Globally, advancements in technology arouse various emotions and feelings in individuals. While some view advancements in technology and innovation as a threat that is gradually eating away humanity, others see it as an avenue to solve challenges and improve lives.
Based on Rwanda’s rate in embracing technology and innovation, it’s clear where the country stands in regards to support accorded to ICT as a priority sector.
The ICT sector has in recent years served to a great extent to improve how multiple sectors in government function largely by improving service and convenience.
In 2016, it was no different, the ICT and innovation was embraced by a number of sectors and leading government agencies to improve service delivery.
Below are some of the sectors that improved service delivery and productivity courtesy of ICT in 2016.
Health sector: Drones for medical supplies
Before October 2016, Kabgayi District Hospital in Muhanga District relied on road network to deliver blood supplies. Deliveries took between four and five hours using an ambulance.
Due to the high number of patients turning up at the facility as well as complex cases, the facility replenishes its supplies about twice a week but in the event of accidents, they require fresh supplies up to five times a week.
That has since changed following the launch of drone technology to deliver blood and medical supplies to remote health centres across the country.
In October 2016, the tedious process of blood delivery in 21 flung facilities in Southern Province came to an end as the country launched the use of remotely piloted aircraft, popularly known as ‘drones’ to deliver the much needed supplies.
This has cut down the time taken in delivering blood supplies to about 30 minutes on making an order and does not require staff from the health facilities to leave their stations as was the case before.
This has presented an opportunity to turn around the quality and efficiency of medical services in far flung areas.
With the reduced duration in delivery of blood supplies, patients can get urgent attention and enable them respond better to emergency cases.
Public services: The magic of Irembo
Public service delivery in the last two years has ceased being about queuing for days outside public offices and being sent from office to office for paper work.
In 2015, Rwanda Online Platform introduced Irembo, a public service platform which acts as a one stop centre for all public services.
From its launch with only five services, the platform portfolio has now grown to 44 services across 9 public agencies and is set to grow in coming years.
The multiple trips to public offices have now been reduced and public service providers have been trained on using the system. This has improved convenience and service delivery quality where citizens living even in the remotest part of the country can access quality public services.
Transport sector: Tap-and-Go system, SafeMotos
For decades, public transport across the country has been characterised by cash payments that some operators say was inconvenient.
It was hard to keep track of income trends for operators due to fraud, which, in turn, hindered their ability to provide quality services. Operators were also not able to monitor the location of their buses remotely neither know the speeds they were plying routes at.
Towards the end of 2015, a local firm, AC Group, introduced an innovative system that automated fare collection where clients use cards.
With fare being collected in a transparent and efficient way, commuters have been able to enjoy public transport with fewer delays on the bus stops, quicker boarding on the buses and proper real time monitoring of the bus by authorities and the bus operators.
The system, dubbed “Tap-and-Go,” has been adopted by a huge section of public transporters in the city with KBS, a local bus company using it as the sole payment mode.
2016 also saw the use of the motorcycle hailing service SafeMotos scaled up and increasingly used by Kigali residents who rely on motorcycles to get around.
At the convenience of their homes, offices or other whereabouts passengers can hail riders at the click on their smart phones. The service has also been largely facilitated by street marking, making it easy for riders to identify locations.
The service, which has been in infancy for about two years, became increasingly popular in 2016 largely due to the convenience and safety guarantee in the public transport mode that was previously known for ghastly accidents.
Leisure, hospitality sector: Airbnb accommodation touche
With Rwanda fast becoming a meetings and tourist destination, technology and innovation is playing a role on how the country receives and hosts guests.
Airbnb, an international marketplace for rental accommodation with headquarters in California, US, debuted into the Rwandan market making it possible for people to rent out extra space in their homes to visitors.
The platform is fast becoming popular in the country with over 170 properties listed, ranging from apartments, ordinary homes ,to art galleries.
Price wise, the properties are relatively cheaper compared to hotels and lodges across the country.
Education sector: Smart Classrooms, TV White Space
In 2016, the Ministry of Education forged a partnership with Microsoft to facilitate the incorporation of ICT into various aspects of the sector to improve the quality of education.
The continued incorporation of IT is part of an ongoing digital transformation of the education sector.
Among the aspects of the sector to benefit from the partnership is the ‘Smart Classrooms Initiative’ which will complement the One Laptop Per Child programme.
So far, Smart Classroom implementation is underway with 1,500 Smart classrooms being set up as well as, 150 Microsoft Academies are being set up to help train students, teachers and local community.
The public private partnership will also see over three million students and 61,000 teachers access Wi-Fi internet to be used in learning.
The two partners have since conducted a pilot phase of a connectivity programme that will use a new technology, TV White Spaces technology.
The technology utilises the unused space in terrestrial TV spectrum to provide cheap Internet connectivity to remote areas. Unlike Wi-Fi that propagates to a 100-metre radius, TV White Spaces can propagate the signal to a radius of about 10 kilometres and is more affordable.
The pilot tests involved Lycee de Kigali School and the University of Rwanda’s College of Business and Economics and is set to be scaled out across the country.
Agriculture sector: Drones monitor crops
Remotely piloted technology have had impact beyond the health sector to agriculture where drones are currently being used to monitor Irish potato crops in Musanze District.
The project is courtesy of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), through its Private Sector Driven Agricultural Growth Project (PSDAG) in partnership with AgriLift to pilot the drone-based crop monitoring technology.
It’s currently serving 2,000 potato farmers affiliated with 20 potato cooperatives in the Imbaraga Cooperative Federation, located in Nyabihu, Burera and Musanze districts.
The drones take e overhead images of growing crops at specific intervals which are then analysed to identify the optimal maturity of potato plants for farmers, and can to spot nutrient deficient or diseased crops.