Rwanda Pioneers Global Initiative to Connect Schools to the Internet

Rwanda has been selected to lead the Giga initiative of connecting every school in Africa by 2030.

The initiative was launched in 2019 by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), with aim to provide connectivity to every school in the world by 2030.

Statistics show that so far some 3.6 billion people in the world do not have access to the Internet.

Giga initiative has four pillars namely; mapping connectivity demand, advising on financing possibilities, connecting in partnership internet providers and empowering internet users with skills.

Speaking to The New Times, Paula Ingabire, Minister of ICT and Innovation said that this is an opportunity for Rwanda to speed up her already existing efforts to digitalize schools among other priority services.

She said: "It is a great initiative for us because it comes to complement the already existing efforts we had of last mile connectivity to different essential services like schools."

"It will also help us to get more partners as we will be having shared objectives and responsibilities to connect some of these priority services," she added.

According to Ingabire, Rwanda will be providing coordination support for the program, mobilize partner countries to look for finances and get more countries embarking on this initiative.

The country will also champion and become a role model of the Giga project of connecting schools and sharing experience with fellow countries that will be embarking on the same ambition.

Rwanda is one of African countries that began the mapping exercise of internet connectivity needs in schools, whereby in 2018 the country partnered with UNICEF and mapped over 4,000 schools country-wide.

So far, there are 13 countries in Africa whose connectivity needs have been mapped. They include; DR Congo, Kenya, Liberia, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Rwanda.

An opportunity to local internet providers

Elijah Iragaba, Chief Technology and Information Officer of KTRN (Korea Telecom Rwanda Networks) that provides Fibre Optic and 4G services say that this is an opportunity for internet providers.

He said: "As internet providers, we are already working with the Government on several projects to connect different institutions and areas.

Normally, internet connectivity requires heavy investment and the fact that Rwanda will be chairing the Giga connectivity initiative means that the process to avail investments will be speeded up hence giving us the opportunity to provide those services in the country."

Among existing Government initiatives to boost internet connectivity in the country include One Government Network- which was launched in 2018 to map government's institutions that need to be connected and seek to provide solutions.

ICT Initiative in schools in Rwanda

Rwanda is one of African countries that are putting efforts in equipping schools with digital infrastructures in bid to revolutionize education into an ICT-based sector.

In 2016, the Ministry of Education challenged stakeholders in the education sector to fast-track a new model dubbed "Smart Classroom", an initiative aimed at digitising education from a paper-based system to a digital-driven sector.

In the first quarter of 2019, it was announced that over 711 schools have implemented the "Smart Classroom" policy.

It also sought to equip schools with computers and access to the internet.

In 2008, the Government also launched One Laptop per Child- an initiative aimed at enabling all primary school children to own computers.

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