Dear Mr. President, why do you insist on manipulating statistics? The problem is getting out of hand. Let me give you the most recent and blatant example. Your newspaper, the New Times dated January 26, 2017, published a front page article titled “Close to 9 million Rwandans own mobile phones.” The article further asserts that
“The number of Rwandans owning a mobile phone has risen, hitting close to 80 per cent in December 2016…”
Mr. President, it is not possible that 9 million Rwandans own mobile phones and I tell you why. Besides poverty (60.4% of Rwandans earn less than $1.90 a day, and 80.6% earn less $3.10 a day according to the World Bank), Rwanda’s demographics show us the following age structure:
• Rwandans aged 1–14 years number 5 million;
• Rwandans aged 15–24 years total 2 million;
• Rwandans aged 25–54 years are 4 million;
• Rwandans aged 55–64 years number 0.4 million, while the number of Rwandans aged 65 and over is 0.2 million;
Mr. President, Rwandan demographics are showing you that the country’s population is overwhelmingly very young – with those aged between 1 year to 15 years numbering 5 million. This means, therefore, that if all the Rwandan adult population (15 years and over) owned mobile phones, the ownership would be slightly over 6 million.
Mr. President, a more convincing argument would be that some Rwandans own several mobile devices for various reasons. This is not surprising because, just as in the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, cellphone ownership has exploded thus leapfrogging landline phones that barely existed in the sub-continent.
So why exaggerate, thus risking embarrassment of being caught as a serial statistical manipulator? You no doubt wish to show that Rwanda has undergone a rapid and spectacular revolution that is transforming a peasant subsistence economy straight into the knowledge-based market.
Mr. President, an information technology revolution requires more that ownership of mobile phone devices. A real transformation would mean serious and sustained investment in Rwandan people that would lead to creation of a critical mass of innovators, engineers, technicians, and entrepreneurs to drive the ICT sector. A mere expansion of consumers of cellphone devices your newspaper is celebrating is no revolution, Sir.
Creating such a critical mass of skilled and competent human capital is what you have miserably failed to do. The August 2016 data from your government agency, Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority, shows that employment in telecommunications sector was 1,238 people, of whom 776 are permanent workers. What a shame!
In conclusion, Mr. President, your actions confirm that it would be naive to believe you are honest about other social and economic data. Thank goodness that your donors compile independent indicators, which your government is either less inclined or unable to manipulate.