The New Times (Kigali)

16 January 2013

Rwanda: Kigali Trade Zone to Host ICT Park

THE GOVERNMENT, through Rwanda Development Board (RDB) plans to set up an ICT park that will host a collection of technological investments including training, industries, research and development.

According to Patrick Nyirishema, the Head of ICT at RDB, the plans to set up Kigali Techno Pole are on the right track. The ICT city will be located at the Kigali Special Economic Zone (KSEZ) in Nyandungu sector, Gasabo district.

"An ICT Park at Telecom House in Kacyiru was really a small level pilot of what a technology park would be. Rather than starting with a big technological park, we thought of looking for a place where we can build a techno pole on a small scale which would give us an idea of how an ICT city would be," he explained, adding that, "Today most of the components that would make a techno pole are in ICT Park."

Nyirishema explained that the ICT city will also house the Carnegie Melon University Rwanda (CMU-R) which is temporarily located at Telecom House.

CMU, the first top ranked US research institution that opened a campus in Rwanda last year, will have it's a permanent home by 2015 to do research on standard basis.

The $13 million campus is funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the construction works at KSEZ are expected to start before the end of the year.

After that, according to Nyirishema, they will mobilise other private investments in ICT to start up other construction projects.

The Techno Pole will also have an innovation centre in form of the KLab.

Even though the ICT city will take several years to be fully established, progress is being made, officials said.

"We shall start slowly by slowly and the techno pole will progress with time. All the physical works are in place like roads, fibre optic cable network, and the remaining facilities will be developed progressively," he said.

However, Nyirishema stated that the idea is not to shift all ICT companies to Kigali Techno Pole but to allocate new ICT investments into the ICT city.

According to Jean Philbert Nsengimana, the Minister of Youth and ICT, Kigali Techno Pole will be a complete ICT city with all the technological investments in place.

"We want to build something more ambitious and our vision is to build a complete ICT city that goes beyond office and working space, it has to be a complete living environment and we can also include a very competitive investment promotion package in that regard," he said.

Nsengimana noted that techno pole will aim at creating IT jobs and also transform Rwanda into an ICT hub.

"We are looking at this project at a scale of other advanced economies not building a simple thing. Our vision is to build a specific tailor made Information Technology investment promotion package facilitating the growth of the service sector," he explained.

Need for expansion

He noted that there is a need to expand the area where the Techno pole would be located saying that the proposed 63 hectares of land allocated for the project at the KSEZ is small compared to the vision and the state of the art of ICT city that is expected to compete with similar concepts in the region.

Clarisse Iribagiza, the Chief Executive Officer of Hehe Ltd, a local mobile applications development company, said that the techno pole will deepen people's understanding of technology, including software and other technological services.

"Since established technology companies will have space in the Kigali Techno Pole, this will improve the growth of ICT in the country especially for us startups in the ICT sector it will be a dream come true."

She added, "As much as there will be a challenge requiring us to keep up with the competition, we are not worried of it because the more competitive the industry is, the better the services offered".

Last year, Iribagiza won USD50,000 prize money from an Inspire Africa entrepreneurial contest.

"At the hub, there will be a pool of all these technological brains and experiences, for me it will challenge us to work harder."

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) 2012 report ranked Rwanda among six developing countries in the world that are most dynamic performers when it comes to ICT development.

Rwanda, Bahrain, Brazil, Ghana, Kenya, and Saudi Arabia are the developing nations with strong dynamic ICT markets due to the fact that, they are catching up quickly in efforts to bridge the so-called 'digital divide', the report noted.

With the establishment of an ICT park, the country will have taken great steps in advancing ICT development.

Sylivie Mukunde Mboyo, the Director of ICT at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), said the ICT hub will be a great opportunity for enhancing innovation in the country.

"Our students can get where to do internship from because we want to produce graduates who meet the requirements of the private sector and the labour market," she said.

Mboyo, also an IT expert and ICT instructor, stated that the techno pole should put forward a conducive environment for the growth of the ICT industry and offer Rwanda tailor made ICT services.

About technopoles

A technopole is a centre of high-tech manufacturing and information-based industry where services such as information generation and sharing, information technology, consultation, education, technological research and development, financial planning, and other knowledge-based services are found. The services may be developed by the private sector or by the co-operation or partnership between the public and private sectors. A government may promote a technopole as a significant effort to grow the country's economy because large corporations and small businesses located in technopoles take advantage of technological advancements to connect with other firms and their businesses are boosted by discoveries from recognised educational and research institutions that are built in the same area. According to Patrick Nyirishema, the Head of ICT at RDB, preparation works to make the country's technopole area ready for investors to start and will be ready in the next two or three years. The biggest achievement so far is the connection of the area to the country's fibre optic cable network which will be the source of broadband internet access.

At its completion, Rwanda's ICT Park is envisaged as the likes of The Innovation Hub in Pretoria, South Africa, which is a prominent science and technology park that has become a centre of innovation and knowledge creation and an important space for high-tech entrepreneurs, world-class businesses, academics, researchers and venture capitalists.

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