Looking back: How ICT influenced business this year

The year 2013 will be one of the defining periods for the local ICT sector, to borrow words of one of the people who are deeply involved in the industry from its nascent stage.
Local ICT sector players on a market search in the Republic of Congo. The ICT industry looked to widen its reach and extend its tentacles into the region to benefit more from their....
Local ICT sector players on a market search in the Republic of Congo. The ICT industry looked to widen its reach and extend its tentacles into the region to benefit more from their....

The year 2013 will be one of the defining periods for the local ICT sector, to borrow words of one of the people who are deeply involved in the industry from its nascent stage.

The information and communication technology (ICT) sector has made huge strides this year strengthening the country’s efforts to become a regional ICT hub. One of the key highlights of the sector was hosting of the Transform Africa Summit 2013 in October.

Also small-and-medium enterprises started an initiative to expand their market horizons into the region and beyond. On this front, local ICT firms, software developers and innovators went to the Republic of Congo and later to Bangkok in search of markets and opportunities.  

This made them the first sector to seek business opportunities in Congo Brazzaville following the signing of bilateral agreements between the two countries to establish partnerships and create business opportunities for both countries.

Both market studies were organised by the ICT Chamber at the Private Sector Federation.

The sector has also evolved greatly as an enabling industry that has had great influence on a range of businesses in the country. One of the enabling innovations, E-Soko, scooped a global award at the International Arch of Europe Award for its outstanding quality data prices that has helped farmers and buyers access daily commodity prices in the market.

E-Soko is an electronic platform that gives farmers, consumers and traders up-to-date market price information for commodities using mobile phones.

ICT role in easing business processes was also felt in the mobile money services arena, when Airtel and RSwitch launched ATMs where airtel money subscribers can withdraw money. This is the first of its kind in Rwanda, cementing ICT’s role as an enabler of business transactions across the country.

It is ICT that provided business with a platform to reach their clients for marketing purposes and for interactive purposes to improve customer services. Through web-based and SMS platforms business are now able to reach their clients with ease informing them of new products and existing offers.  Electronic payments and billing machines were some of the other ways in which the local ICT sector continued to played a part in easing business processes and making them more efficient.

In the agro-market, a mobile phone-based technology, MFarm, that enables input dealers to determine the amount of fertilisers required by farmers in a given season was introduced. It also helps dealers in stock-taking and accountability.

Rwandans were also introduced to new technology that uses mobile phones to verify whether the product is fake or genuine during the Information and Communications Technology Summit for Agriculture in Kigali in November. The two innovations will ease planning and weed out fake input dealers. 

Challenges still abound

But as the sector makes strides, it emerged that there are a few things bogging its progress down.

It emerged that most developers work in isolation and without consulting their target clientele. As a result, they end up with products that do not solve the problems of their clients.

Lack of finances was also a major challenge for most of the start-ups, the majority of which by fresh graduates. They claimed that they attract few potential investors to fund their projects.

Another big challenge was the lack of business skills on the part of the start-up owners. Though they have the right technical skills, most of the young entrepreneurs fall short in business skills which, in turn, affects the packaging, branding and marketing of their products.

Experts in the ICT sector said that can be fixed by proper mentoring and the incorporation of business studies in ICT courses.

If the turn of events and progress in the industry are anything to go by, the ICT sector is one to watch in the coming year.

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