Language will no longer be a barrier to Rwandan users of social network Facebook following the launch of the Kinyarwanda app at the ongoing Transform Africa Summit which started in Kigali on Monday.
The launch, which took place Monday evening, also saw the launch of Free Basics, an online platform that provides internet users free access to information like news, maternal health, travel, local jobs, sports, communication, and local government information.
The two platforms were launched through a partnership between Airtel Rwanda and the Ministry of Youth and Information, Communication and Technology (MYICT), where users will download the Freebasics application through Google Play store or directly log onto the site, according to Ebele Okobi, the head of public policy for Facebook Africa.
“We consider easy and affordable access to internet one of the basic rights for people and we also believe that it is important for the people. The internet makes people access services easily from their own comfort and it increases both educational and business opportunities,” she said.
During the launch, the Minister for Youth and ICT, Jean-Philbert Nsengimana, said, “Freebasics with Facebook will enable Rwandans access to vital information from various websites in fields such as education, work opportunities, medical services and local government, among others.”
He also added that with such information at the fingertips of Rwandans, it is an indicator that people’s lives will significantly improve. This was also reiterated by Markku Makelainen, Facebook’s director of Global Operator Partnerships.
“It’s such a great initiative to partner with Airtel Rwanda to give people access to free information on important issues because we know that having such access is not a privilege but a right that has the ability to give rise to communities and budding entrepreneurs around the world,” Makelainen said.
Airtel chief financial officer and interim managing director, Tano Oware, said with their low-cost, internet enabled phones that were recently put on the market, they are confident that people can now get on the internet and access information that would have otherwise been difficult to access.
Freebasics is a platform for developers to create services with the aim of reaching out to people around the world in rural areas with information on education, health, economic empowerment, civic participation and critical information among others.
According to Patrick Nsenga, an IT enthusiast, Facebook in Kinyarwanda will help people to explore more features which they haven’t been able to enjoy because of language barrier.
“This is a huge step towards getting more Rwandans to use the internet,” he said.
Antoinette Kanyana, an IT entrepreneur, says Freebasics is a platform that not only provides information but also helps developers to contribute to the world through provision of vital information while they also improve their skills.