“Hi, I am not in Kigali. I traveled to Gisenyi last night and I shall call you as soon as I reach Kigali,” Daniel tells the other colleague on the receiving end. Daniel is a young man probably in his early 20s. And he is not in Gisenyi because we are traveling together in the same a commuter taxi plying Kigali-Nyamirambo route. We are heading Nyamirambo.
Passengers turn their heads in total bewilderment but Daniel appears not bothered. I am seated next to him. He switches off his cell phone but seconds after, he puts it on.
“How could he lie that he is in Gisenyi yet is in Kigali,” one old woman mumbles quietly in disapproval of the boy’s act.
“These are our children. Our generation is doomed,” she tells another aged man next to her. But before long, Daniel’s phone rings again and it is the same caller.
“Yes, I went to Gisenyi and I am lying. It was urgent and could not notify you. I am sorry dear,” Daniel tells his friend.
“What mobile phones will bring us? Only God knows,” the old woman complained last as she gets off the taxi.
True. Mobile phones are used to tell lies or plot one’s death but to live without one is an imaginable to say the least. People move with their phones and because you cannot trace or see them, they lie about their whereabouts or names.
The use of mobile phones has become part of African culture and demand is also driven by voice as opposed to data. But even if social use is the most common use of phones, perhaps the most important impact of phone use is and enhanced sense of wellbeing.
It also saves time, makes business more dynamic, improves financial management, all of which tend to improve household income and reduce risk.
People conduct their businesses through making calls even in the remotest areas of the country. Like those in agricultural commerce, there is no need to spend on transport to verify about some commodities for purchase.
Long distance way, just a call away spending less compared to the transport costs. That sounds financial good!
People also earn a living through transacting telecommunication businesses. Tuvugane (village payphone) has put positive impact on many lives. Theogéne Bizimana, operates Tuvugane. He earns about Frw5,000 per day on average.
The mobile social features are however taking a dramatic line. People beep or flash or send short messages (sms) all in the name of communicating, partly because of limited credit or fear to convey message or even to minimise their credit. Some phone users go extra mile.
“When I receive beep from my girlfriend as bedtime draws nearer, it’s a sign of good night,” says Jack Nkurunziza, a University student. And with sms, some people send abusive messages.
And for those fearing to talk on phone, it is sent without hesitation because the recipient’s response can only be estimated.
But this has not affected communication. Someone is at home watching TV and responds over the phone that he is in the office.
Even when asked about the echoes in the environment, still another lie said to justify how somebody or things afar are causing the disruptions.
Husbands deny their wives phones for fear of such duplicities even if the phone appears to be a gender neutral tool.
Some people even switch off, or at times refuse to pick-up claiming the network is poor. Low battery or in a meeting are very common.
Then there are those with camera phone, enjoying a different dimension of fun if not dishonesty. Such phones seem to destructing a lot of privacy.
Owners use the phones to take photos of somebody in privacy and pin him for being in a wrong place and at wrong time. Even in instances of negotiating a deal or rumor mongering, recordings are taken since most of these phones possess required function.
Because of the dishonesties associated with mobile phones, phone tracking of owners through their call records is increasingly gaining legality. It is why law enforcements globally rely heavily upon mobile phone evidence.
Another irritating thing. You are in church or attending a funeral but the phone is ringing and this man is speaking loudly. Imagine the irritating ring tone in the middle of a meeting or prayer yet the phone offers silent mode to protect you from such embarrassments.
Mobile phone use while driving is common but controversial. It is against the law in several places and you could receive a citation.
It has been proved that using a mobile phone while driving is an impediment to vehicle operation that can increase the risk of road traffic accidents.
The driver might concentrate on the call ending up making an impaired decision while driving. By the way, you can’t serve two masters at ago equally because you will always have bias on another subject. Days in early nineties, the countries in Africa had very few telephones.
In Rwanda, Rwandatel had connected to only a few offices and within urban areas only. These were only landline phones that are immovable but life was still swift.
Communication to confirm appointments was always based on prior acceptance of the appointment or silence meaning consent. People were not worried about bouncing but acted upon their beliefs in their colleagues.
But in 1945, the zero generation of mobile telephones was introduced but these were not cellular, and so did not feature “handover” from one base station to the next and reuse of radio frequency channels.
It involved a single, powerful base station covering a wide area, and each telephone would effectively monopolize a channel over that whole area while in use.
The technology revolution has come to poor countries via the mobile phone, not the personal computer, as it did in rich ones. Africa’s surge in mobile-phone use is unleashing the same sort of business energy, but tailored to local needs.
But one of the key features driving growth in mobiles is that they are mobile, and inherently suited to remote areas with poor infrastructure.
In addition, the prepaid system of low denomination scratch cards of Frw500 and now of Frw100 is perfectly matched to the economic situation of many Africans.
In recognition, mobiles offer potentially cheap means of communicating, especially through the use of SMS and beeping and the now the per-second billing.