Divided We Call: Disparities in Access and Use of Mobile Phones in Rwanda

Joshua Evan Blumenstock, Nathan Eagle


This article provides quantitative evidence of disparities in mobile phone access and use in Rwanda. Our analysis leverages data collected in 901 field interviews, which were merged with detailed, transaction-level call histories obtained from the mobile telecommunications operator. We present three related results. First, comparing the population of mobile phone owners to the general Rwandan population, we find that phone owners are considerably wealthier, better educated, and predominantly male. Second, based on self-reported data, we observe statistically significant differences between genders in phone access and use; for instance, women are more likely to use shared phones than men. Finally, analyzing the complete call records of each subscriber, we note large disparities in patterns of phone use and in the structure of social networks by socioeconomic status. Taken together, the evidence in this article suggests that phones are disproportionately owned and used by the privileged strata of Rwandan society.


ICTD, mobile phones, CDR, call detail records, phone survey, Rwanda]

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