Rwandatel taps into start up firm to develop local applications

They represent Rwanda’s bold attempts at being  an ICT hub of the region. The fact that they are final year ICT students churning out latest mobile phone applications, through a start up company, puts them in a class of their own.
The Hehe Founders at KIST Lab (file photo).
The Hehe Founders at KIST Lab (file photo).

They represent Rwanda’s bold attempts at being  an ICT hub of the region. The fact that they are final year ICT students churning out latest mobile phone applications, through a start up company, puts them in a class of their own.

The start up company, known as Hehe Ltd, has been taking head on, established players in the industry and collaborating with major developers regionally and internationally, in the field of mobile phone local applications.

Rwandatel bosses, perhaps, seizing the opportunities that stiff competition has been offering within the local telecoms industry, has tapped into Hehe Ltd’s application expertise for the purposes of generating local content that is so crucial within the data market.

Hehe Ltd was formed after a group of 5 students at Kigali Institute of Technology (KIST) won a competition that was organized by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Africa Information Technology Initiative (AITI). Led by final year student, Clarise Iribagiza Karungi, as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Hehe Ltd is curving out a niche within the mobile phone local applications in Rwanda.

“We are impressed by the initiative of the founders of Hehe Ltd to apply what they learnt in the MIT training to open their business. This is concrete application of classroom experience to the real world.

“In this case, we are talking about the world of applications development for mobile telephony, an area we believe is the next frontier in our business,” Gbeu Tia Florentin, Rwandatel’s new Chief Commercial Officer(CCO) told Business Times.

He added that Hehe Ltd’s moves show that the telecom firm take seriously its responsibility to enable people use their mobile phones as a lifestyle device.

“These applications have been developed by people who understand the local market and have brought that local knowledge to the relevancy of the applications on the menu.

“Google maps is nice but Google maps without the cost or available mode of transportation is limited. And that is the value of Hehe Ltd,” the CCO added.

He  adds that the uniqueness of Hehe is in the relevance of its applications to the local market.
Ordinarily, the telecoms company says that it offers generic applications on its  simcards with services like news, sports, religious quotes, currency rates or similar services that  enable  music downloads (which now includes a lot of local artists).

But Hehe has extended such offers to other areas.
“With Hehe, your mobile phone is now a major utility tool where one can access Global Positioning Systems (GPS) that are found in rental cars.

“This is available to every phone with basic Short Message Service (SMS) functionality. With no requirement of having a smartphone, Hehe Ltd has essentially enabled us reach every subscriber with a variety of services,” Florentin added.

Hehe Ltd’s partnership with Rwandatel also includes the development of web enabled yellow pages known as “Niyoboza”, a product which can loosely be translated to mean “find your way”.

“We are using the readily available resources such as the Rwandatel directory as a data base.
“With a smart phone you can access the map for Rwanda where you can pin point, with accuracy, any location,” Hehe CEO, Clarise Iribagiza Karungi, said.

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