Rwanda, a country known for the many hills is now known for their advancement in technology as it is now rolling out free city wide wireless connectivity which they plan to expand it to a nation wide connectivity.
In September the Rwandan government proclaimed that it had started to cover the capital city with the wireless hotspots. They said that it was the first step as they had begun to provide Wi-Fi coverage to all schools and public buildings, markets, bus stations and hotels in the city and, in the long-term, to the entire country.
The country’s Minister of Information Technology, Jean Philibert Nsengimana, said he wanted to see the plan accelerate growth of the Internet sector and attract more investors.
“Connectivity is one of the most important draws for business in this age of digital economy, free wifi is merely a step in the direction of a much bigger infrastructure goal-which is the 4G access” he said.
In June, the Rwandan government signed South Korea’s KT Corp to build a 4G network that it wants delivered to 95 percent of the country, up from the estimated 10 percent who currently have 3G access.
“Broadband access,” said Nsengimana, “has to be considered as an essential, just like water and electricity.”
The Rwandan president Paul Kagame, has been in power since the end of the Genocide in the country under Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). His main aim is to attempt to push through a dramatic transformation to economic success.
As of now, the country is one of the least corrupt countries in Africa and to cap it all, according to the World Bank’s ease of doing business for 2013 ranked the country stands at 52nd out of 185 countries making it the third best in sub-Saharan Africa.
The position is truly not enough for them as the government is keen on pushing the economic growth to 11.5 percent for the next five years, which will lead them to drive the poverty level to 30 percent from 45 percent and reach middle-income status by 2020
“Smart Kigali really it is a test, it is giving people a taste of better things to come,” explained Alex Ntale, director of the Rwanda’s information and communications technology chamber. “But it is not perpetual, someone has to pay at the end of the day. The private companies are testing a business model… they are trying to find out if the market is really there”.
He cautioned, therefore, that if the new, high-tech Rwanda fails to take off and the programme does not turn out to be profitable, then the private sector will have “every right to switch off the machines.”
Elettra Pauletto, an analyst at Control Risks, said while Rwanda was scoring well on World Bank rankings due to low levels of corruption and positive attitudes towards foreign investment, it was still had some way to go.
As for the IT sector, she said it was unlikely to become “a major factor in drawing international business interest in the short-term.”
“Rwanda will face stiff competition from Kenya and South Africa, both of which are already more experienced in the sector and who have more advanced English language skills compared to Rwanda, who, until recently was primarily a Francophone country,” she said.
“Large investments typically require a large labour pool, and Rwanda just doesn’t have that available at the moment.”