Senators have said there is need for more information on the implementation of Karisimbi mega communication project. More light should be shed on the state of its implementation and impact, they said.
“When the project was conceived, it had quite ambitious targets, how do we evaluate its impact on the Rwandan population, how did it go?” posed Senator Jean-Damascene Ntawukuliryayo.
He added that there was lack of clarity on why some of the activities were relocated to other districts and why it is still called Karisimbi project.
The project is named after Mount Karisimbi, one of the mountains that form Virunga Massif in Musanze District.
The comments were made during a discussion about the report on the status of the national seven years ICT policy presented by the senatorial committee in charge of economic development and finances, on Tuesday.
The senators criticised their colleagues in the committee for not detailing information about the Karisimbi project, yet it is among the big ICT related projects in the country.
The project, which was set to operate at the peak of the Rwanda’s highest volcano, Karisimbi, was expected to have been completed by 2017 with all its five components, namely integration of COMESA airspace management, climate observatory station, upgraded transmission for a digital broadcasting and touristic cable car system being fully operational.
Highlighting the findings after a number of consultative sessions with key stakeholders, Senator Jacqueline Muhongayire, chairperson of the committee, stated that despite some critical challenges, ICT has been incorporated in many sectors.
She cited internet accessibility to Rwandans which she said has reached up to 3.7 million people, equivalent to 33.5 per cent of the total population while mobile phone users, by 2015, had reached 7.6 million, translating into 77.8 per cent of the country’s citizens.
On Karisimbi, senator Muhongayire explained that during the process of implementation, the Government partitioned the project which saw some of the activities transferred to other parts of the country.
“Contrary to the widely held view, we have seen that some of the activities were successfully carried out. For example, there is Installed Radar (air navigation system) already in place and a climate observatory station which was relocated to Bugesera District,” she said.
But senators said there was also lack of clarity on the project financing to establish whether there was value for money.
“How do we easily come to a conclusion that the project was swiftly implemented, yet previously we were told that it had stalled due to financial constraints?” wondered Senator Marie-Claire Mukasine.
Senator Evariste Bizimana, another member of the committee that authored the report, said other than the cable car network project , which still awaits the investors, other elements were effectively executed.
“We have to understand that with the successful roll-out of the Fiber Optic Cable, it eased implementation of the project programmes; for example, the transmission equipment saw Rwanda easily switch from analogue to digital broadcasting.
“As for COMESA integration of airspace management, the Communication Navigation Surveillance /Air Management is fully operational, what remains is to make financial gains, otherwise the technology is there,” he explained.
The Communication, Navigation, Surveillance – Air Traffic Management (CNS-ATM) was set to develop a seamless, globally coordinated system of air navigation services to cope with worldwide growth in air traffic demand.
Some of the expected outcomes of the programme were improved national and regional airspace safety and security; improved airspace and airport operational efficiency; increased availability of user-preferred flight schedules and profiles, thereby positioning Rwanda as a logistics hub.
The implementation, however, according to senators, was supposed to be captured vis-a-vis the objectives with detailed financial highlights after the project had been dissolved into other sectors.
Senator Bizimana further stated that while national broadcasting agency has also benefitted from the existing facilities, Rwanda Development Board was still sourcing out investors who can take on the remaining part of the project; the cable car network (tourism).
This project involves installing a cable car to facilitate people, especially, tourists to access the summit and it was expected to be operational by November 2015.
Commercial viability of the cable project, according to reports, was a big challenge considering its up-front cost of $38 million (Rwf25 billion).
Senators, on the other hand commended the achievements of other ICT projects, including the Kigali Metropolitan Network and National Data Centre, and called for more efforts to have other projects like Kigali Innovation city; Rwanda innovation fund, Smart Rwanda Master plan and disaster recovery site fast-tracked.