Govt looks to maximise historic Facebook deal

The Ministry of Youth and ICT has pledged to use the recently launched partnership between Facebook, the Government of Rwanda, Nokia and Airtel to boost online education.
A young man looks at a Facebook page. John Mbanda
A young man looks at a Facebook page. John Mbanda

The Ministry of Youth and ICT has pledged to use the recently launched partnership between Facebook, the Government of Rwanda, Nokia and Airtel to boost online education.

The pilot initiative, SocialEDU, will enable Rwandan students access free online material from some of the world’s leading universities such as Harvard, MIT, and Berkeley.

Welcoming the initiative, the Minister for Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, said the move was aimed at  propelling Rwanda to a knowledge-based economy. The deal was announced at the Mobile World  Congress in Barcelona, Spain on Monday.

“The government is excited to partner with Facebook. The social education experience will accelerate innovation and propel Rwanda into a knowledge-based economy,” he said.

The minister pledged government support to the initiative.

“We will make sure SocialEDU has the greatest possible impact in Rwanda. This is fully aligned with the government’s Broadband for All policy and the Smart Kigali Initiative, (a public-private partnership that provides free wi-fi in Kigali’s most popular squares, buses, hotels, and public buildings),” he said.

Under the terms of partnership, the government will expand its Smart Kigali programme to provide free wi-fi to campuses throughout the country, to enable students access quality multimedia educational content.

University of Rwanda public relations officer Elias Kiyaga welcomed the initiative, saying it will provide learners with world class online research facilities.

“Students will access updated information that is not in their libraries and this will add to their sources of reference,” Kiyaga said.

He urged Rwandan students to make maximum use of the initiative to acquire skills.

Facebook‘s role in the partnership will be to create a social educational experience by building a mobile app that is integrated with Facebook.

Airtel will provide free education data for all Rwandans who will participate in the programme for one year, while Nokia will pitch in with affordable smartphones that will improve the quality and ease of Internet access.

Javier Olivan, the vice- president of Growth and Analysis at Facebook, said the initiative’s purpose was to remove barriers that hinder the exchange of knowledge between learners.

“It is about working together to connect billions of people to the knowledge economy,” he said.

Airtel Africa’s CEO Christian de Faria, commended Rwanda’s development and promised to support the initiative.

 

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