Critics especially from the West have reluctantly given a thumbs up to the idea of heavily investing in ICTs in developing economies, particularly Sub-Sahara African economies. To my dismay, they think we should not. They are of the view that we should first solely concentrate on providing access to safe water, electricity, etcetera, at a time. Whenever they are arguing against our investment in ICTs they tend to forget that our developmental strategy is focused on parallel efforts.
We are many decades behind the schedule in terms of development a reason why we should stretch our efforts to achieve a development well accepted by universal standards.
We are in so much hurry due to no option. We are less needed for leapfrogging than sprinting faster than the world’s greatest speed merchant Usain Bolt.
While chatting with the BBC crew that had jetted in recently to file stories for the BBC World news, website and technology TV programme “Click”, I got an impression of them that Rwanda was too wide off the mark with its ambition to transform the economy using ICTs as a power dynamo.
When we travelled with the crew to Kamonyi District to film the operation of ICT Buses, they were less impressed because the district is still short of electricity – why should Kamonyi people have a facility like an ICT bus? Actually, the project design having considered a generator attached to the bus makes it very relevant for rural Rwanda.
Embarking on ICTs after fixing everything– like many critics put it – is totally misleading.
A country like Rwanda that has never existed at the time of industrial revolution needs to lay ICT at the center of everything in order to achieve its socio-economic development. Disparately!
It’s to my liking that President Paul Kagame once said; “We know only too well that just as the growth of the 19th and 20th centuries were driven by networks of railways and highways, the growth of the 21st century is being driven by the networks of digital highways and ICT value added services.” He is spot on.
True, the government has earmarked a handsome chunk of its budget to build a seamless ICT infrastructure, provide sufficient local and international broadband connectivity as well as closing the skills gap in IT.
I would consider this as money well spent especially when the implementation goes well.
One would wonder why Rwanda should connect the entire country and also link to the global network through SEACOM, ESSAY or TEAMS. There can be a thousand answers to that.
Making an international phone call or connecting to high-speed internet is beyond the reach of the average Rwandans in part because the region is not connected to the global optical fiber broadband infrastructure.
Just like many African countries, we lack direct terrestrial access to global information and communications infrastructure and networks and we are forced to rely on expensive satellite connectivity to link up with each other and the rest of the world.
This translates into some of the highest communications costs in the world.
International wholesale bandwidth prices are 20 to 40 times higher than in the United States, and international calls are on average 10 to 20 times more than in Rwanda.
The country’s growth and development is being held back by this lack of access to low price and high quality telecommunications services.
Furthermore, it impedes regional and international trade and limits the extent of job creation.
The limited and costly access also hinders the potential to utilize information and communication technologies to extend learning, promote social participation and improve government efficiency and transparency.
The socio-economic impact through usage of ICTs is awesome. Modern telecommunications can help reduce the cost of doing business, create well-paying jobs, provide more efficient public services and greatly expand affordable access to information.
It might be too early to mention but worthy noting that Rwanda stands unbelievable edge to becoming an ICT hub in the region as well as cutting a posture of an African Singapore.
With a national backbone consisting of 2,300 kilometers of fibre-optic cables laid throughout the country, connecting Rwanda’s thirty districts as well as the Kigali Metropolitan Area, Rwanda will in a couple of months be connected to high-speed internet that will allow for the further development of a country already known world-wide for its truly astounding growth and progress under the government led by President Paul Kagame.
The Rwanda of the future, led by innovations in information technology, will be the knowledge capital of the region – a place for the brightest minds the world over to exchange ideas, and where the Rwandan people can continue to work together with each other and with Rwanda’s partners to build a better country and a better world.
It seems that everywhere you look, plans are underway to make the most of the high-speed connectivity that will soon reach all corners of Rwanda.
You can but an “e” before almost any service imaginable, and you will likely find that such a project is already underway in Rwanda.
E-health, e-learning, e-government, e-education, and now even e-attendance, a software developed by RDB-IT to improve personnel management efficiency in government and in the private sector.
Children studying in primary school will begin making the most of information technology from a very young age, which will expand their horizons as they become young adults competing for jobs on the marketplace.
The government of Rwanda has begun the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, which has already distributed thousands of child friendly laptops, called XO laptops, to primary schools throughout the country.
These allow children to learn basic word processing and computer skills that will be invaluable when they finally enter the job market.
Although the government is hard at work ensuring that a greater percentage of the population, especially rurally, has access to the electric grid, the XO laptops are designed such that they do not require electricity to operate and can thus be used anywhere, anytime.
Government’s ambitious plan is to ensure that 80% of Rwandan children have access to these laptops by 2012.
The future is glowingly vivid!