Kigali, October 22,2013 – With the launch of the government-backed “Smart Kigali” project, people in Rwanda now have access to free internet via Wi-Fi enabled devices.
The project, which is line with Rwanda’s Vision 2020, symbolises another step towards achieving the East African nation’s prospects of becoming a regional IT hub, as it steadily moves past the tragic events of the 1994 genocide into a future built on a Knowledge-based economy in order to attract more foreign investment.
Five years ago, Rwanda launched the “One Laptop Per Child” initiative in schools across the country. So far, the project has seen about 200,000 laptops distributed to more than 400 schools.
Going further, Rwandan government signed a $140 million deal with South Korea’s largest Telecom – Korea Telecom (KT) Corp in June, 2013 to provide 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) Broadband networks across the country especially in areas where internet connectivity is low. The deal is considered to be one of the biggest FDI deal ever embarked on by the East African nation.
On launching the “Smart Kigali” project, the Rwanda in partnership with the City of Kigali (the country’s capital), internet service providers, Rwanda Hotel and Restaurants Association as well as other government agencies announced last month that there will be free wireless internet in Kigali.
This was the first step in a strategy which aims to provide wi-fi coverage to all schools and public buildings and buses, hospitals, commercial buildings, taxi-parks and restaurants.
Rwanda hopes that the initiative – a public-private partnership – will significantly contribute towards delivering better services to people via the internet.
According to Alex Ntale, the Director of the Rwanda’s information and communications technology chamber, “Smart Kigali really is a test, it is giving people a taste of better things to come.”
He added that for “Smart Kigali” to succeed, the private sector needs to stay on board because the project is not perpetual – someone has to pay eventually.
“The private companies are testing a business model… they are trying to find out if the market is really there,” Ntale said.
However, Rwanda’s Minister in charge of Information Technology, Jean Philibert Nsengimana, said he wanted to see the plan “accelerate growth of the Internet sector” and attract more investors.
According to the United Nations Broadband Commission for Digital Development 2013, only 8 percent of Rwandans are have access to the internet.
Yet, Nsengimana insists that “Connectivity is one of the most important draws for business in this age of digital economy.”
“Broadband access has to be considered as an essential, just like water and electricity,” he added.
Nsengimana also cautioned that if the new, high-tech Rwanda fails to take off and the programme does not turn out to be profitable, then the private sector will have “every right to switch off the machines.”
However, the country’s bid to become a technology hub like Kenya has yielded good fruits so far.
Rwanda ranks as one of the least corrupt countries in Africa, while on the World Bank’s ease of Doing Business Index for 2013, it ranks as the 3rd easiest place to do business in sub-Saharan Africa and the 52nd out of 185 countries examined globally.
Source: Ventures Africa