At the recent Africa – Continent of Opportunities: Bridging the Digital Divide event in Berlin (see my notes here), Mr Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Minister of Youth and ICT, Rwanda, shared some lessons from 15 year of ICT adoption in his country:
- Vision 2020 is a Government development program in Rwanda, launched in 2000 by Rwandan president Paul Kagame. Its main objective is transforming the country into a knowledge-based middle-income country, thereby reducing poverty, health problems and making the nation united and democratic. Having this and courageous leadership have been critical in getting Rwanda to where it is today. A strong Government vision and commitment to implementation is essential, with a view to strategic partnership.
- Keeping focus and momentum. Laying 7,500 km of fibre, putting laptops in the hands of 200,000 learners in 400 schools around the country. They want 4G/LTE last mile access to 95% of population by 2017 and have been working with the private sector to achieve this. Interestingly the partners will jointly develop this infrastructure and share it, as opposed to each mobile network operator building its own network (that would be too expensive).
- Their strategy: as much as possible, let the private sector drive the ICT sector growth.
- Focus on the demand side – ensure that technology that needs to be in the hands of people is affordable. They are using the Universal Access Fund to achieve this and are manufacturing devices in-country to lower costs.
- Keeping a focus on girls and women’s empowerment. They work to mainstream ICT into girls development programs.
Of course the Rwanda experience is not without its faults and challenges, but it is a country that has genuinely committed to reaping the benefits promised from ICT and the lessons learned along the way are valuable to all countries.
Images: Thomas Ecke, Copyright