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Why Rwanda is the darling of the internet

Liquid Telecom’s announcement that it is launching high speed fibre to the home network in Kigali, Rwanda may have come as a surprise to many. But to experts looking at the East African IT landscape, Rwanda is one of the most progressive countries in using the internet to push social and economic boundaries.

The Liquid Telecom news will mean 15,000 homes will be connected to high speed broadband by the end of 2016 and users will be able to access speeds of up to 100Mbps.

On top of this, according to a policy paper adopted by the Ministry of Youth and ICT, named Smart Rwanda, the country expects that by 2018 all government services will be accessible online. This will enable government services to be cashless and paperless by that year. The other goals of this ambitious policy are: Smart Rwanda to contribute 10% to GDP.

This should create over 100,000 jobs by fostering a better environment for private investments supported by technology and innovation.

This aggressive policy has also seen companies set up in the country. Vanu Bose, the CEO of Vanu Inc. a broadband and connectivity company, chose to launch in Rwanda due to the use of internet for development.

“There is a real push and desire in the government, from the president, to [create] a broadband connected country,” Bose said.

Bose added that he has found Rwanda a great place to set up business because of the government’s initiative to make it easy to start and run companies.

“President Kagame is a champion of ICT in Africa,” Houlin Zhao, the ITU Secretary-General, said during the recent Transform Africa conference 2015 held in Kigali, Rwanda. “We really appreciate his passion and valuable contributions to ICT development in Africa and also at a global level.”

During the conference, President Kagame streamlined his position in pushing ICT and leveraging the country’s resources in promoting the use of technology.

“In Africa, we are fully aware that our continent has often missed opportunities to accelerate development. In placing ICT at the core of our transformation agenda, we can make sure that Africa is never again left behind,” President Kagame said.

“First, the ICT dimension has to inform everything we do in government, and outside of it. Just as with women’s empowerment, it cuts across all departments and portfolios. This means everyone is responsible for integrating ICT into the work of their institutions.”

The president added that, technology is not just about gadgets, but results on the ground that benefit citizens. It can transform the lives of people who may have never touched a smartphone themselves.

The city of Kigali last year implemented a mapping and address system that ensured every street in Kigali had an address. This, according to the president, will ensure that online services such as eCommerce and deliveries will be made easier.

“Now, working with partners, the new system is integrated with Google Maps, spurring the growth of new retail delivery services that create employment for motorcycle taxi drivers, customer service specialists and web designers, while giving existing businesses new ways to reach customers,” he reported.

Very few offline projects to support online projects, such as mapping, have been seen in Africa and this sets Rwanda apart from the rest.

It is this progressive thinking that led to Kigali hosting the Smart Africa project that will enable African states to adopt five key areas to support ICT: Create enabling policies, increase broadband access, to establish e-government services, encourage private sector and entrepreneurship and have sustainable development.

The minister of Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana announced at Transform Africa 2015, that the government has already set aside US$1 million this year to push the Smart Africa agenda.

But Kagame knows that to achieve development with technology could be as hard as any other development project.

He said, “That doesn’t mean anything will be easy. The existence of technology doesn’t automatically change lives. A mindset of curiosity, responsibility, and hard work is very necessary, if we are to become our best selves and compete effectively in the wider world.”

As compared to several African countries, Rwanda’s initiative to integrate ICT in its core sectors has made this country one of the fastest adopters of technology and a darling of the internet world in Africa.

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Vincent Matinde

Vincent Matinde is an international IT Journalist highlighting African innovations in the technology scene.

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