It all started in 2016, when Chris Songa Musonera, a Rwandan student in China ha returned home and was set to train and acquire a driver’s license during his school break.
The 23 year-old Software Engineer student, had been reading a lot in the media about Rwanda’s push for digital migration and his anticipation was that Rwanda was on the move. But he was not ready for some “setback”.
In China, he says, everything is online literally and with the conversation about Rwanda’s digitalization, he didn’t expect that one still had to go to “Auto-Ecole”, the common name for driving schools in Rwanda to acquire a provisional permit before one does the practical test.
“I went to study in 2014 and came back in 2016 for vacation. Then I had a plan to sit for the driving permit test. As I was gathering info on how to do it faster, I found out it was hard to get the necessary info. All I could get was broken pieces... then I consulted my sister who had started attending a driving school, she told me it was difficult to find necessary material. So I decided to do something about it as a software engineer, that’s how ikizamini.com idea popped up.”
Fast forward, he consulted his High School friends and proposed to them an idea to partner and launch a portal that would avail theoretical content online to everybody possible without having to pay a minimum fee of Rwf90,000 for one to do the course in a driving school.
That is how Elisha Muhigirwa, Denyse Umuhuza, and Maurice Mwiseneza, all students at Kepler Kigali, came in.
Within a month, the four partners had gathered enough information from local driving schools, wrote it down and uploaded it on the website whose main purpose is to assist people who want to learn and obtain a driving license the easiest way possible.
“What inspired the innovation is the technological revolution that’s going on around the world, for most of the developed countries, most services are found online but in Rwanda, especially in this field of acquiring driving license, people had ignored it, forgetting that people are becoming busier to the extent that it’s hard to get time for lessons on traffic rules at driving schools, so that’s how we decided to do something about it.
“We plan to make ‘Ikizamini.com’ a one stop center for information regarding the driving license (we are still gathering more info to increase our app’s functions) but right now our portal offers courses for provisional driving license test for free, through ikizamini.com, we are able to offer other services like telling people when the next police driving exam is scheduled, etc.…” Musonera told Sunday Times.
If available statistics are anything to go by, the four students behind Ikizamini website could have a point to prove.
Recent experiences show that driver’s license exams in Rwanda have often been associated with long queues, numerous hours of waiting and a high probability of failure, according to experiences of people who have attempted to acquire the driving permits.
Available statistics from Rwanda National Police, which is mandated to oversee the tests and issuing of licenses, about 20,000 people take the exam monthly across the country.
Surprisingly, on average, only 30 per cent of them pass the test, with most of them retaking the test up to four times.
Kigali alone has about 9,000 candidates monthly from the three districts. On any driving permit exam day in Gasabo District, for instance, there are usually about 2,000 people waiting to take the tests which start at around 8:00 a.m at Amahoro Stadium. Unfortunately, most of them fail to score the required 70 percent minimum to pass provisional tests.
A number of people who have had to retake the exam say that the conservative style of doing provisional exams and administration of test using manual gearbox cars (shift sticks) as opposed to automatic ones unnecessarily complicates the test process and is probably the biggest contributor to failing the test.
Some of these people have given up and unfortunately resorted to driving with a foreign-acquired license or at worse drive with no permit all despite the high risks involved.
“It is so strange that when we first met to finalise our partnership responsibilities, we found ourselves talking about how our parents, siblings, cousins have at one point failed driving exams and either given up or resorted to foreign licenses,” Umuhuza said.
Commissioner of Police Rafiki Mujiji, who is in charge of Traffic and Road Safety, says: “In general we welcome innovations and ideas that seek to revolutionalise this sector. Our goal is to make driving in Rwanda more inclusive and professional”.
From the onset, the students tried to make the portal a pay-to-access platform but with few people willing to trust them, the approach was changed right away.
“We needed to make money to meet a few costs but we realized that it was not going to come easy. People had to know us, trust us and believe in us first. That is how we dropped the idea of asking for payment. It is now free and only in Kinyarwanda.
“But our audience has demanded that we include English and French lessons and that is what we are working on now,” Mwiseneza said.
Muhigirwa also noted that the company’s vision is to contribute in the technological revolution undergoing in Rwanda.
“We have a vision of fully digitalizing this sector. We believe through ikizamini.com , one day all information will be found there. From learning to even more functions like searching for driving schools, knowing where, when is the next exam.... it’s huge but we will achieve it.” He said.
Musonera will graduate next year in June, he can’t wait to return home, join his partners and engage various stakeholders on how best they can make the portal more inclusive and effective for new drivers, he says.