Rwanda is developing its third National ICT Plan (NICI 3) in a series of four, spanning the 20 years required to realize the Vision 2020, it is important to re-visit the enabling factors that contribute to a successful implementation of a National ICT Plan. By the year 2020, Rwanda aims towards developing into a middle income, service and knowledge based economy.
In order for initiatives under a National ICT Strategic Plan to succeed, necessary factors comprising of elements of technology infrastructure, the politico-legal backbone, a supportive society that reposes trust in ICT as a way of life should be in place. Additionally, investments in appropriate education, an institutional framework that continually takes stock of emerging realities of the world and applies course correctives, is a fundamental requirement.
The following elements constitute the enabling success factors
Policy, Legal and Regulatory Structure
The policy, legal and the regulatory structure makes up the foundation required to ensure that initiatives continue to enjoy consistent and undiminished support throughout the currency of the plan.
Policy conveys political conviction and commitment for the initiatives. A comprehensive National ICT Policy encompassing different domains of involvement is a necessary first step to impart direction and serve as a guiding document for stakeholders.
For the identified activities to take place smoothly, it is also necessary that the legal framework is harmonized with requirements of the information economy, and is braced up into one in which participants have trust and confidence. While on the one hand it is necessary that legal or regulatory interventions do not stifle creativity.
The ICT regulator not only needs to be effective, it must also be, and must be seen as, independent. Legal provisions and regulatory practices need to be seen in this light and therefore, the regulatory regime must be equitable, transparent, progressive and customer-centric.
Sustained Availability of Quality ICT Skills
ICT is a knowledge-intensive industry and hence is one which is driven essentially by skilled manpower. Both measures count here, quantity and quality. If available, it is important that outputs at the tertiary level (graduates) are compatible with industry requirements. They must imbibe in themselves a spirit of lifelong learning, which discards all perceptions of education being a once-and-for-all effort.
Education must be such as to inculcate in students the acumen of creativity and staying prepared for challenges in an increasingly professional and knowledge-driven world. Fundamentally, measures must be initiated at the foundational levels of education itself.
A thriving ICT industry whose skill requirements are substantially met from within the country requires more than twice the number of students coming up the secondary education ladder in streams related to ICT than is the average current trend in African countries.
Rolling out an appropriate ICT Infrastructure
ICT infrastructure forms the essential bedrock on which initiatives under the National ICT Strategic Plan would succeed. Establishment and sharing of a functioning electronic communications infrastructure, proper service management, principles governing operations of this infrastructure and necessary policy and regulatory support that is equitable, transparent, progressive and customer-centric in orientation.
Culture of Information Security
We live in an increasingly knowledge-driven and networked world where a considerable degree of anonymity is associated with activities and systems that are prone to external interceptions that are in breach of lawful online conduct. All these could lead to an erosion of trust and confidence.
It is important that measures are undertaken towards creating awareness through education & training, operational practice standards accompanied by a suitable enforcement environment. An environment of trust and confidence in ICT, particularly the Internet, is an essential pre-requisite for uptake levels to rise. A National Information Security Strategy is necessary.
Timely Monitoring and Evaluation Framework
In order for initiatives in the plan to deliver the intended benefits, a timely and objective monitoring and evaluation framework is an essential pre-requisite, as also is the requirement of a dedicated team entrusted to monitor and evaluate on a continual basis.
The criteria that must form the basis for such evaluation also needs to be objectively laid down before implementation begins, in the form of performance linked indicators on which to evaluate the progress of programmes and projects.
Since indicators form the very basis on which achievements in ICT could be qualified, a key recommendation is that of first arriving at definitions for the ICT sector and ICT service.
Much has been happening at the international level in this area and while at the global level broad agreements exist on what must constitute the sector finer granularities still vary from one country to another. Recommendations need to be made towards arriving at a definition for the ICT sector as also of ICT service, that is aligned to current practice, in an effort to not just benchmark, but to also be in a position to calculate the contribution of the ICT sector to Rwanda’s GDP.
Primary targets to be met over a period of five years are categorized below:
• Percentage contribution into the Country’s GDP
• Doubling the number of local & foreign investors into the ICT sector
• Increasing the number of employed qualified individuals in the ICT sector to a certain number
• Employment in the ICT sector to at least (set the target) of those who graduate in ICT
• Increased preference for ICT with at least 50 percent acceptance for services available online
• Increase in Computers in primary schools ownership.
• Internet Connectivity and Networking of all secondary schools and 50% of primary schools.
• At least (set the target) increase in the enrolment at the tertiary level in ICT courses over a period of five years.
• Increase in Broadband Penetration.