RE: “Rwanda’s innovative broadband distribution model” (The New Times, October 6). The author said it all: “It should be noted that in standard practices, networks are deployed based on commercial demand, however for Rwanda’s model case, the broadband access has been considered as basic utility, hence even the remotest areas are connected regardless of the existing clientele”.
This is only possible under PPPs business model. Does KT Rwanda Networks Ltd have centres of excellence where people who want to know more about 4G can visit the company website? The ball is now in our hands to make good use of this first-class internet connectivity.
This is with no doubt a great accomplishment. Rwanda has built a good highway. The problem is that there are no cars on that highway. In IT terms, this means that while Rwanda will have a great network, there is very little content (information applications, games, education content, etc) relevant to the Rwandan population accessible on that network.
Did Rwanda build that network to benefit companies like Google, Facebook…or is this for Rwandans themselves? Some relevant content is offered by RwandaOnline but much more is needed.
The problem is that content developers are facing many challenges. One is that local telecommunication companies charge 70 per cent to distribute their content (yes, this is not a typo, I said seventy per cent). Second is that while the network will be available, its cost is not affordable.
Here are some proposed solutions to this: First the Government, through RURA, must impose a lower margin for telecoms to distribute local content. Second, even more, I would suggest that when people in Rwanda access Rwandan content located in Rwanda, there should be cost for use of the network.
Content providers can obviously charge for access to their content to pay for their efforts, but users should not pay for the use of the network when accessing that content. This can be compensated by charging a little bit more for accessing content outside of Rwanda. This should encourage the emergence of a Rwandan content development industry.
Distinguished Service Professor, Carnegie Mellon University