The New Times (Kigali)

9 July 2014

Rwanda: Minister Nsengimana Calls for More Investment in Local Online Content

The minister for Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, has urged local entrepreneurs to explore how best to produce locally-made online content and make it easily accessible to Rwandan readers.

"We want to make internet accessible from the infrastructure point of view. But we do not produce enough content in this country," he said.

The minister was speaking at a meeting organised by the Internet Society in partnership with the Ministry for Youth and ICT in Kigali yesterday.

The meeting aimed at attracting new online users, increase viewership of local content and reducing the cost and latency to access Rwandan content inside the country.

Nsengimana expressed disappointment with most online readers, who he said had taken to foreign-generated content for most of their daily surfing.

Global non-profit Internet Society has embarked on research to determine strategies that could be applied to shift the practice of hosting and fetching Rwanda's internet content from abroad.

Among other issues that the organisation will check are reasons why most Rwandan websites are hosted in foreign countries, especially the United States, making it difficult for local readers to access online content.

Karen Rose, Senior Director for Strategy and Development at Internet Society, said: "A lot of Rwandan websites are hosted overseas making them unaccessible by the local users."

"We want to understand why these websites are hosted overseas, and try to increase the number of websites hosted in Rwanda," she said in an interview.

With internet penetration in Rwanda now at 19.6 per cent and the country moving towards a service-based economy, efforts to make internet use more user-friendly are timely, officials said.

"I think we could be much more active in this industry. There is a lot of value to be unlocked," Nsengimana said.

Experts at the Internet Society, based in the US and Switzerland but working globally to help boost internet access globally, said they also intend to make foreign content easily accessible for Rwanda-based surfers.

They said accessing both local and foreign content is difficult in Rwanda because of the high cost of hosting websites in the country.

Léandre Cyusa Mucyowiraba, the founder of Cyusa Digital Agency (CYUDA), a Kigali-based ICT company offering technology solutions for city and up-country clients, cited poor customer service and expensive taxes as some of the challenges facing local ICT entrepreneurs.

"We have to revise costs if we really want to localise our content," Cyusa said.

He explained that most clients prefer to pay for internet domains of .com instead of .rw because the former is cheaper even if it's provided from abroad.

Findings from the Internet Society's study on strategies to bring online content closer to users in Rwanda are expected in less than two months, the agency's officials said.

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