OPINION: ICT: When implementation costs the nation

Rwanda’s average economic growth is reportedly averaging about 6 percent over the last five years. This growth is projected to be sustained because of the good government policies and strategies in place.

Rwanda’s average economic growth is reportedly averaging about 6 percent over the last five years. This growth is projected to be sustained because of the good government policies and strategies in place.

However, if institutions charged with execution of these policies and strategies do not pull up their socks on execution, it may cost the country a thing in future.

What is even more challenging is that all these policies and strategies have timeframes in which they’re to be executed.

Time is coming when evaluation reports will shock many.

I find it more important commenting on the number one national priority; Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The key institutions we shall crucify when we finally find out that things are not as they were “praised” are: Infrastructure ministry, Rwanda Information Technology Authority (RITA), Rwanda Utility Regulation Authority (RURA). These institutions MUST ensure that Rwanda’s dream of being a knowledge-based economy by 2020 using ICT comes true.

RITA has come up with a whole list of interesting projects, including among others, E-soko, National ID, Schoolnet, Intego ICT competition, Gasabo 3D, ICT Buses, Telecentres, ICT Park etc.

At one point, government truly laid a strong foundation to transform this country into an ICT hub. The ICT4D (ICT for Development) is truly the way to go, to enhance sustainable economic development.

Today, wonderful ICT projects are ongoing at RITA but a few beneficiaries know about them.  Drawing from the commitment by President Paul Kagame to promote Rwanda as a company; no wonder he’s referred to as the CEO of Rwanda, RITA ought to promote ICT programs, plans and projects as perhaps any competitive private firm would. For instance, launching e-soko should be done exactly or better than how MTN launches “the village phone” product.

Pundits say the launch of Intego Awards a couple of weeks back was another big disappointment!  That, although the awards targeted mostly private investors in ICT, purely government institutions like Rwanda Television (RTV) topped some categories.

For the first time I heard about the Intego awards; about a week to the event, i concluded that it was such an interesting initiative that just about to be executed badly.

I asked my self: If internet usage is low in the country, how then did RITA expect people to vote via internet? In a situation like it was, an aggressive sensitization campaign would come first, for quite a long spell then allow an informed society to vote.

I know a number of RITA interesting projects but I do not see Rwandans embracing them the way I would wish. And the problem lies in the way they’re promoted. Wait a few months to come; people will again be “surprised/shocked” with the introduction ICT Buses project.

Whether it succeeds or not, or whether a big number of Rwandans actually benefit from the project seems secondary to this ICT promotion institution.

Community Telecentres, e-soko, Schoolnet, e-districts project are all good projects, but I do not see many Rwandans owning them, meaning there’s a problem with execution.  

By and large, I have this feeling that government and private sector should work together, more, to ensure that Rwandans, especially business people embrace ICT.

And we’re anxiously and impatiently waiting for that moment when fibre optic will become fully operational countrywide to bring down the cost of internet in Rwanda.

That achieved, I will then stop driving kilometers to find the next internet café in fast growing Kigali city.

The writer is a Communication Specialist in the Rwanda Private Sector Foundation (RPSF)