Researchers study connectivity in Rwanda through 1 World Connected project
The Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition’s 1 World Connected project analyzes which innovative approaches to increasing internet connectivity are more effective and efficient. In this video feature, fellows Müge Haseki and Sharada Srinivasan discuss the research and fieldwork they conducted in Rwanda on connectivity and its impacts.
Müge Haseki, CTIC Postdoctoral Research Fellow: At the 1 World Connected Project, we seek to understand the empirical impact of internet connectivity on key developmental outcomes using controlled trials. Just recently we went to Rwanda to investigate the impact of internet on outcomes in education, health, financial inclusion, and business growth by conducting three-week long fieldwork across sites that will be connected by Vanu Rwanda, a company that extends connectivity through the innovative use of small cell architecture.
Rwanda’s Vision 2020, which aims toward a digitally empowered community, makes Rwanda an ideal place to study how those efforts would impact the communities especially given 85 to 90 percent mobile phone ownership in rural communities despite challenges to effective infrastructure.
Sharada Srinivasan, CTIC Research Fellow: Our goals in understanding the impact of the internet at the community level led us to collaborate with the Minister of Youth and ICT, who facilitated our fieldwork and data collection efforts.
Armed with extensive knowledge of the context, we went to the field and conducted observational fieldwork, interviews, and service at 31 Rwanda sites.
Haseki: At each site, our point of contact at each site was Akigari, or the Cell Executive, in charge of local government administration, who are key mediators between the community and the government. Akigaris collect data on the socioeconomic status of the communities, called Ubedehe, which would allow us to examine the change in the socioeconomic status of individuals before and after the connectivity.
Connectivity could also help Akigaris with their data collections and dissemination efforts as they are currently using their own resources to get to the nearest internet access point to perform these tasks.
Akigari: The people in the system, is Ubudehe. This network helps us to use it to serve our people in the system.
Srinivasan: For health, we interviewed health center workers in those sites to understand how they’re currently performing their jobs and how the internet can facilitate it. Some health centers spend as much as 20 percent of their budget on transportation costs for e-health reporting to the government. We collected data on their current transportation costs with the goal of doing a cost saving analysis after connectivity is provided to them.
Haseki: At schools, we surveyed teachers to understand their familiarity and use of ICTs in educational context as well as collected data on student performance.
Teacher: The internet helps us to instruct activities in the form of homework and in the form of assignments and classwork. It is very quick, and it is very rich.
Srinivasan: In terms of business growth and financial inclusion we wanted to examine how internet connectivity impacts businesses in rural communities. We learned from the Rwanda Revenue Authority that Rwanda has a unique mechanism that allows payment of government taxes using mobile money and collected data on local government taxes paid by businesses, which would allow us to identify the new businesses that emerge after connectivity, as well as growth of existing businesses.
For instance, it was surprising to find out about charging businesses in rural areas with limited to no electricity, and we are curious to find out how connectivity would impact their demand.
Haseki: We’re excited to start one of the first control trials on the impact of internet connectivity in Rwanda and hope to continue our control trials on efforts to connect the next billion.