|Issue:||Africa and the Middle East 2007|
|Topic:||ICT for the people in Rwanda|
|Author:||the Hon. Eng. Albert Butare|
|Title:||Minister of State for Energy and Communications|
The Hon. Eng. Albert Butare, is the Minister of State for Energy and Communications of Rwanda. Before taking up this post, Eng. Butare was the Academic Vice Rector of the Kigali Institute of Science Technology and Management (KIST), an Institute he has participated in building from scratch. Previously, Minister Butare served as a consultant on rural energy for the World Bank; was responsible for the Energy Directorate of the Center for Agricultural Mechanization and Rural Technology in Tanzania; and was a consultant for environment-related technologies in Benin, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Eng. Butari designed a biogas lamp, the first in Africa, which has been distributed in several countries, and an energy, saving baking oven that produces 4,000 scones of bread using only one piece of wood in three hours – this won him the leading International Award of the Ashden Foundation in Renewable Energies in the UK. The Minister has published and presented his scientific and technological research in Germany, Uganda, Cameroon, Burundi, India, Malaysia, UK, Zambia, Nigeria, Kenya, United States of America, Tanzania, and Ethiopia among others and has served as a member and Chair on several boards and committees in Rwanda and Tanzania. He graduated from the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering and completed a Master of Science in Engineering with a focus on renewable energies and waste management from the University of Flensburg in Germany.
Rwanda is recovering after years of conflict and genocide. Its government expects information and communication technology to play a major role in its recuperation and growth. By 2020, Rwanda hopes to become a modern nation and a regional centre of excellence in ICTs. Rwandaís Vision 2020 ICT-led development policy aims to turn the country into a middle-income economy by prioritising education, human development, infrastructure, economic and social development, e-government, legal, regulatory and institutional reform as well as national security.
In a country with few natural resources and high population density, the government of Rwanda, is moving quickly on its plan to make ICT a major economic contributor. Our government clearly recognizes that investment in the technology sector is likely to yield substantial improvements in the economy. Adding to that, from the recently ended genocide and conflict the country experienced, we realise that being one nation and living in peace and harmony is paramount to the development of our country. In a speech at the Royal Society of London, United Kingdom, in September 2006, my President, His Excellency Paul Kagame, stated: ìWe in Africa must either build our scientific and technological training capabilities or remain an impoverished appendage to the global economyÖ but we [in Rwanda] have embraced as the surest route to developing our Vision 2020. It envisages Rwanda as a ëmodern nation able to generate and disseminate technological knowledge and innovationí and as a ëCentre of Excellenceí at a regional level in the area of technologies, particularly with Information Communication Technology, ICT.î To achieve the above, Rwanda has been preparing herself and we have put in place our National Information Communication Infrastructure, NICI, Plan. This plan will guide us in the exploitation of modern information and communications technologies to increase the pace of socio-economic development and create value for all our citizens. Our move towards an ICT and knowledge-driven economy is a decision rooted in the practical realities and challenges within Rwanda, but equally it has taken into account recent trends so that Rwanda can position herself to compete in the global economy. While inaugurating the NICI Plan Phase 2, also known as NICI-2010, His Excellency President Kagame stated: ìJust as it is clear that growth in the 19th and 20th centuries was driven by networks of railways and highways, growth and development in the 21st century is being defined and driven by digital highways and ICT-led value-added services. In Africa, we have missed both the agricultural and industrial revolutions and in Rwanda we are determined to take full advantage of the digital revolution. This revolution is summed up by the fact that it no longer is of utmost importance where you are but rather what you can do – this is of great benefit to traditionally marginalized regions and geographically isolated populations. In our context, it will allow us to make use of our most important and most abundant resource – Our People.î The president made the statements after considering the following facts about Rwanda. Rwanda is a small, landlocked country with about 8.2 million inhabitants. With a per capita GDP of US$230, and with 60 per cent of the population living below the poverty line, it is one of the worldís poorest countries. Its population density of 340 inhabitants per square kilometre is one of the highest in the world. About 85 per cent of its population lives in rural areas. Rwandaís economy is largely based upon agriculture, which accounts for about 41 per cent of GDP. Services make up 38 per cent and consist mainly of wholesale and resale trade in various products, transportation and public administration. Industry accounts for 21 per cent of GDP, of which manufacturing accounts for 12.6 per cent and construction 11 per cent. Furthermore, mining contributes 0.1 per cent, while electricity and water about 0.5 per cent. Since 1996, Rwanda has experienced steady economic recovery, thanks to foreign aid averaging US$200 to US$300 million per year and governmental reforms. As of 2005, the annual growth (GDP) was 5.2 per cent and inflation was at 8 per cent. Rwanda depends on significant foreign imports for food, machinery and equipment, steel, petroleum products, cement and construction materials. Exports were valued at US$98 million in 2005 and included coffee, tea, hides, tin and iron ore. Even with the little we have achieved, I believe the ability of ICTs to level the global playing field and unlock human potential is exactly why we need to invest in it, so that we can accelerate socio-economic development. In investing in ICTs, the government has set policy and action plans that are based on the need to achieve the aspirations of Vision 2020, the aim of which is to enable Rwanda to develop into a middle-income country by 2020. Vision 2020, an ICT-led development, aims to improve the quality of life of the people of Rwanda by enriching their social, economic and cultural well-being through the modernization of the economy and society. The current strategy is enshrined in NICI-2010. It is based on ten pillars that are cut across various sectors: 1) education, 2) human-capacity development; 3) infrastructure, equipment and content; 4) economic development; 5) social development; 6) e-government and e-governance; 7) private sector development; 8) rural and community access; 9) legal, regulatory and institutional provisions and standards; and, 10) national security, law and order. Having stated the above, our plans to develop ICT for our citizens currently hinge on pillar 6 – upon having good governance with transparency with e-government applications. Our citizens will have access to these applications in order to beep themselves informed and to use ICT tools for their daily economic development and social activities. We also call this the eRwanda Project. Let me expound a bit on this. Using a grant from the World Bank, the eRwanda Project focuses on specific activities within the NICI-2010 plan that have the greatest potential impact on good governance and improved conditions for the countryís citizens. The key objectives of the eRwanda Project are to use ICTs to: a) improve the efficiency and effectiveness of selected government operations and systems; b) improve the delivery of services and applications in such key sectors as health, agriculture, education, environment and local government; c) facilitate access to government services by citizens through tele-centres and mobile systems; d) allow greater public access to government information, such as agricultural prices, pest control, best practices, HIV/AIDS, maternal and child care information, tax information, land use information, micro-finance; and, e) make the government more accountable to citizens. The strategy is to develop the Rwanda National Portal, which will consolidate access to separate portals for each sector of the economy. The portal will be the official Rwandan gateway to all governmental and non-governmental information and procedures, thereby acting as an online ëfront doorí to all e-government-related services and a one-stop online point of access for all government and citizen-related information and services. The National Portal will allow all visitors access to a variety of information about the nation. The portal will provide access for the Rwandan population (citizens, government employees, private sector) and non-Rwandans, as well, wishing to visit or do business with Rwanda. The first phase of the National Portal project will comprise such goverment priority areas as: a) the Investment Portal, which will provide information and services regarding investment opportunities and climate in Rwanda; b) the e-Tourism Portal, which will provide information and services for tourism in Rwanda; c) the Local Government Portal, which will provide information on the local government districts and showcase each districtís potential in agriculture and tourism, for example; d) the Embassy Network, which will be a network of all of Rwanda embassies around the world. The network will provide shared and consistent information about Rwanda. Each embassy will have a local language version. This is only the start and we realise it will not be easy. The path to development for the people in our country is fraught with challenges. We are a young nation and welcome all who want to partner with us in the economic development of our citizens and in improving the health of our population.