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More Mobile Phones than Light Bulbs in Uganda

By Wayan Vota on July 15, 2009

Here’s an interesting data point on the growth of mobile phones in Africa – they may already outnumber light bulbs in Uganda.


New Ugandan light blub

This idea started with the cNet article For Uganda’s poor, a cellular connection, where Dara Karr notes that 10% of Ugandas have electricity but 30% have mobile phones, suggesting that mobile phones could outnumber light bulbs.

From there Paul Boutin who asked if this was really true, could mobile phones really outnumber light bulbs? The response from Jonathan Gosier at App+frica gives us more detail.

He points out that in 2007 only between 5% and 6% of Ugandans had electricity, with demand growing at roughly 6% per year. Yet mobile subscriptions stood at 13% in 2007, and demand is expected to double by 2012.

We can assume that people with electricity have more than one light bulb, but people also have more than one mobile phone, and most phone usage is by pre-paid cards, not subscriptions. So from these numbers, I’m confident that the original postulation is correct: there are more mobile phones than light bulbs in Uganda.

Of course, mobile phone companies may have already realized this, what with phones advertised as flashlights, in this photo by Ken Banks of kiwanja.net

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Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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3 Comments to “More Mobile Phones than Light Bulbs in Uganda”

  1. Wayan Vota says:

    Its not only lightbulbs that are falling behind. A research firm has found the ratio for mobile phone and fixed line owners in Ghana is 40:1. 11 million Ghanaians (out of 22 million) have mobile phones

    http://ghanabusinessnews.com/2009/08/08/ghana-telephony-for-40-ghanaians-with-mobile-phones-only-one-has-a-fixed-line/

  2. Simon says:

    that sounds great , even in the most undeveloped nation like Uganda mobile phones has made an impact and they been adapted by the more and more people because of the rising purchase power and also because of the more companies coming in the market.

  3. Anonymous says:

    what difference does it make? it seems like an erroneous association. Is this fact Rather than celebrating the diffusion of mobile phones, or highlighting electricity and “light bulbs” are lacking? Try doing anything in the dark, its not that fun. still it is an interesting nugget of info….cheers.