Rwandan President Paul Kagame says his government sees broadband as a means to address its development challenges. He was addressing a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, on the question: “why broadband should be prioritized in the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals.”
The Rwandan government reports that President Kagame outlinedd Rwanda’s commitment to the use of ICT for transformation: “People used to think that broadband is meant for a few people and cannot be accessed by the majority. We have found that with the right investments, we can make it accessible and affordable. People are now able to use ICT for health, education and to access markets for their agricultural products. The results speak for themselves in every part of Africa.”
As co-chair of the Broadband Commission, President Kagame also thanked the broadband commissioners for their dedication to increasing broadband accessibility.
ITU Secretary General, Ahmadou Toure explained the goals of the Broadband Commission as essential to sustainable development. “Our goal is to put broadband at the centre of every national agenda. We want to use broadband to achieve millenium development goals and address global challenges including youth unemployment, climate change, and environmental sustainability. We are part of the solution and not part of the problem.”
Reminding those present that ICT must be part of a wider context that includes good governance, President Kagame emphasized the role of ICT in ensuring that citizens have access to information: “My hope is built on one thing. Giving the majority of our people ICT tools means they will be able to face their challenges.”
President Kagame added that broadband is an opportunity to share knowledge in a mutually beneficial manner:“It is important to understand that there is no part of the world that has monopoly of knowledge or best practices. That is the beauty of the globalized society we live in.”
Rwanda will soon be among the few African countries to link every corner of the country when it rolls out the first ever 4G LTE broadband network in the region.
LTE (Long Term Evolution) is a wireless broadband technology designed to support roaming Internet access via cellphones and handheld devices.
The $140 million project, to be rolled out over the next three years by the government in partnership with KT Corporation, South Korea’s biggest telecommunications provider, will see the whole country linked to a fiber optic cable.
Its launch coincides with Transform Africa, a continental ICT and innovation summit that takes place in Kigali from October 28 to 31.
Seven African presidents and more than 1,500 delegates from all over the world are expected at the summit to discuss how Africa can overcome its connectivity and ICT challenges.
The presidents who are expected to attend include Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda — who will also be in Kigali for their countries’ Infrastructure Summit on October 28.
According to Rwanda’s Minister for ICT Jean Philbert Nsengimana, the country is today ranked among the “most connected” countries in Africa.
The 4G LTE network will be the final phase to deliver the “last mile” of connectivity after putting in place all the other infrastructures needed, including linking the whole country to the fiber optic backbone. The project will connect 95 per cent of Rwandans.
“Six years ago, African leaders met in Kigali for the connect Africa summit to find means of addressing the digital divide the continent was facing. At the time, only five per cent of the population had mobiles but today 65 per cent of Rwandans own mobile phones,” Mr Nsengimana said.
Connecting all citizens
“Today, when we meet in Kigali for Transform Africa, the question will not be how Africa will be connected but rather how this infrastructure can reach the final person,” he added.
Africa’s biggest challenge remains linking population to available ICT infrastructures as well as the high cost of making phone calls.
Rwanda and other EAC member states are among the countries where making a single phone call is more expensive than in any other part of the world.
The issue of affordability of telecoms and data will be one of the key issues to discussed at the Kigali summit this week.
The Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) has signed an agreement with the Ministry of Youth and ICT aimed at enhancing Information and Communication Technology.
Under the agreement, KOICA will construct an ICT innovation centre in Kicukiro , Kigali. The centre will be a major step in the Information Technology front in the entire East African Region, according to officials.
The agreement was signed on Wednesday by Rosemary Mbabazi, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Youth and ICT, and Sang Chul Kim, the resident representative of KOICA.
The centre, which will be constructed late next year over a period of 24 months and will cost $5.6 million, will be under Rwanda Development Board’s IT department.
Speaking at the ceremony Kim said, “This agreement is another significant step for the friendship between Rwanda and South Korea. This is the 50th year of our friendship. So we had to move it a step further by starting this important journey as well as helping Rwanda move further towards its Vision 2020.”
KOICA affirmed to continue its support of the ICT development in the country with a plan to put up other IT centres around the country to help rural youth access information.
“This signed document represents another milestone for ICT in our country,” Mbabazi said.
Upon completion, the centre which is targeting 78 per cent per cent youth will be a major leap for the ICT industry.
“It will also help in job creation and give more exposure for the youth in the country. Not only will it be good for the urban youth which is our main target but also for the rural youth,” Mbabazi asserted.
The ceremony was a culmination of a six months survey by a Basic Design Survey Team (BDST) that consisted of members from KOICA and officials from RDB who took a Kigali-wide research to determine the essential tools and strategies which were necessary for the commencement of construction of the centre.
Kigali — Today, Microsoft launched its 4Afrika initiative in Rwanda. The continental initiative was set up by Microsoft to actively engage in Africa’s economic development to improve its global competitiveness.
According to Microsoft, the goal of the 4Afrika initiative in Rwanda is to disseminate affordable smart devices built specifically for Africa which will encourage application development by Africans for Africans.
The initiative will also run an education platform aimed to develop technical and entrepreneurship skills as a means to improve employability especially for young people.
According to Patrick Nyirishema, Head of ICT Department in Rwanda Development Board, the Government of Rwanda has identified two lead programs for possible collaboration with Microsoft within the 4Afrika initiative.
There is Viziyo program which is designed to increase citizen-access to smart phones and the Smart Village program built on the concept of replicating digitised model villages across the nation as a means to achieve Rwanda’s goal to become an ICT driven economy.
Speaking at the launch of this initiative, the Minister of Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana indicated that tremendous opportunities abound in Rwanda’s ICT industry.
“Technology is now becoming a driving force behind numerous aspects of national development and we cannot afford to be left behind. I believe a lot can be achieved through collaboration, consultation, and smart private-public partnership.
We welcome Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative and we know that they are committed to developing innovative ways using the power of technology to help transform social and economic progress in Rwanda,” he concluded.
The growth of information communication technologies will increase employment and boost the country’s competitiveness and economic growth overtime,” Jean Philbert Nsengimana, the youth and ICT minister, has said.
Nsengimana added that this would also ensure provision of quality services and products. He was speaking at the launch of Techno Brain, an international software development company, at Umubano Hotel in Kacyiru, Kigali on Tuesday.
A modern IT laboratory, with fully-equipped ICT infrastructure, was also unveiled during the event.
Yvette Uwineza, the Techno Brain country manager, said the facility was one of the efforts by the firm to contribute to the country’s growing ICT sector.
The firm, which started operations in June last year, employs 20 Rwandans and is expected to recruit over 100 more in the coming months. It recently won a tender to train the Rwanda Development Board staff in ICT use.
Rwanda’s ICT landscape has evolved greatly in the last 10 years, especially after the laying of the fibre optic cable and the introduction the National Data Centre and e-governance services, as well as the rise in mobile telephony penetration.
The International Telecommunication Union 2012 report ranked Rwanda as one of the developing nations with vibrant ICT markets, along with Bahrain, Brazil, Ghana, Kenya, and Saudi Arabia.
Rwanda will be one of the top 10 fastest-growing economies in the world this year even as it braves challenges presented by aid cuts.
Last year, Germany, the US, Britain and the EU suspended part of their budget support for this year over allegation that the country was helping M23 rebels in the DR Congo
The Economist, in its latest report on global economic trends for 2013, indicated that Rwanda’s economy would grow at 7.8 per cent this year, making the country the ninth fastest-growing economy in the world and the second-best in sub-Saharan Africa.
In the global ranking of what it terms as ‘the top growers’, the paper has Mongolia, with a projected growth rate of 18.1 per cent, on top of the list followed by Macau at 13.5 per cent. Libya leads in Africa at 12.2 per cent. In sub-Saharan Africa, Mozambique is projected to register the highest growth at 8.2 per cent, with Rwanda, which is seen growing; at 7.8 per cent, on its heels.
This projection echoes that of the economic planners at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.
The Economist termed Rwanda’s ranking, along with other star performers of the world, as part of a ‘more cheerful segment’ of an otherwise gloomy global economic outlook.
The newspaper also lauded Rwanda as one of the countries that have made tremendous progress over the last 10 years, enabling it to transform its economy towards a service-oriented one.
While reacting to the report, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) acting chief executive officer, Clare Akamanzi, affirmed that the country would this year achieve or even surpass its medium-term plan economic objectives.
“Rwanda’s economy has been on track, growing at over 7 per cent annually; therefore, the fundamentals for achieving this target are already in place. That is why analysts at The Economist and others rank Rwanda highly,” Akamanzi said.
The RDB Chief added: “What is most important for us is to increasingly build our economy’s competitiveness to attract more private sector investments. This is a key input for economic growth. ”
A Ministry of Trade and Industry 2012 preliminary economic performance review shows that the country’s investment rate (the per cent of investment to the gross domestic product – GDP) reached 25 per cent, surpassing the 21 per cent target set earlier.
Another key fundamental was the growth of exports that reached $429m, higher than the $344m targeted. The robust growth of the tourism sector was another factor.
The sector raked-in $263m in the 2011/12 period, exceeding the earlier target of $244m. This was also reflected on strong growth of Rwanda’s services sector.
Although the Central Bank had pegged the inflation rate at 7.5 per cent, it was contained at a commendable 4.6 per cent. Rwanda, The economist noted, achieved a “hat-trick” of rapid growth, sharp poverty reduction and lessened income inequality.
“Because of this, many donors were reluctant to stop or reduce aid, whatever the arguments that came up over the eastern DR Congo saga,” the publications added.
This performance is a good indicator that the suspension of aid would most likely not hurt the country as it continues guiding its economy towards its chosen path of transformation.
“Rwanda, our beautiful and dear country / Adorned of hills, lakes and volcanoes / Motherland, would be always filled of happiness…”
Microsoft’s Win 8 breaks language barrier in Rwanda
Rwandan authorities believe the availabilty of Microsoft Windows 8 in the country’s main language will help develop ICT literacy. (Image: GITEX)
The offering was launched in October last year and is said to be available in 109 languages, including 14 new languages.
This forms part of an effort by Microsoft to target a global audience.
Rwanda’s Minister of Youth and ICT, Jean Philpert Nsengimana, is quoted as saying that the availability of the product in Kinyarwanda will boost efforts to increase ICT literacy.
“It will help us in taking ICT to the common man. ICT has to be owned by every Rwandan and not be seen as a preserve by some,” Minister Nsengimana is reported to have told The New Times.
According to a Microsoft statement the application can support any of the languages with language interface – as long as it supports one of 12 application certification languages.