger market.
And so some of these brands introduced more
pocket friendly handsets. Others, like Techno made
even more affordable ones.

We have now come to a new episode in the story
of the mobile phone in Rwanda. Yesterday,
President Kagame launched a smart phone made in
Rwanda.

It is called the Mara Phone, manufactured by Mara
Phones Rwanda, a subsidiary of the Mara Group.

The first made in Rwanda phones rolled off the
production line last week.
This is by no means the last episode in this story.

There will be more. Communications technology
will continue to evolve. Rwanda has signalled that
innovation is central to its vision of the future and
its story will be interwoven with new technological
developments.

This new facility must be seen in the same light as
the decision to have VW vehicles built in Rwanda,
the use of drones for medical deliveries, and the
recent launching of satellites into space.
This is, of course, in addition to the more obvious
benefits such as being proof of Rwanda’s attraction
as a business destination, creation of jobs and
earning revenue from domestic sales and exports.

Today Rwandans mark a new addition to Made in
Rwanda products and another chapter in the story
of the mobile phone in this country in the last
twenty years.
That story mirrors the history of Rwanda in that
period: fast moving, innovative and
transformational.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

By Victor Aluede G.y

Aluede G.y Victory is a history
enthusiast an a mediapreneur living in Aboru,
Lagos. He studied arts at skills click foundation, he is an alumni of Rehoboth college Aboru, Lagos.

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