Mobile telephony makes inroads into rural DRC

By Issa Sikiti da Silva, in Kinshasa, DR Congo

Mobile telephony continues to make its way – slowly but triumphantly – into the rural areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), improving the lives of millions and bringing ICTs at the doorstep of the less fortunate communities, where poverty rate stands at 76%.

To date, Vodacom Congo appears to be leading the pack in this aspect, with more than 1000 cities and villages currently covered by its network in this Central African nation.

One of its recent rural projects is the coverage this year of the village of Basoko, in the Oriental Province, about 1 300 km north-east of Kinshasa.

Basoko resident Nafisa Bilinga, currently visiting her extended family in the capital Kinshasa, told Biztechafrica that mobile telephone has changed the lives of many in that city and throughout the province, as communicating with the outside world was no longer a hassle as it is used to be.

“All you need now is a device and a sim card packed with units,” Bilinga said proudly.

However, certain operators have done more than facilitating their rural users to just send SMSes or making phones calls. This is the case of Airtel DRC, which launched a health service called ‘Airtel Santé Info’, an innovative service that helps callers to consult a medical doctor – or put it simply to seek medical advice – over the cellphone.

 In an under-equipped country such as the DRC where rural patients have to travel thousands of miles to get to a make-shift clinic, the service is said to have helped many rural folks to know instantly which bug is eating their bodies.

“From now on, the mobile phone will act as a relay in real time between doctors and their patients,” Airtel marketing manager Eddy Kapuku said at the launch.

One only needs to dial 3535 to get access to the service.

In the East’s war-torn areas, mobile telephone is also proving to be an effective tool for helping millions of displaced populations to rebuild their lives.

Care International conducted Umoja Plus and Ujio Yetu, two pilot mobile money projects, in the rural cities of Masisi and Lubero, in association with the Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry, UK’s Viiv Health and Airtel DRC.

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