The Ministry of ICT and Innovation has made a case for the need to increase digital literacy skills among Rwandans especially clients and employees of Umurenge Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) with services set to be automated.
Automating the operations of SACCOs is, among other things, expected to reduce related revenue leakages and theft as well as ease operations, hence improving efficiency as well as profitability for the cooperatives.
Even though the project had stalled officials say by 2020, the SACCOs will have been automated after sourcing support from Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA), a partner agency of Ministry of ICT and Innovation.
Claudette Irere, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of ICT and Innovation, told Business Times that government targets to increase digital literacy skills to over five million Rwandans in need of basic digital literacy skills and other categories of population will help both SACCOs clients to access digital services but also ensure accountability by managers for people's money in the SACCOs.
Claudette Irere, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of ICT and Innovation, told Business Times that government targets to increase digital literacy skills to over five million Rwandans in need of basic digital literacy.
Government has partnered with ICDL, the international standard in digital skills certification to digitalise microfinance sector by providing basic computer training to employees of Umurenge SACCOs from across the country.
So far, ICDL Africa has trained over 3,000 employees of SACCOs.
Since SACCOs are still manually operating, Irere believes that this triggers inappropriate assets accounting whereby deposits are easily embezzled.
"It requires setting a system to ensure the assets in SACCO are safe and attracting clients' trust. We have to make sure SACCO employees are ready with digital skills to embrace the automation. On the other side, we have to make sure that residents who will save their money into digital SACCOs are also equipped with digital literacy skills," she said.
With digital literacy skills, clients can check balance on their account in SACCOs by using mobile phone or send money on the bank's account to each other by using phone, she emphasized.
The PS said that currently, internet penetration stands at 51 per cent among Rwandans while 81 per cent of Rwandans own a mobile phone.
However, she said the number of Rwandans who can request digital services using their own digital skills via website such as Irembo online platform is still low as they still refer to agents to help them.
"There is still a gap in digital literacy. Digital literacy is still at 8.9 per cent among Rwandans. This is not enough for a country like Rwanda that seeks to put all services online. We have developed a road map to increase digital literacy," she said.
The official explained that the first category that needs digital literacy includes over 5 million Rwandans who need basic digital literacy skills while the second category involves high school and university graduates and institution staff who need digital literacy skills to improve their productivity
"They need to be able to use digital productive tools. We have to ensure that graduates join labor market with digital workforce skills," she said.
The third category, she said, includes digital or software programmes developers.
Working with digital literacy experts
She said to increase digital literacy; the ministry is working with different development partners.
"We have signed agreement with Andela which is software developpers to produce more people in this category," she said.
She also said that digital ambassador's initiative that got boost from ICDL, the international standard in digital skills certification, will help to close digital literacy gap in Rwanda.
According to Peter Maina Njagi, the Programme Manager at ICDL Africa besides training SACCOs employees, they also trained digital ambassadors.
"Government is going to introduce automated system to manage SACCOs and employees must be ready with digital skills for it before deploying it and that is what we did. We also worked with the Ministry of ICT to produce digital ambassadors to train other Rwandans on digital skills. Once SACCOs are automated, Rwanda's population in community will easily access," he said.
He said that they trained 110 youth as digital ambassadors and will soon be deployed to villages and support residents with gaps in digital literacy.
The move is part of a broader effort to equip up to 5 million Rwandans with digital skills by 2024.
"We also trained 40 employees of Rwanda Revenue Authority, 25 staff of RSSB, university students, 180 staff of Rwanda Management Institute among others" he said.
Prof. Tombola Gustave, the Deputy Vice Chancellor of University of Tourism, Technology and Business Studies said that students graduate every year with ICDL certificates so as they get digital kills to help them perform successfully on labor market.
"This certification is also important is e-commerce and it becomes easy for graduates to create jobs" he said.
Prof. Sam Yala, the president of African Institute for Mathematics Sciences said that with the support of ICDL certification programme, they are also facilitating teachers in 14 districts to develop smart classrooms with target to train 4,000 teachers with digital skills and transmit them to students.