Only 17 Percent Use the Internet in Rwanda

Internet

Only 17 percent of Rwanda's population (which is approximately 1,530,000) access the Internet. This is in spite of Information Communication Technology (ICT) being the government's master card to transform the country into a knowledge-based economy. This percentage was established from the recent results from the Scan ICT Baseline Survey done by the National Institute of Statistics.

The local community usage of internet is way below average compared to UN Agencies and other Non Government Organisations (NGOs) operating in the country.

Whereas only 14 per cent of the private sector uses internet and only 12 per cent of the public sector, all UN systems and 26 per cent of NGOs use internet in the country.

And while about 45 percent of the public sector has websites, the percentage within the private sector stands at 25 percent. All UN systems in Rwanda have websites up and running. And about 65 percent of the NGOs have websites, according to the survey.

Computer usage stands at 37 percent for public sector, 27 percent for private sector 42 percent for NGOs and 71 percent for UN systems. Overall computer usage stands at 34 percent in Rwanda.

Low internet usage according to Emmanuel Gatera, the Management Information Systems Director at National Bureau of Statistics, is attributed to high subscription charges by the only three internet service providers (ISPs) in the country; MTN Rwandacell, Terracom Rwanda and Artlel.

To subscribe to MTN internet, one requires a whopping Frw130, 000 for an Iternet card plus Frw20,000 monthly fees. At Terracom, an EVDO card for only specialised computers and laptops costs Frw150, 000 with 400Kbps speed. Monthly subscription is $63 (about Frw35,000). Terracom's Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) goes for Frw50, 000 per month. These tariffs, according to Gatera, could be the highest in the region.

ICT penetration in urban areas is by far above that in rural areas. The survey indicates 0.89 per cent penetration in urban and 0.01 per cent in rural areas for computers and Internet connection. Fixed and mobile phone rollout stands at 14 percent in urban areas and as low as 0.6 percent in rural areas.

For TV and Radio, penetration in urban is 61.4 percent and 39.8 percent in rural areas. Overall, 41.9 percent of Rwandan households have at least both TV and Radio. Only 0.14 percent of Rwandans have computers connected to the Internet.

The recent international investors' conference resolved that government, through Rwanda Information Technology Authority (RITA), should find ways of lowering the cost of ICT in the country to increase access.

Rita Director General, Nkubito Bakuramutsa, says the situation is under control. "Rita is building a national ICT backbone that will lower costs of internet to $10 (about Frw5,500) subscription per month," he said in a recent interview.

The three ISPs have only until next year for their Iternet provision exclusivity agreements to expire. Bakuramutsa says by that time, the Kigali Metropolitan Network (KMN), the faster fibre optic highway, faster than the common wireless, Vsat and dialup connection, will be ready. He explained that KMN, also referred to as "The Kigali Ring", is a pilot project laid around Kigali that will provide backbone to ISPs.

The director said ISPs will be tapping from this faster and cheaper fibre optic highway to sell to people's homes and businesses at relatively lower prices. The project will eventually be rolled out to other major towns like Butare, Gisenyi and Cyangugu, then to other parts of the country.

Bakuramutsa says for ISPs to be able to tap KMN, they will need to have proposals that are no way below $10 per month. "The government has injected a lot of money in this highway to host ISPs in the country cheaply so that they can also charge lower to their clients," he explained and added, "ISPs in Rwanda charge highly because of commensurate high hosting costs." Apart from the three local ISPs, other international ISPs are already knocking at Rita's doors ready to abide by the proposed price of $10 per month.

There has been a delay in setting up community information centres in rural areas under the Rwanda Telecentre Network (RTN). The RTN was launched in 2005 with the aim of establishing specialised centres with computers suitable for rural setting and connected to internet.

According to project plan, within three months, the Ministry of Infrastructure would have established thirty telecentres in rural areas. But since then, nothing tangible has been done. Bakuramutsa, who is hardly three months in office, said the delays were due to mistakes that were made in the project. As such, the project had to be revisited and now 12 fully equipped telecentres will be ready by September, this year.

New Times