26 January 2013

Rwanda: Lack of Mile Network Hampers ICT

Absence of a connection infrastructure, the Last Mile Network, is preventing a steady growth of the Internet penetration countrywide, despite heavy government investment in ICT.

The finding is detailed in the Rwanda ICT Sector Profile 2012 launched in Kigali, yesterday, by the Ministry of Youth and ICT.

It is a product of the ministry in collaboration with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), the Rwanda Utilities and Regulatory Agency (Rura), and the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR).

A Last Mile Network is supposed to carry signals from the broad telecommunication national backbone or from the Kigali Metropolitan Network, among others, along the relatively short distance to and from users' homes or businesses.

The network is not yet in place, limiting desirable Internet access to Kigali City.

"While mobile broadband subscriptions is on the rise with the increasing coverage of the 3G

network currently being deployed by licensed telecom operations, significant investments are still required to deploy a much wider National Last Mile broadband network," the profile states.

Speaking at the launch, yesterday, the Minister of Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, said building the network will remain at the forefront of intervention and that it will be implemented through strong partnerships with the private sector.

"The measurement of the impact of ICT for socio-economic development, that is tracked for the very first year, show that there are still important efforts to be made to increase the usage of systems already in place in the various priority sectors," Nsengimana said.

"Securing an acceptable broadband experience for national citizens and foreigners living in Rwanda will remain the focus during the year 2013."

Nsegimana also called on the private sector to adopt technology, saying a slow pace of adaptability could hinder the economy's growth.

"Connecting businesses such as hotels to broadband is still a challenge, the best connection in the country is at Serena with 2.5 megabytes per second. I thought this was fantastic when I browsed with it, but when I tried the same in Nairobi, I found 15 megabytes per second," he said.

"This puts us nowhere in terms of competition and we are calling on each sector to try tracking ICT developments in order to enhance development."

The business side

Regis Gatarayiha, the director-general of Rura, advised business enthusiasts to look beyond getting connected to ICT network, but rather to use it for business.

"When you go upcountry you can be amazed at how some young men and women make money from ICT. Services as simple as copying information from a portable disk to a phone is charged because to them it is not a common skill," Gatarayiha said.

"We must always look into how to turn technology into business by creating useful applications and the like, from which income can be generated. It should not be just ICT for business but business through ICT," he added.

The Rwanda ICT Sector Profile 2012 shows that the number of active mobile-cellular phone subscribers has increased to 53.1 per cent, up from 41.5 per cent in 2011, owing to stiff competition within the telecoms sector.

It also shows that the purchase of bulk Internet bandwidth from Uganda and Tanzania through the World Bank, allowed additional 2.4 gigabytes on flow, thus increasing the available Internet bandwidth to 3.5 gigabytes.

As a result, Internet wholesale bandwidth costs were slashed by about 75 per cent from prices ranging between $500 and 700 to $125 for day hours and $60 for night hours.

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