14 September 2017

Rwanda: ICT Stakeholders Discuss Local Internet Connectivity

Photo: Timothy Kisambira/The New Times
Surfing internet (file photo).

Stakeholders within the Information and Communication Technology sector on Wednesday met at the Kigali Convention Centre (KCC) to discuss ways to develop the internet economy as well as accelerate uptake of internet connectivity.

Dubbed the 'Rwanda Peering Day', the event brought together institutions and individuals who are mainly internet service providers in the country to look for ways to enhance and promote internet usage in Rwanda.

Peering is the exchange of data directly between internet service providers, rather than via the internet. With the help of the Internet Exchange Point (IXP), service providers connected to it easily exchange data.

The Rwanda Peering Day, therefore, gives a chance to different internet service providers to come together and discuss ways of fast-tracking growth of local internet community, according to organisers.

"The reason why we are having a peering event at the national level is really to promote peering as a foundation to develop local internet beyond the local internet economy. Most of the things nowadays are happening digitally and without local internet, it is very difficult to develop a local internet economy," said Ghislain Nkeramugaba, the chief executive of Rwanda Information and Communication Technology Association (RICTA), the organisers of the event.

Nkeramugaba said that the Peering Day also serves as a platform to encourage institutions and individuals to leverage existing infrastructure like the Rwanda Internet Exchange Point (RINEX) to provide affordable access to communication.

"This is another moment to raise awareness among stakeholders to be able to utilise existing infrastructure and facilities to help expand internet connectivity to the end users as well as bring down the cost of communication," he noted.

Last year, RICTA received a grant of $160,000 (Rwf134.5 million) from the African Union Commission to expand the Rwanda Internet Exchange Point's operational capabilities. RINEX currently allows internet service providers and content providers to interconnect, enabling them to efficiently exchange information at a common point within a country rather than needing to exchange local internet traffic overseas.

According to RICTA officials, without upgrading this internet exchange point, it would have cost Rwanda $134,400 (about Rwf113 million) per month to access content from overseas; this means that Rwanda saved about Rwf1.4 billion in the just concluded financial year.

Nkeramugaba highlighted that the cost of internet capacity globally has been going down significantly and that end users should be enjoying these advantages, adding that with peering access to data would be easier.

"The more we have networks connected to exchange point, the more we have content that is accessed easily at affordable cost by end users. This can significantly promote the internet in Rwanda as well as grow the internet economy," he said.

Alexis Kabeja, the CEO of Liquid Telecom Rwanda, admits that infrastructure is no longer an issue for service providers to extend internet connectivity, rather service providers should be challenged to create more affordable content.

"The infrastructure here is not an issue any more, it is up to us as service providers to ensure that we build content that reaches more people," he said.

Kabeja revealed that their firm is currently making heavy investments to introduce various initiatives to accelerate the internet connectivity, one of which is the 'Fibre-to-the-Home', a project that targets all households in Kigali and secondary cities across the country.

Already, some of the Kigali households have been connected to the "true" broadband connectivity through 'Fibre-to-the-Home' initiative. Some of these areas include Kagugu, Gisozi, Nyarutarama, Kacyiru, Rebero, Rugando and Kiyovu.

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