Does Uganda have more cellphones than light bulbs?


It's in some cases stated that there are more smart phones than light bulbs in Uganda - where did this idea come from, and is it true?In 2009, journalist Dara Kerr blogged about Uganda as "a place where cellular phone might surpass light bulbs". This seems the very first time such a comparison was made.It's worth noting, however, that in her post for CNet technology publication, Kerr only said that this could be the case. In time, as people have repeated the concept, the word "might" seems to have actually been lost. Now it's frequently stated as fact - even by Vodafone.

"The first time I became aware of this was at the e-learning conference in Kampala in 2014," says Ugandan attorney, Gerald Abila. "This interested me." So he chose to find out if it was true and started collecting statistics.According to the Uganda Communications Commission there are 22.6 million mobile phone numbers signed up in the country.But that doesn't indicate there are 22.6 million phones - it just shows the variety of Sim cards, says Calum Dewar of GSMA Intelligence, a research study group that provides mobile phone information.


The number of Sim cards is "not an excellent measure of mobile usage or ownership," he states. It is "above 100 % of the population in lots of nations and it's actually above 200 % in some".In Uganda's case, people who own a mobile phone have, generally, 1.5 Sim cards, he says. They are switched in and out of phones to take advantage of deals on various networks.With that in mind, Dewar believes the number of mobiles in Uganda is most likely to be closer to 16 million.

Next, Abila looked at light bulbs. The Uganda National Household Survey 2012/2013 exposes that the country has 7.2 million families, of which 14 % use electricity for lighting - so approximately one million homes have electric lights.There's no data on how many bulbs every one might have though, so Abila needed to guess.

He presumed there was one light bulb in use for each person in these homes. According to government information the average home has 4.7 people, so for ease Abila rounded this approximately five. That provided him an overall of five million bulbs.So utilizing these figures it looks as though there are 3 times more mobiles than bulbs in people's homes.

In comparison, in 2011 there had to do with 600 million light bulbs in British homes and at the end of 2014, there were 89.9 million UK mobile memberships.Abila admits his calculations for Uganda are rough and his figures do not include bulbs in workplaces, airports, stations, vehicles, shops, universities, dining establishments, or other companies.However even if his quote for bulbs is doubled from five million to 10 million to aim to enable this, the variety of mobiles still appears to be greater.With so couple of concrete figures though, it's probably best to stick to Dara Kerr's original remark - Uganda is a place which could have more mobiles than light bulbs.

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