A report by Internet Society, a global organisation that promotes the use of Internet, has recommended that hosting web sites locally is key to the development of the Internet ecosystem in Rwanda and other emerging countries.
However, local entrepreneurs are yet to join the bandwagon, claiming that “they are still far from hosting locally.”
The report, released last month following a study on the impact of hosting local content outside of the country, says most of Rwandan content is hosted outside of the country, yet most of the viewers of that content are in Rwanda.
Internet Society also found out that viewers in Rwanda have to pay expensive Internet connections to access their local content because it takes longer to access it since it is hosted overseas.
Experts say that it is cheaper for those hosting to host outside, but that it is “very expensive for the viewers and readers to access that content.”
They also say that high charges that viewers pay to access local content goes towards paying expensive international links.
The crux of the matter is that the longer it takes for content hosted overseas to display, the longer internet users in Rwanda spend on the internet and the worse user experience they get.
“The delay experienced by users in Rwanda to download a webpage can frequently be five seconds or more, and this can increase for webpages composed of multiple elements,” Internet Society’s report reads in part.
“The cumulative effect can make the overall Internet experience slow and frustrating, with a corresponding negative impact on usage. This can also limit the viability of interactive and data-intensive services such as gaming or video streaming, which depend on low latency.”
So, why not host the web sites in the country since there is a sound infrastructure that is capable of hosting websites and mails according to experts?
‘Poor service delivery’
Léandre Cyusa Mucyowiraba, the founder of Cyusa Digital Agency, a Kigali-based ICT company offering technology solutions for city and upcountry clients, cited poor customer service as the reason why he hosts from overseas.
“We have the right infrastructure in Rwanda but we are not so sure about getting prompt online support; we are not so sure about the service. It’s not enough to say that you are a great cook, we have to look at how long it takes to get the food,” he told The New Times on Tuesday.
Meilleur Murindabigwi, the chief executive of Igihe Limited, said hosting locally makes surfing the Internet faster but hosting prices are still high in Rwanda.
Murindabigwi said he continues to host web sites from overseas because it’s good business in terms of saving money to be able to stay in business.
So, how in the world will it be cost-effective and efficient to be able to host web sites from Rwanda?
Ghislain Nkeramugaba, the chief executive of Ricta, a not-for-profit organisation representing the Rwanda Internet community, said change in mindset for Rwanda-based web site owners and change in prices to host locally will bring Rwanda’s web sites back home.
Nkeramugaba said Rwanda-based web site owners currently prefer to host outside because the cost is relatively low with a ‘dot.com’ domain and a hosting package.
“Web (and, to some extent, mail) hosting in Rwanda is still very low. People (content owners and web site owners) still choose to host in the US or Europe because it is extremely cheap.
Nevertheless, the business of web/mail hosting is slowly growing in Rwanda, but the charges are still very high. In terms of infrastructure (data centres), the actual local infrastructure is capable of hosting websites and mails, the remaining challenge is to adjust the prices to the global market prices,” he says.
But that seemingly low cost has bad consequences and the expert advises Rwanda-based web sites to acquire a ‘dot.rw’ domain to give their readers a great user experience.
“Hosting web sites locally presents many advantages. But the first one is better/improved user experience; media files (pictures/video) load very fast to PC/phones. Once the end-user/viewer notices an improvement in their surfing experience, they want to consume more of the local content,” he says.
Nkeramugaba explained that with locally hosted web sites there are some services one can add to websites such as mobile money or local payment services.
He also said hosting locally gives the content owners the flexibility and control over their content because they can directly contact the service providers and even pay them a visit.
A shift is imminent
Nkeramugaba said there will be a shift and many Rwanda-based web sites will be hosted in the country when local hosting services are offered at a competitive price.
Working with officials at Ricta and the Ministry of Youth and ICT, experts at the Internet Society, Michael Kende, the Internet Society chief economist, and Karen Rose, the body’s senior director of strategy and researcher, recommended that Rwanda-based websites start being hosted at home.
“We believe it is important for content developers to consider not just the cost of local hosting, but also the impact of local hosting on the usage of their web site, particularly given that lower latency improves customer experience and can encourage increased website use,” the experts wrote.
However, they added, “it is equally important for hosting companies to provide packages based on the needs of local content providers, as a first step in minimising the incentives of hosting abroad.”
The experts said “with the right offer, web site developers may be willing to pay a reasonable premium to host in Rwanda, to benefit from the impact of reduced latency and increased throughput on usage.”