26 October 2017

Rwanda: ICT Minister Clarifies Positivo-BGH Deal

Positivo-BGH, a Latin American firm that set up shop in Kigali following a deal with the Government to manufacture computers locally, has made adjustments on the specifications of the laptops they are producing to meet the expectations of, among others, University students, the Minister for ICT has said.

Appearing before the parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Technology, Culture and Youth on Tuesday, Jean Philbert Nsengimana said the issues that were previously encountered by users were now being fixed.

He said that initially the computers were meant to be used by primary and secondary schools - and not institutions of higher learning-, adding that University students who acquired them had been duly informed of this fact.

"Most of the University students who bought them did so because they had financial constraints and found these computers more affordable," he said.

He added: "The laptops have Microsoft Word, Windows, and you can surf the internet on them... you can do research or write your dissertation, but if you are an architecture student and you use an arch card in it, it will definitely slow down."

But he said that the units that that are now on the market have higher capacity than those manufactured previously.

Under its initial agreement with the Government - signed over two years ago -, Positivo was to manufacture 150,000 computers annually costing the Government a whopping $35 million.

The laptops were not only meant for computer lessons but to also serve other ICT-related purposes, the minister said.

But then there was a problem when the Ministry of Education couldn't raise all the funds required, even with the support of other stakeholders, he said.

"We had to find an alternative and we started looking into a payment plan for schools so they can start acquiring the laptops and to have the laptops accessible to the rest of the market so that the sales can help the factory to continue functioning," he said.

Nsengimana explained that, in the end, the Government and Positivo-BGH had to renegotiate the deal, subsequently reducing the number of new computers manufactured each year from 150,000 to 40,000.

The ICT minister said 531 schools were currently equipped with computers, with at least 120 of these having access to the internet.

He explained that even where there was no internet yet, the computers were still of value in terms of teaching students how to programme, about software and others.

"It was initially difficult to provide internet because we were using fiber optic which would make distributing it to schools very expensive but with the significant progress we have made with 4G, things have improved. It is however an answer in terms of technology but not yet one in terms of affordability," he said.

A survey conducted in Rwandan households indicated that computer penetration stands at less than 10 per cent countrywide.

A positivo laptop leaves the factory at $240 while the retail price is $280, (approx. Rfw240,000).

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