August 7, 2017 3:50 pm
Burundi is a nation currently undergoing an identity evolution. Since 1961, the Burundian population has increased fourfold, making it the eighth fastest growing population on Earth. Burundi usually appears in the press by virtue of its troubled past, but with over half its population being under eighteen years of age, the world should have hope for its future. The new generations born in the 1990’s and 2000’s are very different from those born in the afterglow of its colonialist past.
Therefore, shared knowledge is crucial to ensure that this new generation of Burundians are able to build a new future for their country. What is lacking from Burundi today is the means through which the shared knowledge can quickly and steadily propagate. The statistics from 2016 clearly state that only 1.5% of the Burundian population has Internet access. This is not surprising since there are only a handful of Mobile Operators providing Internet access in Burundi.
Internet adoption would definitely have a positive impact on productivity and economy and increase opportunities especially for the younger generations. However, the high cost of buying Internet-enabled devices is an impediment to the Burundian population. As a result, they cannot access the wealth of knowledge available on the Internet. So, what can be done to bring positive change in Burundi?
Spreading knowledge with SMART Burundi and ONEm
SMART is a much needed innovator in the Burundian market. Since its establishment in 2014, it has built a country wide 3G network, offering data at affordable prices. Recently, SMART Burundi made a strong move on the market, and partnered with ONEm. ONEm provides a platform that bridges the gap between Voice, SMS and data, while allowing the distribution of Internet content without Internet. The range of services offered by ONEm are diverse: from Wikipedia, Reuters news to in-line translation, English dictionaries and group instant messaging.
The use cases of ONEm for the Burundian population are numerous. Students in a small village in the Karuzi province can access international news or Wikipedia by simply sending an SMS to 355 from a SMART SIM card. Workers at Brarudi, the country’s largest brewer and soft beverage company, can communicate with each other in SMS groups through the ONEm platform. And this is only the beginning. The SMS interface offered through the partnership between SMART Burundi and ONEm is more than just person-to-person communication; it becomes a terminal of activity that can be used to further knowledge and communication and shore up the limited accessibility of the Internet to the Burundian population.
Mobile subscriptions are growing in Burundi today to more than 1 million new subscribers each year. Therefore, an opportunity is arising to be able to reach the youthful Burundian population. Because of the SMART Burundi and ONEm partnership, for the first time, valuable international content can fall into the hands of millions of potential entrepreneurs and educators, all using just SMS alone. Imagine the wealth of knowledge that can now circulate in Burundi and be used to improve education and the quality of life.