Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Surveying the Streets of Kigali

This morning, the BBOXX team divided its efforts between finalizing a patent application for its BB5 (Mansoor), negotiating the final parts for its upcoming BB25 with various Chinese industrials (William), overseeing production of electrical circuits (Chris), and seeking out marketing/printing outlets in Kigali in the hope, one day, of boasting a billboard on one of the city's main arteries (Laurent and Fabien). 

After lunch, we decided the time had come to begin our very own marketing research on Rwandan soil. Statistics about Rwanda's energy and cell-phone markets are very difficult to come by, as Laurent and Fabien experienced after talking with Kigali's Bureau of Statistics. We have yet to find the right contacts with Rwanda's two main cell-phone operators, MTN and Tigo. Similarly, enquiries at Rwanda's electricity and water provider have, so far, yielded little results. 

At 3 PM, William, Laurent and Fabien thus set out with a list of questions regarding cell-phone and energy use in Rwanda in the hope of reaching Kigali's marketplace to survey the local population. They were accompanied by Sylvie, BBOXX's maid, cook and good friend, and by her sister Clémence, both of whom served as much-needed translators (Kinyarwanda being the local language) in this expedition. 

The first hiccup came from our car: about three hundred yards out, at the nearest roundabout, smoke started billowing from underneath the hood and even - to our horror - inside the car, from behind the steering wheel. After we'd stopped, the car would not start again. So while Laurent and William waited for help, Fabien, Sylvie and Clémence walked over to the nearby strip mall and began asking around for participants. 

Very soon, a compact crowd had formed around them, and everyone - men, mostly, with only two or three women - seemed more than eager to participate. In less than an hour, we interviewed 25 people (our goal being a sample of 150). The truth came out later, however: Sylvie and Clémence had been telling participants that BBOXX, in return for survey answers, would soon offer free electricity, and even mobile phones. A bold lie, that we agreed not to use again.

Our initial results confirm what we'd heard all along: out of 25 participants, only 3 did not own mobile phones. Yet 11 interviewees did not have electricity at home and relied, to charge their phones, on neighbors and communal charging stations. This discrepancy between cell-phone usage and access to electricity, mind you, was registered in Kigali: it is without a doubt much higher outside of the capital. Which is why tomorrow BBOXX will survey a rural village in the Minazi sector (North); next week Fabien, Sylvie and Clémence will be hitting the Kigali suburbs. Expect a full account of our findings soon! 

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