Critics especially from the West have reluctantly given (thumbs up) to the idea of investing in ICTs in developing economies. To my dismay, they think we should not.
They believe that we should first concentrate on providing essential services like safe water; they tend to forget that our developmental strategy is focused on parallel efforts.
We are many decades behind the rest of the ‘modern’ world and that’s why we should use all means to achieve those universal standards. We are in a hurry because we have no option.
We are less needed for leapfrogging than sprinting faster than the world’s greatest speed merchant Usain Bolt.
While chatting with the BBC crew that had jetted to shoot a segment for the technology program “Click”, I got an impression that they believed that Rwanda was too ambitious where its use of ICT’s, to power the economy, was concerned.
When we travelled with the crew to Kamonyi District to film the operation of ICT Buses, they were less than impressed that the district still had an electricity shortage– they seemed to say, “why should the people of Kamonyi have a facility like the ICT bus, when they don’t have electricity”?
Actually, the bus is to have a generator attached to it, making it relevant to rural Rwanda. Embarking on ICTs after fixing everything– like many critics put it – is totally misleading. A country like Rwanda needs to put ICT at the center of everything.
President Paul Kagame once said; “We know only too well that just as the growth of the 19th and 20th centuries were driven by networks of railways and highways, the growth of the 21st century is being driven by the networks of digital highways and ICT value added services.” He is totally correct.
The government has earmarked a handsome chunk of its budget to build seamless ICT infrastructure, provide sufficient local and international broadband connectivity as well as closing the skills gap in IT.
One might wonder why Rwanda should connect the entire country and also link to the world through SEACOM, ESSAY or TEAMS.
Making an international phone call or connecting to high-speed internet is beyond the reach of the average Rwandans in part because the region is not connected to the global optical fiber broadband infrastructure.
Just like many African countries, we lack direct terrestrial access to global information and communications infrastructure and networks and we are forced to rely on expensive satellite connectivity to link up with each other and the rest of the world.
Rwanda’s growth is held back by lack of access to low price and high quality telecommunications services; it impedes trade and limits job creation.
The limited and costly access also hinders the potential to utilize ICT to extend learning, promote social participation and improve government efficiency and transparency.
Modern telecommunications can help reduce the cost of doing business, create well-paying jobs, provide more efficient public services and greatly expand affordable access to information.
The Rwanda of the future, led by innovations in information technology, will be the knowledge capital of the region – a place for the brightest minds the world over to exchange ideas, and where the Rwandan people can continue to work together with each other and with Rwanda’s partners to build a better country and a better world.
The author works with Rwanda Development Board-IT