Residents of the City of Kigali will now have access to free wireless internet in specific areas under what has been dubbed the ‘Smart Kigali’ initiative that was launched on Friday.
The designated areas where people will have access to wi-fi include public buses, King Faisal Hospital, Nyabugogo Taxi Park, and commercial buildings and restaurants within the city.
The initiative is a partnership between the City of Kigali, internet service providers and government agencies like Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency and Rwanda Development Board, as well as the Rwanda Hotel and Restaurant Association.
“Smart Kigali will significantly contribute towards delivering better services. We want internet broadband to be accessible for everyone to be able to access information anytime,” said Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Minister for Youth and ICT.
Nsengimana noted that the initiative will help speed up the country’s development where people can access various services online.
Smart Kigali also aims at facilitating people, especially visitors, to use the already established online direction navigator that entails the newly named streets and homes address information on Google maps and also facilitate online payments.
To start with, City of Kigali released a list of public locations categorised based on number of people that visit the particular location.
They include Union Trade Centre, Kigali City Tower, Kigali City Market, Centenary House and downtown hotels and restaurants that will be served by Tigo.
Nyabugogo Taxi Park will jointly be serviced by Tigo and Airtel.
The two operators have also installed a hotspot at King Faisal Hospital, while other providers including at the BSC Limited, ISPA, MTN and Liquid Telecom shared MTN Centre, the Remera-Kisementi area, Amahoro National Stadium, Kigali Public Library, Kigali International Airport, KBC, Kacyiru-ministries, KIST and KIE.
Fifteen of Kigali Bus Services’ large buses have also been equipped with the service.
“This is a public-private partnership; internet service providers and the government will foot the bill,” the minister said.
He explained that the telecom operators and internet service providers have a business model behind the initiative.
“The most important thing is to create a market by just giving people the ability to test. You test what is broadband and then you go and buy it in case you come across where there is no free wireless broadband.”
Broadband internet connectivity has become one of the key services required in hospitality facilities almost at the same level as electricity and water.
“Reliable internet connectivity is an enabler for the rest of hotels operations such as marketing and sales. It is, therefore important this service is delivered with highest quality standards but also affordably,” Nsengimana told hospitality industry operators.
Rura is currently working with association of hotels to improve internet access, set connectivity and bandwidth standards for hotels and facilitate improved quality of service provided by service providers.
“This is yet another step in advancing ICT use in our city which will also make visitors’ experience in Kigali more enjoyable,” said Fidele Ndayisaba, the City of Kigali mayor.
In June, South Korea’s largest telecom company, Korea Telecom (KT), entered into an agreement with Rwanda to deploy 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) broadband network across the country to ensure fast, reliable and cheaper Internet services.
And early last week, the government signed a partnership deal with KT to establish a joint venture that will build and operate ICT services in the country.
The Systems Integration and IT services joint venture Company will set an agenda for the utilisation of the high-speed Fourth Generation (4G) broadband network by Rwandans for socio-economic transformation.
With only 8 per cent of Rwandans using the internet, according to the United Nations Broadband Commission for Digital Development 2013 report, a few citizens were skeptical on how the latest development will help Rwandans.
“I think these internet service providers have invested a lot in these facilities in the different areas yet many Rwandans neither have smart phones nor laptops. I foresee it only being used by the few who have the devices,” said Beata Ingabire, a second year university student at the School of Finance and Banking.
“If you take a look at the KBS public buses, they are usually very full with passengers. So one is not assured of comfort while surfing the internet,” said Donata Kabalisa, a fast food seller in Kacyiru.
They, however, commended the city’s ambition and said it created a foundation for greater internet use by those who don’t have access to it.