The coronavirus pandemic has brought telecom operators under renewed spotlight for their role in bringing people through the crisis. This translated into an increased burden in terms of operational complexity and losses in revenues. With NETIS Rwanda, however, telecom operators can leverage the crisis to leapfrog to novel business models. NETIS Rwanda is a subsidiary to the NETIS group, a global leader in the telecommunication industry with over 12 years of experience in the design and development of high performance network communications solutions. So far the group services various markets in 12 countries, and has previously laid out plans of expansion. In Rwanda it has been operational for the past three years. The New Times’ Edwin Ashimwe caught up with the firm’s Chief Executive, Malory Baudry, who discussed the current performance, upcoming NETIS technology day as well as expansion plans. Excerpts, How would you rate the company’s progress compared to initial targets? NETIS/REIME team, as we call ourselves, is composed of very ambitious and dynamic people who won’t settle for medium results. Therefore, though we have definitely achieved great milestones including general satisfaction of our clients and setting technical, quality and safety standards in telecom at a higher level as well as being active in the process to empower women as part of NETIS 3 key pillars, we still have a long way to go. We want to emphasise in the next years on our high quality of services and products in order to convince more clients that the good work we have been putting into the telecom networks can also benefit them and help eventually the end-users of these networks and infrastructure to enjoy an improvement in their day-to-day life while using ICT facilities. We are also aiming to push on a program to encourage women to join and embrace a career in the Telecom sector thanks to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) we have recently signed with IPRC Gishari whereby we will give chance to students for an internship program for them to have a shot at learning, on the field with professionals, about the new technologies used in the sector as well as gaining valuable strong experience and training which will increase their individual employability on the labour market. This interview comes off the heels of Netis Technology Day. What is this day all about? NETIS Technology Day is an event that aims to gather the main players of the sector we work in to discuss and brainstorm about the general trend of the ICT industry and the power sector. We all know that the Rwanda government and Africa in general has great ambitions when it comes to giving access to the internet to the population and in general access to communication networks. This vision cannot happen without all the stakeholders working together to achieve and implement that goal. We therefore took the initiative to have this yearly event in order to make sure all stakeholders including authorities and government bodies (RURA and RISA) as well as the private sector, without forgetting Academia will be ensuring the implementation of NETIS’ vision. We offer a wide range of services to develop and maintain telecommunication and energy infrastructures (Mini-grid and ESCO model for example) to the main actors in the African markets. We seek to build a bridge to align NETIS vision with consumer demands and market evolution. NETIS technology Day is the opportunity to discuss how NETIS approach can participate in the new transition of the telecom and energy sector in the African market. Circling around the previous question, what is at ‘heart’ as this day draws close? The 'heart' of the event is reinforcing the dynamic between the main actors and experts of the telecommunication industry in Rwanda by giving them the opportunity to share their challenges and expectations for connected communities. Once again, the government’s ambition will help us and all stakeholders to put our strengths together to deliver this plan for the good of the population in Africa and in Rwanda more specifically. Without this dynamic and this collaboration, it will take more time for us to bridge the gap to address the upcoming challenges including climate change which has already started to impact us. Technology is not the only answer, but must be part of the cocktail of solutions, but all actors in the public and private sectors shall organise. Time is of the essence and we have to catch-up the time eaten by the recent pandemic on the initial development plan. As Rwanda’s recovery process goes by, players in the telecom sector find new challenges and opportunities in the digitised environment. Is this the same case for you? The pandemic has proved the necessity to develop strong telecom infrastructure in the whole world, not only in Africa. It has allowed NETIS to reposition itself and offer new solutions and technologies to support the growth and demands of telecom and mobile network operators and infrastructure companies. During the last year, NETIS could achieve 100 per cent growth compared to 2020. And to maintain the same level of growth in the upcoming years, we are continually working on offering new solutions and services that meet the evolution of both the telecom and energy sector. This evolution represents significant opportunities for different actors and due to NETIS's flexibility and expertise in designing, building, and deploying telecom network infrastructure, we have huge chances to get part of those opportunities and to offer major support contracts. To meet that growth and opportunities, we have been actively hiring across the business in addition to improving the shift rates of our staff in the country. For example, we have teams in place all over our territories where we operate on permanent standby ready to respond to urgent maintenance calls and sensitive problems in our client’s network. The nature of this kind of operation typically means that there are periods of inactivity, but we have been able to maximise our staff intervention by efficiently in parallel undertaking additional deployments for clients along with the maintenance response. If any, has it pushed you to reinvent any solutions? The pandemic has pushed everyone to reconsider the social interaction at work, understanding that we must be more flexible in the way our teams work on a day-to-day basis but also emphasising on the social part that the workplace brings to everyone. This also impacted the telecom where we had to make sure these social interactions were still taking place through technology, internet... Therefore, innovating was not a question but a must in order to help our field teams to deploy new networks as well as maintaining them to highest quality standards to ensure availability of these networks for people to connect. Rwanda, through its latest broadband policy, says it plans to adopt the 5th Generation mobile network to drive its digital economy. How feasible is this plan and what do you see as your role? Rwanda's private sector must now take the lead to implement that plan. Authorities are there to guide us and facilitate us in the implementation of their vision. That is the objective of NETIS Technology Day, create that discussion and ensure the implementation of that plan. Parting shot? We are looking forward to seeing all actors come together in this event and join initiatives to continue on the dynamic of Rwanda that was built in the last years in the ICT and other sectors to continue its development. A country cannot have high ambition without strong telecom and energy infrastructures and looking at the past the development has been huge and now must continue to not fall behind again. New technologies are coming in and to keep up with the world pace, Rwanda must build on this strong experience and welcome new forces to look at the future peacefully.