Rwanda: Using Mobile Applications to Ease Business Processes

Digital Content

With technological advancement, businesses no longer have to spend huge sums of money on adverts to reach out to clients. ICT firms are now able to build and avail mobile applications to help businesses reduce unnecessary transactions and communication costs.

Innocent Kaneza the CEO of ESICIA, a Kigali-based ICT company, says mobile applications are appealing to most business people since they are cost-effective and can reach many clients faster.

"Mobile applications allow companies to have an unprecedented level of connectivity with clients because of the prevalence of mobile phones. Real-time communication with clients is easing business processes, and makes clients feel valued," Kaneza says.

He adds that the applications are not solely marketing or public relation tools.

"Corporations and businesses are using them to cut communication costs. For instance, when insurance companies need to remind clients of pending processes like insurance policy renewals, it is cheaper to use bulk SMS than calling or writing to each client. A technology company can build applications which generate texts to all its clients," Kaneza says.

Government institutions like the Police and Immigration Department have not been left out. Provision of services has been made easier with the timely communication.

Bulk SMS (short message service), where the system generates similar text messages to multiple recipients (mostly in thousands), is the most common application. Such applications are ideal, especially for government agencies, fundraisers and businesses like event organisers, clubs, financial institutions, schools, lobby groups and wholesalers.

According to Kaneza, banks have so far been the quickest to adapt and by far greatest benefactors. "It is convenient for their clients. When there has been any transaction on a client's account, the system generates a text message to notify the client... that way, there is little chance of fraud since an account holder is updated on every debit or credit," he explains.

Moussa Habineza, a 24-year-old CEO of a software developing company, KHENZ, explains that when adopting the applications, companies and businesses need not change their working systems or mode of operation since the applications are tailor-made to be compatible with an organisation's system. "We ensure that the application will not disrupt previous working systems of an organisation," Habineza says.

Other than building and availing the applications and mobile solutions, technology companies train information technology department holders of companies buying the applications. "When a technology company installs the application, they train some staff and are only called back for system upgrades, support and maintenance," Habineza notes.

He also points out that mobile applications commonly referred to as bulk SMSs are not only for corporate or big businesses. "They also come in handy for event organisers and planners or fundraisers (for invitations)." A study by a consulting firm, Strategic Growth Concept, showed that 97 per cent of mobile subscribers read SMSs within 15 minutes of receiving them and 84 percent of them respond ( take action or plan to take action) within an hour.

Other than SMS based applications, also available is USSD (unstructured supplementary service data), which makes it possible for real-time inquiries through access to the server and gives instant feedback. However USSD is expensive and only used by mobile service providers for balance inquiries or loading airtime.

Though in the picking up phase, Kaneza says his company does not spend a lot of resources in advertising or creating awareness using mobile applications. "Our work is mostly marketed by word of mouth or out of a client's need to position their company to benefit from the applications," Kaneza says.

The web developers predict a bright future for Android applications and other web-based applications. "Right now the smart phone penetration is only about 2 per cent in the country. However, once it hits around 10 per cent, companies will begin to shift to Android applications," Habineza says.

As attractive and convenient as the applications and solutions may seem, introducing them has not been without challenges. "Some corporations may consider them as unnecessary expenses since they have been in communication with their clients before the introduction," Kaneza explains. Developers also say most clients are not sure of what they require.