The power of citizen journalism

On Friday this newspaper published an article titled “exposing the ugly underbelly of Kigali’s popular hangouts.” The story brought to light the filth and mix-up common with washrooms of the most frequented hang outs in the city characterized by dysfunctional toilets, stench, congestion and in some instances males and females sharing rest rooms.

On Friday this newspaper published an article titled “exposing the ugly underbelly of Kigali’s popular hangouts”.

The story brought to light the filth and mix-up common with washrooms of the most frequented hang outs in the city characterized by dysfunctional toilets, stench, congestion and in some instances males and females sharing rest rooms.

What quickly becomes clear in this article is that most of these establishments look flashy on the front, yet in a sorry state in the back yard. It’s more like window dressing.

The proprietors are seemingly bent on making profit, minding little about aspects like hygiene and sanitation.

Unfortunately, such scenarios are a common occurrence, but many times go un-reported, unless the mainstream media — newspapers, radio and television pick interest in them.

The general public, the consumers of services from these places, need to understand that such poor customer care tendencies will never come to a stop until each of us makes it our responsibility to expose them.

This doesn’t seem so difficult especially in an era of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

There is no need to always wait for the country’s leading newspapers, television and radio stations to get involved, so the issue is given due concern.

More of us need to emulate people like Johnny Kayihura, a customer at a Nyarutarama-based hotel, who last month raised a complaint on Twitter about the filth in the hotel’s changing room at the swimming pool. Apparently, clients had endured the filth in the changing room for long until one of them picked the courage and posted it on Twitter.

The tweet was followed by a photo of a room filled with a collection of seemingly dysfunctional gadgets.

The ServiceMag, a service-based publication, retweeted the post wondering if ‘Na Yombi’, a campaign by Rwanda Development Board aimed at improving customer service, and the City of Kigali still conduct hotel inspection. This drew the attention of Rwanda Development Board’s chief operations officer Clare Akamanzi.

She instantly tweeted back, saying “We will check it out immediately.” Indeed, a few days after, the Na Yombi account replied the same tweet, indicating that they had given the hotel one week to clean up the mess that had been identified.

Though there have been a lot of improvement in customer service, especially in public sector institutions like Rwanda Revenue Authority and the Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration, according to Sandra Idossou, publisher of The ServiceMag, a quarterly magazine which conducts annual customer service satisfaction surveys, the private sector still lags. This is especially in terms of the quality services customers pay for.

And this can only change if administrators of institutions and firms know that they risk being ‘named and shamed’ if they provide sub-standard service. Since no firm needs to be trending on social media for failing to hit the bar as far as providing good service is concerned, they will definitely comply. And only ordinary social media users like us can ensure things change by engaging in citizen journalism.

People need to understand that getting good services is a right, and therefore should not only bring to light the culprits but also notify concerned authorities if necessary.

By doing that we do not only improve service delivery, but also save millions of francs the country would have lost.

While RDB is occupied with aspects like sensitizing and training employees all in an effort to improve service delivery, as citizens we should help it play the watchdog bit, just like Kayihura did.

However, we could also try to talk to managers of the institutions/facilities found wanting about the need to fix their mess. The naming and shaming should therefore come as a last resort when other options have failed.

Together, we can help build the services sector that indeed proved to be the biggest contributor to the country’s economic growth.

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