The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: The Road Ahead

opinion

Cheers to 2013! I am still writing dates wrong and wrapping my mind around the fact that we are now seven years away from Vision2020 - I must admit, I am a little panicked. My last piece took on a celebratory note of all the achievements of 2012: in this one I take on a different tone, especially since without much time to afford, a caustic reality check is in order.

Internet speed, broadband penetration

In 2007, at ConnectAfrica conference, held in Kigali, I thought leaders were committed to work together to see more than a third of Africa's citizens have access to broadband internet by 2012. We are in 2013 and not even 10 per cent of Rwanda's population can boast of access to these services! Are there easy solutions? Maybe not... demand-driven services will be the making of this reality and these need to be addressed in the action plan for the year ahead.

Mobile services

I mentioned in the last piece the great strides the telecom industry took with the induction of Airtel in Rwanda - this is not to mention the developments in mobile banking and various m-driven services. However, if the quality of service of 2012 rolls out into 2013, then it is safe to conclude that we are taking two steps forward and one step back every time.

Speaking of the telecom industry, RURA deserves to be lauded for the efforts towards SIM card registration slated for the first quarter of the year. The benefits in terms of security and data mining cannot be reiterated enough.

Infrastructure to become a service industry

Last month saw a series of uncharacteristic blackouts all over the city; I would be blowing the horn in your ear to say that the issue of power warrants urgent attention. This kind of deficiency stands between Rwanda and its becoming a service industry and a tech hub! Thank goodness government efforts are underway to mitigate the situation.

Skills

I may sound like a broken record, but the importance of skills goes without saying. I found it paradoxical that in a nation like ours students (in some schools) are not permitted to own mobile phones! The importance of placing such an invaluable technological tool in the hands of young minds has not resonated through many institutions; in an economy where ICT will be mobile-driven by all accounts, more sensitisation is called for.

What and for whom

In high correlation to skills is the application of technology: integration of technology and education with consideration for cultural norms and differing levels of development nation-wide is something to take into account. One UNESCO report put it nicely when it said technological inertia isn't lacking in Africa but remarkable misapplication of technology and the adoption of inappropriate educational policies, often copying foreign models, which very often are implemented without proper research to determine their applicability and suitability in the African context.

The optimum mix of technology and educational models may address the most pressing deficits in Rwanda: for example, informal education opportunities for vocational practitioners who may need to learn to integrate appropriate, cost-effective and durable technologies to their trade as opposed to, say, access to domestic broadband internet which is secondary in this case.

I think as we step forward into 2013 this is some rich food for thought....

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