BY GODEFREY NTAGUNGIRA
Rwanda identified ICT as a tool for actualizing its transformation. Only a few years after the implementation phase of the ICT policy began, the country continues to record tangible strides within this sector. Part of this policy drive entails positioning and hence channeling ICT into the poverty reduction strategy across board.
Poverty is widespread in Rwanda with a substantial portion of its population living below the poverty line. Majority of the working population approx 80% is actively involved in agriculture with only a small portion working in the industrial sector and the service sector of the economy.
Rwanda’s reconstruction efforts are commendable 15 years after the Genocide. ICT is part and parcel of this effort. Last week President Paul Kagame, at the World Technology Summit told the world that Rwanda is committed to realizing the great potential of science and technology, especially information and communications technology.
He was announced alongside US President Barack Obama and other renowned personalities by World Technology Network (WTN) as winner of a prestigious award by the World Technology Network (WTN) within the policy development category. WTN is a global think tank aimed at bringing important emerging technologies of all types into reality.
Rwanda’s current ICT status
As a key element of fuelling growth prospects, the science and technology sector contribute to the EDPRS goal of promoting various forms of innovations within different sectors.
In EDPRS framework the ICT and STI sub-sector is linked with the achievement of two indicators which were realized in the implementation stage.
Reports indicate that progress on targets for the sector indicators was good. ICT composite coverage network is currently estimated at 90% and the number of mobile phone users has now reached 1,322,637.
On the development of a regulatory framework for ICT, a team has been assigned to draft laws and support development of STI in Rwanda. A total of 77km of fibre optic enabling a wireless broadband network for Kigali city and its suburbs has been laid.
Telecoms industry is undergoing further deepening. The Third National Operator has been announced whose entry is expected to level the telecoms playing field. The intention is to offer better value for money services. Within this industry 13 licenses of various typologies were issued including a pay TV operator.
National portal project
As part of developing overall ICT capacities a national portal project has been conceived whereby 20 institutions have been equipped with teleconferencing capacity as well as related forms of technologies making it possible for such institutions to conducts their service delivery obligations more effectively.
Web portals and related developments
Fifty five web portals have been developed to give web presence to government institutions.
Furthermore, the government through its national ID project has actualized to digitise its national citizen’s registry whereby a national population registry has been successfully completed and stored in a master database .With this 3.2 million machine readable ID cards have been produced and are currently being distributed. Further still 2 million more cards are under production. Total of about 5.2million eligible citizens will receive the new ID cards.
Bringing more innovations into daily life
All data required for issuing of electronic passports has been gathered and the immigration intends to move to electronic passports in the future.
The first and only mobile phone assembly in Rwanda was set up and become operational in June 2008.The assembly has a capacity to produce 20,000 units per month. The locally assembled phones have a local language Kinyarwanda interface.
12 telecenters have been completed and are operational in 12 districts to enable the gathering and distribution of information of all sorts and widespread dissemination of well detailed, best practice and market information.
One laptop per child program
The government in order to promote ICT literacy among school going children has ordered 100,000 specialty laptops to be distributed in 2009.The process of delivery is ongoing. NEPAD e-schools program, a pilot rural schools program was launched in six schools throughout Rwanda in 2006 in partnership with CISCO and Microsoft. And all institutions of higher learning have been connected to internet.
Other strategies in place:
Today Rwanda has put in place an institutional framework for developing and implementing the country’s ICT matserplan and is undertaking a relentless awareness campaign to adopt such technologies in all sectors of our society and economy.
Information management systems
Success was recorded for Rwanda to have installed information management systems like Tracknet to improve management of national HIV/AIDS and other health programs by enhancing patients’ monitoring, managing stocks of drugs, and providing critical data on infection rates.
Similar applications in the agriculture sector, which links the sellers and buyers nation-wide has been instituted.It should be noted that the introduction of ICT in Rwanda with a view to contributing to its socio-economic development is a long-term strategy. At present the country is building the foundations of an information based economy. As Rwanda envisions its future ICT strategies will realistically have a serious poverty reduction role.