The International Telecommunication Union Secretary General, Zhao Houlin, has committed to undertaking the creation of networking opportunities for local Small and Medium Enterprises as well as ICT start-ups to promote economic development.
Houlin, who assumed office in January, was speaking to The New Times on his first day of a three-day official visit to the country.
He toured facilities at Telecom House in Kacyiru including Carnegie Mellon University Rwanda-campus, K-Lab innovation centre, 4G innovation centre and the Computer Security Incident Response Team offices.
ITU is the specialised United Nations agency charged with coordination of effective development and use of telecommunications globally.
Houlin said SMEs greatly contribute toward economic development.
With the increased networking opportunities through the provision of an international platform, SMEs would have an even bigger impact in their respective economies, Houlin said.
He credited SMEs with the modern innovations that continue to shape today’s markets and economies, saying their ideas and knowledge of local market dynamics would further develop economies.
He said it was the reason he was placing promotion of SMEs among his top priorities during his term in office.
“ITU would like SMEs to network so as to create more partnerships and share experiences,” the ITU head said.
He added that realisation of the set goals was dependant on cooperation between governments and international organisations.
“I am working with many ministers of ICT including Jean Philbert Nsengimana and I have also spoken with President Paul Kagame about the same and he fully supports the initiative. I recently shared the same with UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon and he also pledged to support the initiative,” Houlin told The New Times.
He termed the innovations and levels of young people involved in ICT at K-Lab as impressive, adding that their work will help develop the local technology sector.
He also commended the President for his dedication to Africa’s growth, especially through the promotion of young entrepreneurs and innovators.
While at the Carnegie Mellon University, Houlin called for increased inclusion and participation of women in ICT as it was in other aspects of the nation.
Rwanda is the first African country to be visited by the new ITU boss since he replaced Dr Hamadoun Toure for a four-year mandate.
ICT entrepreneurs and innovators based at K-Lab welcomed Houlin’s initiative, saying it would provide them with more skills and competence.
Aphrodice Mutangana, the founder of Foyo, a health solutions firm, who was among the ICT entrepreneurs who presented their innovations to the ITU chief, said the networking platform would help firms like his gain exposure and increase market base.
The Minister for Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, said ITU had played a key role in developing ICT in the country, including the establishment and development of Carnegie Mellon University-Rwanda campus.
He said the country had achieved alot by working closely with the UN agency.
Houlin also visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Gisozi where he laid a wreath in memory of the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi before leaving for the Northern Province.
During his time in Rwanda, he is expected to meet senior government officials to discuss the progress of ICT and ways his organisation could further help develop the sector.
Rwanda, which has been an ITU member since 1962, was recently re-elected as member state of the Council of ITU for the term 2014-2018.
Among the council’s roles include formulation of policies that are in line with the world’s rapidly changing telecommunication environment and deciding on administrative issues of the organisation.
Rwanda has been an active promoter of ITU initiatives through adoption, usage and deployment of technologies for bridging the digital divide.