How the private sector has boosted internet affordability

Last month, Rwanda topped the list of African nations with most affordable internet, according to a new index by Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI). The ranking published in the ‘Affordability Report’, ranked countries according to various drivers such as effective broadband structures, enhanced competition and infrastructure sharing models.
Young entrepreneurs at K-Lab, a start-up hub, in Kigali. (File)
Young entrepreneurs at K-Lab, a start-up hub, in Kigali. (File)

Last month, Rwanda topped the list of African nations with most affordable internet, according to a new index by Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI).

The ranking published in the ‘Affordability Report’, ranked countries according to various drivers such as effective broadband structures, enhanced competition and infrastructure sharing models.

Telecom experts considered the ranking a major feat considering the Government’s commitment to promoting ICT and broadband connectivity as a means of achieving sustainable development.

The progress was also attributed to the competition brought about by multiple players and the introduction of digital cellular technology, coupled with competitive tariffs with major players constantly coming up with new discount schemes to gain competitive advantage.

One of Rwanda’s top internet service providers, MTN, has played a role toward affordable internet by introducing packages that allow clients to purchase cheap bundles for basic internet use such as access to social media platforms.

The internet service provider recently introduced a product, dubbed Social Pack, that allows customers to access the most popular social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp for as low as Rwf75 per day with 25MB.

MTN’s Chief Marketing Officer Yvonne Manzi Makolo said the packages were created specifically for the Rwandan youth based on the apps or sites youth use most.

In a statement, MTN said their aim was to provide access to ICT services to businesses while helping them minimise their infrastructure and operating costs with the introduction of MTN Cloud services. MTN is also able to host local content at a cheaper cost with all the security features guaranteed.

Tigo, another internet service provider, has made internet more affordable through affordable gadgets that go for as low as $50 and innovative packages tailored to their clients’ needs.

Yasmin Sued, the head of marketing at Tigo, told The New Times that the firm was building innovative products and solutions that were affordable across all income brackets.

“Tigo Rwanda launched Shabuka, the most affordable smartphone in the market at only $50 (about Rwf34,000, a few months ago. With the same idea in mind, Tigo similarly introduced affordable Internet packs starting at Rwf100 for a period of 24 hours. We will keep bringing innovative products that address our customer needs,” Sued said.

In a previous interview with The New Times, Brian Karemera, Sales Manager at ISPA, another internet service provider, said their prices were set with an aim of  developing customer loyalty in a competitive market.

“Beginning February 2015, ISPA has cut down its rates by a very significant percentage on various company services. ISPA aims at setting value, not the price. It is important for us to map benefits versus price, bearing in mind the customers’ perspective toward them.  Customers will automatically become loyal to the company as we reduce cost of accessing our internet services,” Karemera said.

Patrick Nsenga, a local ICT entrepreneur, said competition among local internet service providers will help boost the quality of internet services and make it more affordable.

He said that affordability of internet services is a private sector driven initiative brought about by competition for customer loyalty.

The Minister for Youth and ICT, Jean-Philbert Nsengimana commended the national policies, saying they had also played a role toward the development of the ICT sector.

“The country’s broadband connectivity has become a key competitive differentiator in the global economy. We have made significant progress toward integration of ICT in sectors such as health, education, agriculture, as well as business and finance,” the minister said.