Tag Archives: Rwanda

Rwanda ICT4D Resources

1.) National Information and Communications Infrastructure (NICI)

The national ICT policy in Rwanda was enacted by the Republic of Rwanda Ministry of Youth & ICT in an effort to become a knowledge-based society. The current phase of the plan, NICI III or NICI 2011-2015, was enacted in 2011 and has not been updated since. PDF files of NICI I-III are available at the link provided, all of which are published in English.

 

2.) Ministry of Youth & ICT

Rwanda combines Youth Development with ICTs under one governing Ministry. This is the ministry responsible for overseeing Rwanda’s national ICT policy. However the Ministry also indicates partnerships with the Rwanda Development Board and Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency.

 

3.) Non-Government Resources

The Rwanda ICT Chamber is a great resource because it is a member of the Private Sector Federation (PSF) that acts as an agent to support ICT sector development .

I also found IST-Africa to be very helpful, as they provide a lot of information and resources regarding African nations’ ICT policies, initiatives and research.

 

4.) Notes

Coming from a large, knowledge-based society it can be difficult to gather research from a very small, developing nation. You’re not going to find exact numbers and information will be ambiguous at times. Be patient. This may seem trivial, but make sure you use search engines like Google Rwanda rather than Google alone. This well help you sort through a lot of useless information and deliver you a few reliable .rw results rather than a ton of questionable .com results.


Mobile Phones in Rwanda

This week we discussed the use of mobile phones in developing countries. We read this article about how fishermen in India used their mobile phones to predict demand and anticipate which types of fish would be in demand. While reading more about this topic I found this article also from the ITID Journal that discussed how mobile phones impact “microoentrepreneurs” in Rwanda. Rwanda is one of the most underdeveloped nations in the world but even in this difficult situation in Rwanda mobile phones made a difference. Microoentrepreneurs are people who start businesses with 5 of few employees. In the developing world one household may be the site of multiple microenterprises. My article discussed the story of a baker in Kigali who credited his purchase of a mobile phone with the rapid expansion of his business. He claimed, “business increased 30% due to the mobile, so much so that he had been able to move his family into a larger more comfortable home.” Since buying his phone customers can call him to place orders, he can call his suppliers to buy materials, he can take orders from all over the city and not only his neighborhood, as well as constantly communicate with this employee. He has also been able to expand his business into wedding cakes orders, which are phoned in from throughout the country.

His mobile phone had the added bonus of allowing him to keep in close contact with his wife and children while at work.

Mobile phones expand the market place and make business owners better able to respond to the needs of their area. Microoentrepreneurs, like the baker in Kigali, can save time by calling suppliers and customers rather than having to visit them in person and increase productivity by expanding their customer base by taking phone orders.

There are countless uses for mobile technologies in the developing would but better technological infrastructure needs to be created to fully utilize all the possibilities of mobile technologies.


Endnotes

And another semester bites-the-dust. I know I’m not alone when I say this was the most fun IDEV class I’ve taken here at Tulane–can’t wait for Ds for D.

One of the most salient lessons I’ll take away from this class is that data can be very deceiving–not necessarily an epiphany, but nonetheless an important and reacurring theme for the semester and the field. My semester’s research was focused on Rwanda, a country acclaimed for its rapid development in the last decade, which, in-part, ICT initiatives are responsible for. Reading through the various reports regarding Rwanda’s ICT accomplishments, and even walking through the impeccably clean streets of the capital city of Kigali, one cannot help but join in on the praise. But the reality is that the overwhelming majority of the Rwanda’s “meteoric development” has only occurred in two cities: Kigali and Butare. The rest of Rwanda, rural Rwanda, well-outside the scope of these regarded ICT initiatives and home to more than 80 percent of the population, remains largely unchanged since 2000. Electricity is scarce, to say nothing of Visa’s mobile banking initiatives, city-wide-wifi, and the other impressive ICT projects we’ve read about. So, data that reflects rapid development in a few areas doesn’t mean things on the ground are as impressive. It’s like the barrier to entry and content relevancy; if a country has 98 percent internet and moblie reach, but only 50 percent of the content is relevant, and only 15 percent of the population can actually afford access to it, what’s so impressive about the first figure? 

Something that will help me as a development professional, is also what I think to be the most important theoretical framework, which is that projects should be demand driven. We talked a lot about the “if you build it, they will come” complex built into a lot of failed ICT initiatives; such supply driven initiatives, like Mr. Vota so eloquently explained to us on Tuesday, don’t really inspire the change and development they wish to achieve. Thus, extensive market/stake-holder research is critical to a projects success. Anything less is blind-ambition, or worse, laziness.


Ki-Fi? It’s Not a Lie

If you find yourself wandering the streets of Kigali anytime soon, and are desperately searching for the nearest internet Café to check the latest post on this blog , stop — WiFi is now free and city-wide. The Rwandan Government, Rwandan Hotel & Restaurant Association, and local telecommunication companies collaborated to develop this–what I think we can all agree is an awesome–service to increase ICT use and create an “enabling environment.” Providing free, universal internet access is one way to breakdown the digital dive and barriers to entry.

The new initiative is called “Smart Kigali” and is one of the hundreds of ICT development efforts under Rwanda’s ambitious National Information and Communication Infrastructure plan (the country’s ICT policy), and free Wi-Fi is just the first step. The other efforts are not necessarily as exciting, but are arguably more important; The City of Kigali is working  with Google to publish a detailed online map of the city — i.e. Google Maps (currently, only general boarders and main streets are available).

The government is also implementing automated taxi meters in the cabs throughout the city to enforce a standardized fare. “Far-based conflict” is a major concern apparently; I buy it; there’s definitely a special “Muzungu” price.

All of these efforts are part of the Rwandan governments appeasement to private investment and Westerners in general. How many African cities have detailed google maps, free Wi-Fi and taxi-meters that help prevent foreigners from getting totally taken advantage of? As Mayor Ndayisaba put it, “We need Kigali to be an exemplary city. We do not need to copy other cities, we want cities to copy Kigali.”


IT Systems for Effective MFI Activity in Rwanda

In his article ‘Rwanda: How MFI’s (Micro-Financing Institution) Can Develop Cost-Effective IT Systems,’ Saddiq Mwai explains the potential benefit of creating a transparent, cooperative IT framework between MFI’s, in order to cut costs and effectively address poverty reduction in Rwanda. As Mwai describes, a financial services sector is essential to the success of nearly all social and economic objectives. MFI’s in Rwanda currently incur large expenses when serving their target populations, which are often rural and remote. These logistical expenses hinder MFI’s from doing ‘the most good.’

What Mwai proposes is a ‘common information technology platform to reduce costs associated with the acquisition, operation and maintenance of information systems.’ In other words, MFI’s would collaborate in creating a shared platform, on which MFI’s could communicate and share both information and capital with each other on a regular basis. This network would be operated from a processing hub in Kigali, and would be available to any MFI with simple PC-access. MFI’s could be charged on a ‘per account’ or ‘per client’ basis to use this existing, communal software. This on-demand payment method outsources software development costs and is significantly cheaper than purchasing or creating new software altogether.

In addition to cost-sharing among fellow MFI’s, such a network would allow MFI clients to complete necessary transactions via mobile phone, which would significantly reduce transportation and logistics costs to the benefit of both MFI’s and the consumer.

 

 

Urwego Opportunity Bank, an agricultural MFI in Rwanda

 

This proposal represents a promising opportunity for micro-finance institutions in Rwanda. Technological advances have provided new, unprecedented methods of lowering lending and transaction costs  in the developing world, and Mwai’s proposal takes a collaborative, cost-sharing approach to poverty reduction. Micro-finance and micro-lending institutions have the principle goal of reducing poverty and fostering self-sustaining community development. Therefore, any measure that would increase transparency and cost-efficient access between client and provider would be a positive investment, even if it means partnering with other institutions. With the increased disposal income once used for software and maintenance of a personal platform, an MFI can increase the amount of social ‘good’ it provides. The more resources available, the more potential there is for poverty reduction.

Read the article here.


Rwanda: An African Tech Hub?

Aware of the “leap-frog” potential of ICTs, the East-African nation of Rwanda, impaired by a lack of natural recourses, overcrowding, wide-spread poverty and a particularly violent past, is determined to become the region’s technological-hub. A grand ambition for a small agrarian society, but given the country’s meteoric development in the past decade under the stringent, but efficient, rule of President Paul Kagame, it’s a realistic one.

Rwanda is marginalized geographically, economically and politically; other than tea and coffee, it has no inherent natural recourses, its landlocked with not the best of neighbors — e.g. the D.R.C., with which Rwanda has had ongoing conflict since 1994. Thus, it makes sense that the Government of Rwanda is trying to take advantage of a commodity that is cheaply exportable anywhere in the world at the dial of a phone number or click of button: ICT services. To this end, the Rwandan government has invested massive amounts of money towards the development of a first-class, globally-appealing ICT infrastructure, in the hopes that they can foster a competitive ICT-private sector — the Government of Rwanda is rather explicit about this . For example, the following graphic from Rwanda’s initial ICT strategy document depicts the government’s desired transition from an agrarian based economy to a service based economy of which ICT is the main component:

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 8.11.07 PM

This is still a work in progress. Despite unparalleled investment and attention towards ICT sector development, Rwanda somewhat lags behind its neighbors when it comes to service exports, as seen in the data table below from the World Bank.

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 6.05.38 PMThese relatively low numbers are mostly due to an inexperienced, uneducated population when it comes to ICTs, something the government is determinedly addressing through hundreds of education initiatives, including ICT specific universities and an ICT park in the capital city of Kigali.

The ultimate fruition of Government of Rwanda’s goals may have yet to be realized, but it is a work-in-progress, and the country has come a long way since the 1994 war. Rwanda continues to invest millions of aid and  1.6 percent of its GDP towards ICT sector development annually. One thing is for certain: the Rwandan government certainly believes ICTs are its ticket to middle income status.


A Case for Telecenters Empowering Rwandan Women

Allarfrica recently posted an article about how telecenters have actually been doing some good things for women in rural Rwandan communities. The Rwandan Telecentre Network (RTN) has launched an ICT literacy campaign, designed to help both urban and rural women improve their businesses. The idea behind this program is that RTN puts telecenters in rural villages, teaches women how to use computers, and then, consequentially, women will be able to digitally access market information and sell their goods at better prices. RTN also believes that telecenters are beneficial because they allow women to connect with other rural areas via social media and email. Some women in the program also aspire to start their own computer related businesses or pursue careers in ICTs. Paul Barera, the director of RTN is optimistic that ICTs will continue to rapidly spread but acknowledges that “illiteracy and poor purchasing power are the main challenges that hamper rural people from fully benefiting from ICTs opportunities.” These are both very valid issues and the article does not go into depth about how RTN is addressing them.

RTN has also partnered with Telecentre.org to help rural women improve their digital literacy.  Telecentre.org is partned with the UN Telecommunications Union and is an organization that seeks to empower women through ICTs. Its three main goals are:

-Wide-scale digital literacy training for grassroots women

-Enlistment of partners and supporters as champions for the cause

-Recognition of telecentre women-achievers.

These telecenters have definitely provided some success stories of women running more efficient business through the incorporation of computers and other ICTs. Furthermore, there are currently 30 telecenters in every one of Rwanda’s districts and the country and hopes to increase internet penetration by 15% in the next year. Rwanda is clearly a leader in effective ICT use in Africa and it seems that their telecenters may actually be producing some positive results. It will be interesting to see how things change for rural women who now have access to telecenters and if their successes are sustainable.