The ICT Bus Project, worth US$ 200,000, has been officially launched last week in Kamonyi. It aims at giving more people access to Internet technology.
The ICT Bus Projects is an initiative of the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) / IT department through the eRwanda Project. It consists of huge Scania busses fully equipped with computers and related material, which will function as mobile Internet cafes.
The launch of the two buses, presided over by the Minister of Commerce and Industry Monique Nsanzabaganwa and the acting Rwanda Development Board CEO George Mulamula, will help bridge the digital divide affecting the rural population. Each of the buses have a server and 20 top of the range laptops that will be networked and connected to the Internet.
They will also be equipped with printers, photocopiers, a scanner and other multi-media facilities. They also have their own generator so as to be independent from energy supply. They will tour especially rural areas.
Designed to be a mobile computer lab, the equipment will benefit farmers, traders, students, women, youth groups, entrepreneurs and other rural based Rwandans.
The government is actively transforming the country from an agrarian to a knowledge-based economy, in which ICT will play a central role. The ICT for Development (ICT4D) process is aimed at facilitating the socio-economic development, through the deployment and exploitation of information and communication technologies (ICTs) within the economy and society.
More than 70% of the private sector is composed of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), most of which operate in rural areas. There exists a huge digital divide between these rural farmers, micro companies and SMEs and big companies urban areas. Therefore, the rural traders and SMEs need to access ICTs in order to get actively involved in the social economic development, and eventually the realization of the Vision 2020 goals.
The government is also committed to promoting and facilitating the role of the private sector in the development of the information society and economy. This is manifested in its continuous campaigns for adoption and usage of ICT for the development and sustenance of a thriving private sector in Rwanda.
As Rwanda envisions electronic commerce, access to information and acquisition of ICT skills throughout her community are imperative. However this is not obvious in remote areas which often do not have access to electricity or the Internet.
In this regard, the eRwanda project under RITA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Private Sector Federation in July 2007 to work together in implementing the NICI II projects. These projects are in line with private sector development with particular emphasis on SMEs in rural areas. One of these projects was the ICT Bus Project.
Information such as agricultural commodity market prices, business opportunity information, health related information, best agricultural practices, seasonal weather forecasts and other relevant information - that is of great importance to rural farmers, traders, women, students and entrepreneurs -will be provided to rural communities through this ICT Bus Project. In addition, the project shall include training and capacity building programs among others.
The ICT Bus project will be managed by RITA in close collaboration with the Private Sector Federation.
The ICT Bus will provide ICT and Business development services, BDS, and solutions similar to what Telecenters and BDS (business development services) centers provide by moving from one area to another, where BDS and Telecenters are not available. The ICT bus will be a mobile telecenteras well as a mobile BDS with ICT facilities.
The ICT Bus Project will be of great importance in that the distance to service delivery, digital divide and lack of access to ICT will be highly reduced. It will also enable the provision of training to rural people including school children and teachers.
It will also provide wider access to information and encourage usage of ICT as a tool for innovation, competitiveness, productivity and efficiency of SMEs, farmers and entrepreneurs in rural areas.