27th European Regional Conference of the International Telecommunications Society (ITS), Cambridge, United Kingdom, 7th - 9th September 2016
Rwanda was a poor, aid dependent subsistence farming economy when it set itself the goal, set out in Vision 2020, of becoming a middle income country by 2020. Agriculture and ICT were both important pillars in the strategy to achieve the goal. This presentation considers the impact of ICT development in Rwanda, in particular the near-universal reach of mobile phone connectivity, on farmers still gaining their livelihood through subsistence farming, often in remote rural areas. Drawing on interviews of policy makers and implementers, awareness of the impact at the centre of strategic planning is considered. There is surprise at the speed of mobile phone usage – and at the rise of money transfers by phone. The regulatory response and promotion of further technological development in the financial sector, so as to improve services in rural areas is also identified. Household survey data show the importance and different status of phones within the household, compared with other assets. They are more often sold under financial pressure, but they are more often subsequently replaced than other assets. Financial initiatives delivered via mobile phone connectivity in poor countries, especially those with difficult agricultural contexts, clearly have high impact potential, and require further study.