Tracing major developments in Rwanda’s ICT Sector
A. Developments Prior to EDPRS Period
I. In 1998, the Rwandan ICT for Development (ICT4D) policy, commonly known as the National Information and Communication Infrastructure Plan (NICI) process began. The process was designed to implement the necessary policies and plans capable of addressing Rwanda’s developmental challenges in the information and technology age in order to accelerate the country’s socio- economic development process.
II. In 2000, GoR begun implementing the ICT4D policy, commonly known as NICI, and subsequently developed and implemented NICI I (NICI-2005 Plan), the first of the four five-year rolling plans.
III. The e-school project supported by NEPAD was launched in pilot secondary schools in Rwanda in 2005. This project aimed to lead to a steady and sustainable process in which young graduates from primary and secondary schools are equipped with skills which will enable them to function as equals in the emerging knowledge economy and information society of the 21st century.
IV. Enactment of telecom law No. 44/2001 of 30/11/2001 as well as the Law No. 39/2001 of 3/09/2001 establishing the Rwanda Utilities and Regulatory Agency (RURA).
V. There was the liberalisation of the telecommunications industry which led to the establishment of two telecom operators, MTN Rwandacell and Rwandatel, and three internet service providers (ISPs); the establishment of the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA); and the Rwanda Information Technology Authority (RITA). During this period fixed line subscription increased from 19,000 in 2000 to 21,687 by 2005 representing more than 14% increase with an annual average increase of 3%; mobile subscribers from 42,000 in 2000 to 304,000 by 2005 representing an annual average increase of 125%; and Internet subscribers from 1,200 in 2000 to 6,814 by 2005 representing an annual average increase of 94%.
B. Developments during the EDPRS Period
With the onset of the EDPRS plan (2008-2012/13) and the development of the NICI III Strategy, the sector has seen a number of developments as a result of implementation of pronounced government policy. Below are highlights of the various developments that have occurred:
1. Agriculture: ICT initiatives benefiting the agriculture sector include the Agricultural Management Information System (AMIS); an online exchange platform, “e-Soko”, a mobile market information solution that allows farmers and consumers to access market information foragricultural products. The e-Soko project won the 2011 public service delivery Technology in Government Award (TIGA). A Land Use Management and Information System has been implemented to ensure proper usage, planning and management of land.
2. Private sector: ICT initiatives fostering Rwanda’s private sector development include several business and career development support services; online trade information portals; business incubators; online tax calculators; credit reference bureau; a land administration and management information system; electronic case management system; and improvements in online banking and e-transaction regulatory system. These initiatives have greatly improved Rwanda’s business environment. In 2010, Rwanda was the top global reformer in the World Bank’s “Ease of doing business” ranking, moving up from 143rd in 2009 to 67th, the biggest jump ever recorded by any country. Online business registration was key to Rwanda’s improved ranking in 2011, where it currently ranks 58th .
3. Private Sector: Construction completion of publicly funded Business Development Centre - BDC (Telecenters) to support and improve the delivery of public and private sector services. Currently 30 BDCs are equipped with IT equipment and are operational.
4. Health: Numerous ICT initiatives have been implemented in health such as: OpenMRS – an open-source medical records system that facilitates nationwide tracking of patient data; TRACnet – a system that allows central collection and storage of clinical health information; Mobile e- Health – a system used by community health workers to collect data for OpenMRS and TRACnet systems; Telemedicine – that is connecting King Faisal Hospital to Hospitals in Kabgayi and Musanze facilitating the sharing of clinical information between urban and rural hospitals, and most importantly allowing citizens to receive specialized treatment services remotely without travelling to Kigali. These initiatives are transforming healthcare delivery and helping Rwanda achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in health, which is earning Rwanda critical acclaim world-wide.
5. ICT: Rwanda has registered significant progress in the deployment of world-class ICT infrastructure that is now connecting Rwandans to global networks. The national fiber optic backbone network that is connecting Rwanda to international sea cables will facilitate increased affordability and access to Internet across the country. A national data centre has been developed, which allows Rwanda to centralize her information storage, management and protection, as well as take advantage of cloud computing opportunities. Communication, Navigation Surveillance and Air traffic management system (CNS-ATM) has been deployed, which will greatly transform air travel, not just for Rwanda, but the region at large. Broadcasting masts that are transforming broadcasting nationally have been deployed at Rwanda’s highest peak thereby fast tracking Rwanda’s migration from analogue to digital. Key achievements in this sector include:
- Kigali Metropolitan Network was completed and about 98 government institutions are already connected with fiber optic cable. The objective of the project was to provide broadband connectivity to all Government Institutions in Kigali City and further link them to the National Backbone for interconnection with all the Districts.
- Four telecom operators – MTN, TIGO, BSC and Airtel,
- Set up of National Backbone Fiber optic Network with a view to acquire affordable and reliable connectivity. Optic Fiber of about 2,500 Km has been laid throughout the country connecting all Districts, Nine main Boarder posts and several other public and private Institutions such as schools, health center. This includes the connection to the main route of Gatuna-Kigali and Kigali – Rusomo for the international connectivity to the submarine cable. The work has been completed and the network activated.
- SMART National ID in place. The National Data Center physical construction was also completed.
- Kalisimbi Project infrastructure works has been completed and the deployment of some of the services has been completed such as Air Traffic management System for Rwanda. The overall project goal is to provide multipurpose ICT system to facilitate the provision of associated services in Rwanda, COMESA and the Great Lakes Region. It has several components that include broadcasting component, Communication, Navigation and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management and third component (CNS/ATM), Climate Change Observatory. The expected outcome is create reliable air traffic system, establish Climate Change Observatory system to be able to respond to climate change challenges, increase FM broadcasting coverage and provide low cost, high capacity communications to both rural and urban population.
- One Laptop per child ( more than 56,607 laptops deployed in 113 schools),
6. Education: GoR has implemented numerous ICT initiatives in education that are transforming education. They include ICT training for primary and secondary school teachers; the One Laptop Per Child initiative; Science and Technology scholarships; the ICT Training & Research Institute at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST); Schoolnet; the Educational Management Information System (EMIS), and the Rwanda Development Gateway, an information portal including education information.
- Training primary and secondary school teachers on ICTs in education initiative is fully operational and is aimed at ensuring that primary and secondary school teachers are competent enough in the use of ICTs to be able to teach their students; and to ensure that teachers are knowledgeable enough in ICTs in order to enhance their teaching skills. As a result, there are now up more than 8000 teachers trained and there is evidence of improved English and ICT skills.
- The GOR has also put in place a programme to promote the Acquisition of computer equipment by educational institutions, with the aim of promoting universal computer literacy in the school system of Rwanda. Therefore, computers and their accessories are tax free, so as to strategically promote computer ownership and use.
- Computers in schools ‘Operation ICT Knowledge for the Youth Programme’. which is in conjunction with the One Laptop Per Child programme aimed at preparing Rwandan school children to get familiarized with computers and gain quality skills needed for the knowledge economy through ICT-based innovative education content. The One Laptop Per Child Programme is on-going and more than 110,000 laptops have been imported for distribution. Pilot schools were identified and programme initiated at Rwamagana in eastern Rwanda which showed encouraging results: Student enrolment in pilot schools significantly increased whereby kids escaped non beneficiary schools to pilot schools, there was general excitement and morale for learning, pupils’ absenteeism reduced tremendously, improved good conduct so as to be on good terms with teachers, kids’ sense of responsibility and ownership improved. Roll out to other schools is on-going.
- The National electronic distance education and training (NEDET) Programme which is supplemented and complemented by campus-based education and training at all levels of the educational system in Rwanda by introducing electronic messaging technologies. There is a tele-education programme at Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) and AVU teaching at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST).
- National Programme to Speed-up the Deployment, Exploitation, and Development of ICTs in Higher Education Institutions aimed at encouraging and facilitating ICT education, training and R&D work in universities and colleges. As a result, almost all universities have computer laboratories.
- Special ICT in Education Programmes and Initiatives - This programme was introduced to transform the educational system using ICTs aimed at improving accessibility, quality and relevance to the development needs of Rwanda. Such initiatives include the NEPAD e-Schools programme and the KIST Academic exchanges of students with German Universities.
7. Governance: To support and empower the Immigration and Emigration Departments in simplifying entry and exit processes, to ease in obtaining travel documents, and collect migration. The aim is to enhance immigration control services and this has been effective through the implementation of the electronic visa issuing component by the Immigration Office. The online visa application process is fully operational and those visitors who have not access to Rwandan embassy could apply for the Visa prior to their visit to the country. In addition, immigration related processes are now given tracking number enabling applicants to track their application process.