Internet penetration in rural areas is expected to grow thanks to a programme dubbed “Smart village” that was launched in Kigali, during the second edition of Rwanda Internet for All Forum.
The forum, which was held in Kigali on Friday, was organised by the Ministry of Youth and ICT in collaboration with the World Economic Forum.
It brought together stakeholders from the ICT sector to discuss ways to accelerate digital transformation of Rwanda’s rural areas.
Under the Smart Village initiative, which is part of the Internet for All Initiative, there will be sensitization on the use of applications in health, agriculture, smart classrooms in education, free public WiFI, among others.
The programme will be piloted in Tumba Sector of Rulindo District.
Jean Philbert Nsengimana, the Minister of Youth and ICT, stressed the importance taking the internet to rural areas.
“80 per cent of Rwanda’s population lives in rural areas. Our targets cannot be achieved if people in rural areas are left out. There are challenges of access, affordability and lack of relevant content. If we are able to resolve those problems in the sampled area, we will scale up in the whole country,” he said
Minister Nsengimana explained that these initiatives will help accelerate the government’s internet penetration target of 100 per cent internet access by 2020 from the current 38 per cent.
“In the first years, we were moving a bit slower because there was no infrastructure in place. Now the infrastructure has increased and we are working with stakeholders to increase smartphone penetration and electricity access and accelerate the pace at which people are learning to use the internet,” he noted.
Over five million people will have been trained on digital skills by 2019 under Digital Ambassadors Program which is also part of Internet for all Initiative.
According to Eric White, the head of the initiative said it aims at closing the digital divide by creating new internet users with focus on the hardest to reach.
“We want to accelerate the growth of internet inclusion which is a big drive of development and social inclusion. Rwanda through government initiatives is a bit ahead in the region but there is still a long way to go,” he said.
Internet for all Initiative was introduced in December last year. It aims at connecting 25 million people in Northern Corridor region, five of them being from Rwanda by 2020.