With Rwanda steadily moving forward in the quest to become a knowledge-based economy, every year the country registers achievements in the ICT sector, which remains one of key enablers of such an ambition.
This year, The New Times highlights five achievements made in the sector and are likely to push the country forward in the next few years.
1. Andela contract
Andela, a global technology training and job placement firm, signed an agreement in July with the Government of Rwanda to recruit up to 500 Rwandans with expertise in software development and offer them six months paid training.
The initiative, to be implemented over a period spanning five years, is critical for the ICT sector in the country because it will offer Rwandan IT professionals not only skills but also jobs.
Trainees will receive over 900 skill checkpoints enabling them to be competitive across the world.
Thereafter, Andela will offer the new trainees jobs as remote members of software development teams at world leading firms. Andela works with over 150 firms spread across 45 cities globally.
Moreover, the firm appointed a Rwandan to lead its operations in Rwanda; former Irembo chief executive Clément Uwajeneza who is now Andela’s country director.
Rwanda’s new ICT and Innovation Minister, Paula Ingabire, told The New Times that partnership with Andela will help in building the critical mass of skills required to build the country’s innovation ecosystem.
She said that Andela has recruited their first cohort of developers and intends to up-skill more than 100 software developers by the end of 2019.
2. Zipline contract expanded
In what looked like a confirmation of government’s confidence in services delivered by Zipline, a US-based technology company that operates the world’s only drone delivery system for urgent medicines in Rwanda, the company has been given a green light to deliver not only blood to Rwandan hospitals but also other essential medicines.
In October, a Cabinet meeting approved the agreement between the Government of Rwanda and Zipline for the delivery of the medical products via drones.
During a subsequent post-Cabinet meeting news conference, the Health Minister, Dr Diane Gashumba, said that the Government had extended Zipline’s deal with a renewable 3-year contract.
She also said that, under the agreement, plans were underway to include basic pharmaceuticals on the list of urgent medicines that Zipline can deliver by drones.
Zipline launched operations in Muhanga district, Southern Rwanda, about two years ago as the world’s first commercial regular drone delivery service on agreement that it will be paid by the Ministry of Health on per delivery arrangement.
Gashumba said that plans were underway to increase Zipline’s geographical reach in the country and allow them serve all public hospitals and health centres after drones have been delivering blood to only 19 hospitals, mostly in the southern and western parts of the country.
Going forward, Zipline is due to establish a drone assembling and maintenance plant in the country and also open a second drone port, which will be located in Kayonza District, Eastern Province.
3. Kigali Innovation City attracts Africa50 funding
Africa50, a pan-African infrastructure investment firm backed by the African Development Bank Group, announced in November that it will invest $400 million (about Rwf348.9 billion) in Kigali Innovation City to boost Rwanda’s efforts to become a technology hub.
Kigali Innovation City (KIC) is one of the major projects that Rwanda initiated to drive its ambitions of becoming a knowledge-based economy.
The project, valued at about $2 billion and located in Kigali’s Special Economic Zone, is set to accommodate world-class universities, technology companies, biotech firms, and commercial and retail real estate on 70 hectares of land.
Minister Ingabire told The New Times in November that Africa50 will focus on the real estate portion of the project, including building retail and commercial complexes.
Coming in the project as an equity investor, Africa50 will work on what is known as the Digital Innovation Precinct, which is a facility that will house all the technology companies in KIC.
Another part of the Digital Innovation Precinct will be a mix of residential facilities that will accommodate employees working for companies within the innovation ecosystem.
Ingabire said in an interview this month that the partnership between Government of Rwanda and Africa50 means the two sides are partners as early stage developers of KIC and that Africa50’s contribution will entail project development, financial structuring, and infrastructure development expertise for the project.
4. Rwanda re-elected to the ITU Council
Rwanda was in November re-elected as a member of the governing council of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for the coming four years term (2019-2022).
ITU is the United Nations’ ICT body while the Council is its governing body. It comprises 48 member states of which Rwanda is one of the 13 African representatives.
Minister Ingabire said that being part of the governing council of the body is of use to Rwanda because the latter gets a chance to influence policy decisions in the rapidly changing global telecom environment.
“Being part of the council provides us a platform to influence decisions on broad telecommunications policies and strategies that will respond to today’s dynamic and rapidly changing telecom environment,” she said in an interview in November.
Apart from Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia, and Uganda are other African countries that were elected to the ITU council.
Other regions represented on the council include Western Europe with 8 countries, the Americas with nine countries, Eastern Europe and Northern Asia with 5 countries, as well as Asia and Australasia with 13 countries.
5. Increased internet penetration
The number of people using internet in Rwanda increased from 4,375,016 in June 2017 to 5,475,448 in June this year, according to figures released by Rwanda Regulatory Agency (RURA) in October.
As the body released the figures, the Director General of RURA, Patrick Nyirishema, said that the rise in internet penetration is attributed to increased internet coverage and flexible pricing for internet bundles.
RURA said that internet penetration rate at the end of June 2018 was 46.4 per cent.
National internet coverage stands at 96.6 per cent, Nyirishema said, adding that the geographic coverage reflects increased accessibility to people, businesses and services.
He said that internet retail prices have dropped on account of flexible pricing models deployed by telecom firms, which allows clients to choose data plans based on their purchasing power.
In addition, mobile phone subscription increased from 8,819,217 to 9,226,721 subscribers from June 2017 to June 2018, which reflects a 4.6 per cent rise, according to RURA’s report. Mobile penetration now stands at 78.1 per cent, up from 76.5 per cent in 2017.