The name Martin Cooper means to the telecommunication world what Neil Armstrong means to aerospace missions.
On April 3, 1973, Copper, an employee of Motorola made the first wireless phone call, an action that went down in history as the beginning of the end of the over reliance on fixed telephone landlines for communication.
Forty years down the road, mobile telephones have become a must-have piece of technology for both the rich and poor, and as a matter of fact, they are now used as a measure of poverty in every society.
It is a lucky generation we live in indeed; at an advanced age of 84 Cooper has witnessed the phone revolution not only blanket the world so fast, but also wrap itself around Rwanda, where the rate of mobile penetration has been impressively high.
According to the third Integrated Survey on Life Conditions, the percentage of Rwandan households with at least one mobile phone skyrocketed from 6.2 per cent in 2006 to 45.2 per cent in 2011 from.
In Kigali alone, mobile phone ownership per household was recorded at 79.6 per cent in 2011, from 33.2 per cent in 2006, represented by a growth rate of 46.4 per cent within five years.
Yet due to the multiple services offered on mobile phones, their penetration is no longer the most interesting feature, but the correlation between their use and poverty reduction.
Experts on the subject believe that owning a mobile phone must go beyond simple communication but tactically serve the purpose of improving individuals’ quality of life.
More than just calls
“Mobile phones have become central to commercial exchanges between business clients through which they receive bids, payments and also alert the unemployed of job offers. They can certainly become a tool for poverty reduction in Rwanda and other less developed countries,” Kezio-Musoke David, the head of Public Relations at MTN Rwanda says.
Kezio-Musoke believes that mobile phones should not be relegated to basic services like communication but be explored for the more complex but innovative services they can offer, like SMS banking and mobile money.
Cooper was, yesterday, honoured with the 2013 Marconi Prize, recognising his contributions to the world of telecommunications.Follow https://twitter.com/RushAfrican