24 December 2012

Rwanda: In 2012, Rwanda Made Bold Strides in ICT


FIRST of all, dare I say, am glad we survived the December 21st apocalypse! That also means we are left with no excuse to work tirelessly to see this country achieve progress... As the year comes to a close, here's an opportunity to look back and see what 2012 served us.

Carnegie Mellon University (based in Pittsburgh, USA) opened its campus in Kigali, allowing its pioneer students to pursue graduate studies in Engineering. A world-class institute, CMU-R will shape Rwandan science and technology education by serving as the flagship institution of the region and producing the kind of innovative, high-caliber students that will disrupt the tech scene in a much-needed way.

Speaking of innovation, the government this year injected Rwf375 million (with support from UNECA) into the Innovation Endowment Fund (RIEF) to support entrepreneurship development and research with priority areas in agriculture, Information Communication Technologies, and manufacturing.

Also during the year, the National University of Rwanda (NUR) signed a joint MoU with eleven Swedish universities as part of an agreement of bilateral cooperation between NUR and SIDA. This cooperation has seen and will continue to facilitate PhD training of NUR staff and the introduction of new courses into the curriculum.

Furthermore, Rwanda reached an agreement with Samsung to facilitate the roll-out of eGovernment solutions as means to efficient service delivery to citizens. This partnership will enforce collaboration in education and job creation development, youth leadership, consumer electronic devices and mobile applications development programmes featuring the Samsung Smart Government Solutions.

In March, Airtel commenced operations in Rwanda; Airtel is the largest mobile operator in the world in terms of subscriber base. The induction of the third telecom giant in Rwanda saw mobile penetration shoot up to over 48 per cent nationwide (from about 40 per cent earlier in the year). Even with such great success the telecom industry failed to reach the target 60 per cent of mobile penetration set for December 2012. (I suspect with the compulsory SIM card registration put forth by RURA next year the penetration rate will be a bit lower given the overlap of users who subscribe to more than one operator.)

Also, RURA was hard at work this year, slapping a penalty of $3 million per day on MTN Rwanda until poor services due to network failures were rectified. I dream of the day operators are fined for high prices...

Kigali hosted the Startup World competition whereby ICT entrepreneurs pitched their business ideas to a panel of judges: Rwanda was one of only four African nations selected to host the competition. Crowdfunding startup Zilencio Creativo snagged the top spot and will head out to Silicon Valley in 2013 to contest on an international arena.

In an out-of-the-box manner, the Ministries of Youth and ICT were merged early this year. The move was borne out of recognition that the greater part of the population is youth, and ICT is a viable tool for job and wealth creation. How many countries can boast such ingenuity?

In addition, Nadege Iradukunda was among 13 entrepreneurs selected for the 2012 Anzisha Prize for her biogas digesters project that converts waste to energy and saves the energy schools use to prepare food for students, thereby cutting on fees charged.

Last, but by no means least, the Private Sector Federation (PSF), in partnership with several youth groups, came up with an innovative initiative dubbed eUmuganda that will map buildings in Kigali city, to ease their accessibility as well as extend various ICT innovations to communities.

Not too bad for one year! Happy holidays!

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