Rwanda’s move toward a knowledge-based economy has received a boost, thanks to the enactment of a law establishing Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA) and determining its mission, organisation and functioning.
The law was approved by Parliament last week.
Speaking to journalists after the vote, the Minister for Youth and ICT (MYICT), Jean-Philbert Nsengimana, said ICT has a promising vision, citing the fourth revolution era that humanity is entering, where financial transformations will be led by information and communication technology.
“In fact, this centre comes to prepare the Rwandan society and Rwandans themselves to be able to be competitive in that ‘new world’ that we are entering,” he said.
“This means that after technology has penetrated our daily life, we take advantage of it in regards to innovations and avoid reliance on foreign products, rather start having home-grown products.”
Nsengimana said the centre would enable the implementation of the Smart Rwanda Master Plan, a new ICT policy adopted by Cabinet in November 2015, outlining a five-year ICT implementation framework for the country.
The plan focuses on digitising the economy and positioning ICT as one of the key exports of the country by prioritising research and investments in that area.
The Smart Rwanda Master Plan is in line with the Smart Africa Manifesto, which was launched during the inaugural Transform Africa Summit in Kigali in October, 2013.
Minister Nsengimana said the plan encompasses all the facets of citizens’ lives, including leadership, education, services-financial, tourism, agriculture, and livestock among others.
“A farmer, a teacher, a medic, anyone should be supported so that ICT adds value to their work,” he said but noted that every Rwandan should make the most of it through hard work.
ICT enabling initiatives
Talking about the country’s journey in regards to the implementation of ICT initiatives, Nsengimana said the first step made was putting in place institutions and laws.
The second step was to set up ICT infrastructures, including networks, fibre optic cables, mobile phone access among many Rwandans and the third move was about service delivery through ICT.
“Now, the fourth step is innovation and entrepreneurship by use of ICT,” he said.
Under Vision 2020, Rwanda continues to invest in developing adequate, highly skilled scientists and technicians to satisfy the needs of the transition to knowledge-based economy.
A knowledge-based economy will require innovative products that can be competitive in regional and global markets.
ICT as a tool for improving service delivery in both the private and public sector will be emphasised, according to the Vision 2020.
The chairperson of the parliamentary Standing Committee on ICT and Education, Agnes Mukazibera, said the centre will help accelerate development through effective sharing and transfer of information, communication, and technology.
But she noted that there is a need for a capacity building mechanism for the people so as to achieve intended results.
“Under RISA law, there is a plan to enhance skills in ICT because it has been obvious that ICT keeps changing on a daily basis both in Rwanda and worldwide. That is why there is a need for a permanent training programme,” Mukazibera said.
The legislator noted that what remains is the structure of the new centre, pointing out that there are staffs from Rwanda Development Board’s ICT chamber who will be redeployed to the centre.
However, MPs wondered whether it could not lead to overlapping since some ICT development responsibilities were under RDB.
They called for the expedition of the Law Governing RDB to ensure that this probable duplication is avoided.
According to Rwanda’s ICT Sector Profile – 2015 by MYICT, as of December 2015, 33.5 per cent of the Rwandans had access to internet and 77.8 per cent had mobile phones with mobile money subscribers reaching 7,663,199.
Another milestone of 2015 was the launch of local manufacturing of laptops by Positivo BGH, in line with Rwanda’s push for Made-in-Rwanda products.
The ICT sector remains also one of the main targets for foreign direct investment.