Saturday, December 17, 2011

Civilized HOA in Rwanda

Home owner associations (HOA) in the US are formal legal entities created to maintain common areas, developments; they have the authority to enforce deed restrictions. Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&R's) are issued to each homeowner, and HOAs are established to ensure that they are adhered to in order to maintain the quality and value of the properties involved ( guide).

I have only one HOA experience in the US. That HOA had regular meetings where the home owners of the development discussed matters related to the neighborhood. For example, they may discuss security questions or landscaping criteria, traffic control in the neighborhood. These meetings were often the occasion for some people to vent their frustration in a not so polite manner ending sometimes in verbal fights. Usually a few people in the neighborhood would really take actions to improve life in the development. Most would never do anything and often those were the ones screaming at the meetings.

Here in Rwanda, we don't have official HOAs. Instead every last Saturday of the month, everyone in the neighborhood is invited to participate in community services in the neighborhood. This is called Umuganda and happens in the entire country. The services can be different things: cleaning a section of the common areas of the neighborhood, planting trees, etc. At the end of the service, there is a meeting where the head of the neighborhood is sharing information and where everyone can present topics for discussions. What strikes me is how these discussions are "civilised" and how everyone listen and respect each other and how practical decisions result from these meetings.

Clearly this blog posting is based on a non statistically valid experience based on one HOA in the US and one in Rwanda, but I just wanted to share it with you...

See ya later alligator...

Another interesting use of ICT in Rwanda

When I applied for the green card in the US about 15 years ago, the only way to know about the status of my application was to call a 1-800 number provided by the immigration services. As far as I remember I was never able to speak to someone - I mean a real person not a computer - by calling this number. I only knew that my green card was granted when I received a postmail saying so. I'm now an American citizen and did not try this service since then.

As I now live in Rwanda I had to go through a similar process to obtain a working visa in the country. Clearly the number of working visa applications in Rwanda cannot be compared with the number of green card applications  in the US, however I'd like to share with you how it happened.

When I provided all the required documents at the immigration services of Rwanda, they provided me with an ID number that I could use to track the progress of my application online. But even better, when my visa was ready I received an SMS on my mobile phone saying so as you can see on the next screen shots.

The same way, my bank is sending me an SMS everytime a transaction is happening on my account. When I go to the bank to cash a check, my mobile phone rings announcing that an SMS message is waiting for me even before I leave the bank. The SMS tells me the amount of the withdrawal that just happened and the balance of my account. My wife who is sharing the account with me receives the same message at the same time. Some may not like this last function!

Many businesses here have integrated SMS functions in their customer services. As a customer you can choose to get that service or not.

See ya later alligator...