Government Upbeat After Completion of Fibre Optic Cable Rollout in Rwanda


The Minister in Charge of ICT in the President's Office, Ignace Gatare, has told the Senate that the first phase of ICT project, named National Backbone, is complete, and it was full steam ahead for Fibre Optic Cable post-installation activities.

Gatare, who appeared before the Upper House to respond to Senators' queries, last Thursday, said the initial phase involved civil work, whereby network cables were laid in all 30 districts of the country covering about 2,560 kilometers.

The minister explained that, currently, the 20-year project was in management phase, and that a government company would manage the infrastructure. He added that the company will provide infrastructural leasing (wholesale) as well as general IT services renting to the private sector through an open access model and transparent pricing.

The minister added that, through contract agreement, Rwandans were trained by Korean Telecom, a South Korean company that laid the infrastructure, both in Rwanda and South Korea.

Minister Gatare said the country's network was connected through two links to the Indian Ocean submarine optic fibre. The first link, which is ready, starts from Mombasa to Kigali via Gatuna, while the second connects Kigali and Dar es Salaam, through Rusumo.
He described the project, estimated at $95.2million, as a major boost to the private sector growth and smooth government services once in full utilization.

Gatare also said that security equipment like firewall and intrusion protection systems were deployed to help fight cyber crimes and negatives usage. "There is also a cyber security department at RDB (Rwanda Development Board) to deal with security threats and we are partnering with multinational and bilateral specialized agencies at international level."

About 35 percent of Rwandans are subscribed to mobile phone networks while only two percent are subscribed to the internet, according to the minister. "The trend is expected to reduce communication costs, boost industrial sector, and act as an industry, itself, as we intend to build an ICT hub for Africa. We have seen the sector rapidly grow since 2001 with Rwf87 billion generated as revenues from the sector in 2009," he added.

The minister further told the Senate that the connection would also rely on satellite links and that the plans were underway to increase ICT awareness among citizens. He added that ICT studies were increased and education sector had started reaping from the technology through e-learning.

In response to Sen. Wellars Gasamagera's question on whether fibre optic services would be accessed through a fair competition between private and public institutions, Gatare said 105 institutions have already physically migrated through the Kigali Metropolitan network.

"The programme will not jeopardize fair competition between the two sectors. To the contrary, it will promote private sector's growth," he said adding that the network leasing would be open. Gatare further said that after full migration, internet and telecommunication costs were likely to fall. "We are considering negotiations with telecommunication companies on lowering cross-network charges."

The minister explained that connection to submarine network on two physical links of Mombasa-Gatuna-Kigali and Dar es Salaam-Rusumo-Kigali was crucial for service security. He said one would act as a main connection whereas the second will serve as a backup in case of break-down on either of the links.

Meanwhile, Minister Gatare told the Senate that the delay in completion of Karisimbi project was due to the various components that serve different needs of varying partners. "The first one is the Broadcasting component which is in good progress, another is the Air trafficking under COMESA funding, while the Climate Change component also has its own funders."

In response to Sen. Valens Munyabagisha's question on whether there were plans to privatize the project, Gatare admitted there was a privatization plan, but in the long-run.
"At the beginning, it will be under government management; it is not ideal to rush into privatization. A lot of money was spent on the project and to realize the value for money the government has to have an upper hand for the moment," he said.

Gatare explained that the number of telecenters and ICT buses will also be increased.