Across the country in Rwanda, broadband Internet is helping connect rural and remote communities to a bright digital future.
Through investments in network infrastructure and online government services, the approach is proving successful in getting more citizens online and accessing essential e-government (e-gov) services.
To help facilitate this initiative, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) have undertaken a project to deploy wireless broadband connectivity across the country, with a focus on rural areas. The project is helping to provide free or low-cost digital access for schools, hospitals and for underserved populations, to access online services and information.
Across the world, more and more governments are investing in e-gov services to deliver information and services more effectively and to save time and money.
Irembo is the “one-stop Internet portal for e-government services” that has been developed by the Republic of Rwanda. It allows users to access government services and information with the easy click of a button. Currently the website hosts 88 government services online including: community-based health insurance, registration for driving tests, applications for marriage or birth certificates, land transfers and many more.
However, to facilitate wider use of the website and services, better Internet connections were needed across the country.
“Before we had internet connections, it was hard for people to access online services.” — Nsumbiri Joseph
“Before we had internet connections, it was hard for people to access online services. They had to travel to Rwamagana which is several kilometers away to make their tax declarations, and then to the bank to make their payment. However, today it is easier to make your declaration and make payments using the Irembo e-government portal,” said Nsumbiri Joseph, Muhazi Sector Accountant Officer.
Rwanda has made significant progress towards affordable broadband for all, a key measure of people’s ability to get online.
In 2008, the government of Rwanda embarked on a nationwide roll-out of fibre optic as a backbone infrastructure for broadband. This optic fibre connected different parts of the country and provided high-capacity crossborder links with onward connectivity to submarine cables.
As outlined in the latest edition of The State of Broadband Report, in 2013, the government published a new broadband policy aimed at restructuring the broadband market under an infrastructure-sharing regime, as a means to accelerate roll-out of broadband network services, and reduce overall infrastructure investment costs. The network currently covers over 90% of the population.
“We are now focusing on providing technical support to ensure all users have uninterrupted Internet connectivity. We are also prioritizing infrastructure development to bring Internet connectivity to rural towns and villages throughout Rwanda,” explains Ntezirizaza Sadi, Senior IP Engineer, Broadband System Corporation.
And, investing in Broadband is helping to support Rwanda’s economic growth.
“Fast and affordable Internet access has also made it possible for many people in Rwanda to start doing on-line businesses. I can say this is a big change in terms of development,” said Mutabazi Frank.
Hospitals and health care centres rely on reliable internet connections to deliver key life-saving services. However, rural and remote areas suffered from slow or unreliable connections. But, that was before the launch.
“Before this project was completed Internet access was very slow. Sometimes we had to share computers with neighbouring health centres, which meant that services which could be delivered in a day were taking much longer,” Mugenga Augustin, Chief of Service at Tare Health Center.
As internet connectivity reaches more remote and rural health centres, the quality and delivery of care has improved, with health benefits reaching more and more citizens across the country.