KIGALI, RWANDA - High Internet and SMS costs may slow rolling out Rwanda’s e-soko project, it has emerged. The e-soko or e-market is an electronic platform giving farmers, consumers and traders up-to-date market price information by SMS and Internet.
However, when a team from Rwanda Development Board (RDB) staff and selected media houses visited Kicukiro market in Kigali to assess how traders and consumers are adapting to the technology, some sections of the public protested against the costs, calling them “high”.
These consumers want them reduced. Ms Mary Mukamulisa, a regular shopper at Kicukiro Market appreciates the e-soko platform saying, “The e-market is providing market information thus bridging the information gap to address some of the supply constraints.” “The costs (of SMS and Internet) are high and prohibitive. Many Rwandans will not spend, at such a cost”.
She thinks that compelling them to use only the MTN Rwanda network to send SMS makes it more expensive. “RDB should negotiate with Rwandatel and Tigo to host the same services,” Mukamulisa suggested.
The people enjoying this service are connected to the MTN network. They either send SMS using the 7656 code or access the information on Internet.
The RDB team says they may be forced to break the MTN monopoly by inviting other telecoms players on board.
They also suggested government meets the costs for the next six months until the targeted number is recruited to start using e-soko platform.
Despite the ‘high costs’, latest figures from the IT department, RDB, show that 30,000 farmers, traders and consumers in the country are using the service.
“The project has picked up since we launched it this year,” a team from RDB told East African Business Week.
Encouraging the mass use of e-soko has reportedly eliminated middlemen who take advantage of farmers by dictating market prices.
The ultimate aim is for Rwandan farmers to identify profitable markets in which to sell their produce by sending free SMS and accessing the information on Internet.