How much can your lifestyle be transformed in two decades? 20 years ago, there was no social media, most people used office landlines to communicate, you couldn’t use your credit card to pay for a meal or buy groceries at a supermarket.
Sunday Times’ Sharon Kantengwa looks back at our how Technology has changed our lifestyle since then.
Throughout the years, technological advances have walked hand-in-hand with evolving ways of communicating. Dissimilar to today, landline telephones were normally restricted to use in the home, as postal letters were still very popular. Nowadays communication is at the tip of your fingers, literally.
Just by taking a step outside and seeing people’s faces buried in their phones screens will give you a gist of how impactful smart phone technology has become.
We all are somehow connected to social media, Facebook, Whatsapp, IMO, Gmail and can live to testify that this evolvement has brought a whole new meaning to the term; multitasking.
Fiona Kamikazi, a social media enthusiast says the majority of our daily communication takes place via text, since the introduction of interactive communication methods, such as instant messengers and videoconferencing, has increased the amount of communications, but decreased their length.
This means that we are having shorter, snappier conversations, more often.
“Technology has led to the birth of new and cool ways of communicating. I don’t have to go to the studio to get a Photo to send via Post to my family in Canada to show them how tall I am lately, I’ll just take a selfie and that’s it.”
“I don’t need to ask for an appointment to talk to a Minister or even the President of Rwanda, I’ll just open my twitter application and ask anything. This Improvement is visible in many parts of society including business, education, health, personal relationships, she says.
People now communicate whatever comes up instantly, and tend to break up different topics into different communications.
Also with the latest technological innovations spreading in Rwanda, tasks that previously seemed like a pastime are now turning into full-time careers, with some organisations creating opportunities for jobs like social media marketers, online customer care agents and vloggers among others.
The growing ICT industry in Rwanda has created a conducive environment to advance electronic payments in addition to facilitating advanced financial solutions.
As technology continues to deliver instant wins across the country, tech companies have positioned themselves to chaperon the adoption of innovation among local communities to cut cost and foster economic growth with Irembo having most of the government services digitalized.
David Karuletwa, the Chief Operating Officer at RSwitch, Rwanda’s national e-payment switch and driver of the SmartCash Brand believes that Rwanda’s drive to a cashless economy is a story that everyone can appreciate from the richest man to the less wealthy because digitalising the economy has a major impact on their lives in terms of giving financial services.
“We are on the right track because all the banks are connected, and all telecoms are issued with our own debit card and can use it in any ATM in the country as a national switch which allows you to access your funding.”
“When you have cards as one major transaction channel, you automatically reduce cash which is the coat of the economy which brings fraud, embezzlement, so we are becoming less tolerant on fraud,” he explains.
Smart cash being a Rwandan brand using Euro Masterard Visa (EMV) technology, there is a major initiative by central bank, RSwitch and banking community to find ways to propagate more POS locations everywhere like supermarkets.
“RSwitch wants to serve the pan African market not just Rwanda and wants to be a financial service hub and we have linked up east Africa by testing the smart card in three switches in east Africa. Our cards can be used in those countries and vice versa,” Karuletwa says.
Rwanda’s public transport network goes hand-in-hand with its growth. Its major achievements registered in the transport sector include the construction of taxi parks in ten major towns countrywide.
We also continue to see rare cases of traffic jams because of new alternative routes around the city centre.
There are modern buses and taxis that offer round-the-clock, cheap and safe means of transport that allow people to move with ease in both their work and personal life.
Other than road transport, aerial transport has exponentially grown with the national carrier, RwandAir, now operating eight aircraft, with the latest being the airbus. The system allows commuters to electronically pay for their bus fares through mobile money or point of sale devices operated by vendors at bus terminals.
According to Patrick Buchana, the Chief Executive Officer of AC Group, a firm engaged in provision of a cashless payment system for public transport there are more 300,000 active users of the system, with the number going up by more than 7000 a day.
Entertainment is undoubtedly one of the activities or events that have developed over the past two decades. Storytelling, music, dance and drama do not only still exist in our culture, but have tremendously improved for the purpose of keeping the audience’s attention.
Alex Muyoboke joined the entertainment industry many years ago managing popular music artists. He views the music industry as one that has not only improved but also evolved.
“Some of the artists that introduced urban music struggled to gain acceptance but we can say they set the stage for their successors. Live performances have also evolved like it was in the 90s,” he says.
Remmy Lubega, the Managing Director of Neptunez Band attributes this improvement to investment in quality equipment and media’s contribution to promoting entertainment.
“Today we have many local suppliers and regional suppliers who have invested in the equipment aspect to improve the quality of events in terms of sound. Gone are the days when we would get them from other countries. Today we can ably do 3 big events coherently in Rwanda with large capacity, quality equipment.”
“Media plays a big part because if it’s never covered, the demand is not there and the supply will never be of quality. With the coming of many televisions there is an opportunity for musicians to showcase their music and will in the long run create demand making the whole industry vibrant,” he says.
For legendary folk artiste Massamba Intore, the fact the artists can now stage international music festivals and concerts is proof enough that the industry is moving in the right direction.
Rwandan music is doing wonderfully, and although promoting our music still remains a challenge, it does not deter us from reaching the rest of the world through our participation in festivals and concerts,”
Currently, Rwandan designers are placing the country on the global fashion scene with their designs being showcased in New York, Paris, Geneva and other fashion capitals of the world.
John Munyeshuri who runs Imena Modelling Agency, and Kigali Fashion Week, has literally been in the heart of the global fashion and modelling industry with participation in New York, Paris, Dakar, Johannesburg and the U.S.
He explains the growth of the fashion world in Rwanda in relation to the international fashion community.
“The international community is catching up with Rwanda as one of the fashion hub. When we started the Kigali Fashion Week, even the media was not interested.
Before then, fashion was entertainment but now it’s about entertainment, business and entrepreneurship. We have come up with a business concept that people can do fashion and have buyers and create other avenues and make fashion sustainable.”
“We have models that have gone international and are representing Rwanda which is a good sign. Because the more of them that we have, the more people we will get who are interested in business,” he says.
He adds that producers in the industry have to step up their marketing skills if they are to go a notch higher.
“Although we have many more designers, Made in Rwanda designs are still on a small scale because we don’t have big industries. The government is doing its part in supporting us, but it’s up to the producers to market their designs to attract international companies,” he says.
With the ban of second hand clothing, many designers anticipated a bigger local clientele. Joselyne Umutoniwase of Rwanda Clothing says this has not been the case as her clientele is still the same.
“Second hand clothing is fading away. Although this should be giving us ground to freely market our clothing, I haven’t seen the change that we all longed for. My clients have remained tourists and foreigners. It might be too early to judge but I hope that Rwandans can learn appreciate their local designers more,” she said.