The government has set aside a huge chunk of its budget to lay a 2,300-kilometer national optic fibre backbone. In just a few months, all of the country’s districts will be connected by optic fiber, enabling seamless broadband connectivity.
Some think that the government has taken a role that should have been catered for by the private sector. These critics conclude that government’s investment in ICT infrastructure might stifle private sector growth.
These points are understandable; private operators worldwide often have a grip on the digital highways. However, often irrespective of their interest in having a stronghold on the digital highways, they still express reluctance on executing comprehensive investment. They tend, in most cases, to deploy infrastructure only to areas attractive in terms of market size.
This fact justifies the state’s intervention to provide infrastructure since it does not – unlike private operators – entirely focus on quick returns on investment.
With all due respect to MTN Rwanda, who claim a 95 percent geographic voice coverage of the country, it takes only an hour’s drive to as near as Kamonyi district, for one to lose network coverage.
So the question is; if MTN can not avail the people of Kamonyi with voice services, will it ever extend optic fiber to the area? These are some of the questions that validate the state’s involvement in rolling out ICT infrastructure.
The fact remains that the State’s intervention to invest in the national backbone will enable operators to save a lot of their time and money. With the national backbone complete, private operators will not need to lay a fiber to reach their markets as they will just tap on redundant cables.
This would mean saving of money and time on civil works, purchase of accessories, seeking authorization to carryout civil works and lay optic fiber, expropriation, and conducting an environmental impact assessment.
The savings that operators accrue as a result of not investing the fibre backbone should therefore be channeled into developing applications and services for end-users at affordable prices. This will encourage a hale and hearty competition pegged on innovations on the market, which is essential for end.
Government investment in this sector should not be misinterpreted as competition being launched against the private sector. If our corporates were not profit minded and keen on rolling out this infrastructure to even the remotest corner of this nation, there would be no need of government intervention.
Time and again, government has stated it clearly that economic growth of this nation has to be hinged on a vibrant private sector.
Times have changed and we have flipped to a different page now. The situation is no longer how it was in the 19th and 20th centuries when growth was driven by networks of railways and highways. As of today, growth is superbly driven by networks of digital highways.
Access to ICTs is a prerequisite for realizing our developmental strategy running until 2020. Like President Paul Kagame has always said, it’s not a matter of choice, but a matter of necessity.
The author works with RDB-IT