Rwanda powering ahead with ICTs

The Republic of Rwanda, under the leadership of President Paul Kagame, has made enormous progress in the communications sector, extending Internet accessibility, improving infrastructure, and integrating ICTs, as well as prioritising e-Health and digital literacy initiatives.

Rwanda has transformed into a nation that is progressing rapidly towards its ambitious vision for socio-economic development, peace and reconciliation.

President Kagame co-chairs the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Advocacy Group as well as the International Telecommunication Union’s Broadband Commission for Digital Development. He has emphasized the importance of ICTs stating: “In the year 2000, we decided to put ICT at the centre of Rwanda’s development agenda, and build the ecosystem to sustain these efforts into the future. Today our people are reaping the benefits of this choice.” From 2005 to 2010, Internet user growth rate reached a remarkable 8.90 per cent, well above the world’s average. Rwanda has also implemented ICT initiatives aimed at improving education and healthcare.

With fibre optic network coverage currently available throughout the country, mobile telephone network coverage reaching almost 100 per cent and the mobile subscriptions rate of 45 per cent in 2011, Rwanda projects to have Internet access at all administrative levels, for all secondary schools and for many primary schools by 2020.

Telephone services in rural areas and the efficiency of public services will have increased through the application of e-government principles. Mobile subscription is expected to reach 60 per cent and the number of Internet users will reach at least 50 per cent (from 4.3 per cent in 2010).

Broadband impacting people’s lives

President Kagame has also emphasised the importance of broadband in achieving sustainable development.

Access to knowledge, information and technology will play an important role in the more efficient delivery of services. Given its transformational impact on people’s lives and global economies, the roll-out of high-speed information and communication technology should be an urgent priority in every country’s sustainable development strategy in order to fulfil the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

While some challenges persist, investments in ICTs must remain a priority given the cross-cutting nature of the sector. Investment in ICT means indirect investment in other sectors too.

Empowering its people and growing the economy is very high on Rwanda’s agenda for development. The plan to transition to a cashless economy is a key element of this agenda. By promoting electronic payment methods, the government hopes to achieve 80 per cent financial inclusion by 2017. Rwanda’s unbanked citizens will thus be included in the country’s formal economy by allowing them access to financial services. In this way the informal economy in the country can be reduced and the government and other institutions will have a more cost-effective, efficient, transparent and safe means of making and collecting payments at their disposal.

Mobile money powers mobile penetration

Mobile money is an electronic payment method that has been widely used in the country for some time. However, electronic payment methods (mobile money platforms or electronic sales-recording devices must be subjected to strict regulations and supervision—they are particularly vulnerable to money laundering and fraud.

The International Gateway Traffic Verification System (IGTVS), a joint initiative of the Global Voice Group (GVG) for the Rwanda Utility Regulatory Agency (RURA) allows the RURA to audit and monitor the Rwandan networks independently and transparently, and for a number of purposes, including accurate billing, traffic measurement, quality of service assessment, market surveillance, interconnection dispute resolution and fraud management.

The IGTVS has brought a proactive approach to regulation based on ICT tools and real-time data collection and has generated significant additional revenue for both the State and the local operators. The RURA can now intervene effectively in two key areas: the elimination of fraudulent grey traffic and the overall improvement of the quality of service.

GVG’s cutting-edge solutions have provided its Rwandan government clients with innovative ways to finance development projects, cost-effectively and without increasing their debt.

Rwanda, through its drive for more private participation alongside the government, will surely continue to reap additional benefits associated with its clear public-private partnership strategy.

The author is a freelance writer for Global Voice Group