Information communications technology (ICT) players and policymakers have emphasized need to empower citizens with skills to enable them benefit from the connectivity that is becoming more available and affordable.
They made the call at a three-day African Peering and Interconnection Forum that started August 23, 2022 in the capital, Kigali.
“But more importantly it’s looking at the general population and ask ourselves whether the end user can be able to utilize the infrastructures in place to benefit from the connectivity that is becoming more available and affordable,” observed Yves Iradukunda, the Permanent Secretary of Rwanda’s Ministry for ICT and Innovation.
Iradukunda who represented his Minister Paula Ingabire added, “It’s not just infrastructure and data centres that are required to process the different services but also the content that is required from different partners, and Rwanda pursues a holistic approach from technological infrastructures to the smart devices people are using.”
AfPIF2022 jointly organised by African Internet Exchange Point Association (AFIX), Internet Society and Rwanda Internet Community and Technology Alliance (RICTA) attracted more than 300 delegates including ICT services providers, policymakers and ICT experts.
The Permanent Secretary said that Rwanda is addressing the skills gap by reducing ICT illiteracy in general, “because without that our population will not be empowered to take full advantage of the technology and services that we provide.”
“Broadband Internet access and utilization have a profound impact on the improvement of services delivery across all sectors of our economy. Today, Internet usage enables better outcomes in learning, delivering healthcare, managing better our energy resources, and achieving higher citizen engagement with the Government,” he added.
Eng. Deo Muvunyi, the Director General of Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) said that the country has massively invested in the sector to mitigate the challenges linked to its location in the sub region.
“Rwanda as a landlocked country was obliged to use expensive satellite links for Internet services which limited the penetration of internet services due to high costs,” said Eng. Muvunyi.
“As mitigation measures to this challenge, the government of Rwanda hugely invested in ICT sector and we are now connected through multiple entrances to the sub-marine cables in Kenya and Tanzania,” he added.
The efforts led to increase in internet usage consequently increasing both national and international traffic.
Eng. Muvunyi disclosed that RURA and RICTA have embarked on modernizing National Internet Exchange infrastructure in order to facilitate the access to Internet exchange point, enable domestic bandwidth utilization, encourage development of local content and web hosting and attract international content providers to locate their servers in Rwanda and promote internet broadband access.
Grace Ingabire, CEO of RICTA gave highlights, milestone and challenges of AfPIF including its vision.
“The Internet Society started AfPIF 11 years ago to provide a venue for discussions on African Internet infrastructure challenges. This annual event brings together key stakeholders, including Internet service and content providers, IXP operators, government network managers, regulators, and policymakers to share their experiences and to advance peering and interconnection arrangements,” said Ingabire.
She said that the traffic exchanged inside Africa has expanded enormously as a result of the work done by AfPIF over the last years. “One of the AfPIF vision is to increase the accessibility of the global networks through peering and to keep 50% of traffic locally”.
“For us to achieve such vision there is a need of participation from across the Internet ecosystem stakeholders,” she added.
On challenges Ingabire said that there are still significant challenges to achieve sustainable, efficient, and cost-effective networking on the continent.
“And, many of these challenges specifically relate to the lack of network interconnections between many countries in Africa, especially landlocked countries”.