The New Times (Kigali)

15 December 2012

Rwanda: Telecentre Workers Drag Boss to Police Over Wages

OVER 10 workers at the public telecentres in the seven districts which comprise the western province have filed a case against their boss John Gatera at police in Karongi district over unpaid wages.

They claim they have not been paid ever since Gatera's company (Good neighbours) won the tender of operating the telecentres after the Government privatised them almost a year ago.

Bosco Karenzi, a former technician at the telecentre in Karongi district told The New Times that they resorted to police after numerous pleas for their wages to be paid fell on deaf ears.

"Some of them have already lodged complaints with the Police in search for justice," Karenzi, who claimed he demands over Rwf1million in unpaid arrears, said

He says he was forced to resign.

"There is a time he repeatedly declined to pick my phone calls until I abruptly approached him in Kigali to hand in my resignation letter," he said.

Efforts to reach Gatera proved futile as he did not pick or return our several phone calls to him.

Despite repeated criticism directed towards private operators of the telecentres in the region, the situation has gradually moved from bad to worse.

None of the seven districts has an operating telecentre. In Rubavu and Nyabihu districts, the centre administrator handed the equipments, including desktop computers, photocopiers, scanners, and printers to the police before leaving.

One of the other significantly affected districts is Karongi, where university students from Kigali Health Institute (KHI) would frequent the place in search of Internet as a research tool.

The local communities in Ngororero and Nyamasheke also claim to be affected.

In the districts where they are still operational, telecentres offer a variety of services such as photocopying, copy typing, scanning of documents and digital photography.

On a busy day the numbers can be overwhelming because they offer the cheapest services and sometimes you find a long queue of customers waiting to use the services.

Sometimes computers are not sufficient in comparison to the number of clients visiting the centre daily.

The rolling out of the telecentres was aimed at bridging the ICT gap existing between the rural poor and the urban dwellers, by implementing an ICT knowledge-based project but its impacts are now under the spot.

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