Information technology has been a wheel driving Rwanda’s economy, over 20 years after the genocide. In this interview with Deji Oladoye of Africa-i, IT expert, Akaliza Kera Gara opens up on Rwanda’s IT strength.
So far, how will you define the development of Rwanda’s IT strategy?
Akaliza: The development has been targeted and progressive. Rwanda is a great place to be for IT professionals.
How far can this development be sustained?
Akaliza: There are many opportunities available for entrepreneurs. The government and civil sectors have recognised that there are currently not enough jobs to handle Rwanda’s young population and as a result are trying to bring up more job-makers than job-seekers.
As technology improves in Rwanda, coupled with the present success of One Laptop per Child initiative, how can other sectors be captured?
Akaliza: IT is a sector that impacts all the other sectors. For example, the largest sector in Rwanda is the agriculture sector and many of the successful IT software developers have recognised this and are creating applications that will be used by farmers and in the agriculture market.
What possible policies do you think the government can act on to put the country’s IT on a global rate?
Akaliza: The government has some good policies in place. One of them is the ICT awareness campaign which partners with private sector players to visit rural areas and expose the population to the benefits of IT.
What are the roles of IT in making Rwanda business-friendly?
Akaliza: IT speeds up many areas of doing business – from service delivery to marketing.
Do you think Rwanda has the capacity and skills to become a hub for technology invention, and how?
Akaliza: I do believe Rwanda is on the path to becoming a tech hub in the region. There are many sponsored training opportunities for youth and centres for innovation – like kLab, an IT entrepreneurship hub in the capital city, Kigali.
What is needed for Africa to utilise technology for development purpose?
Akaliza: Putting technology in the hands of locals in Africa will lead to development. Many local entrepreneurs in Africa become social entrepreneurs without needing to be told to move in that direction. They see a need in their society and use IT to meet those needs.
How can IT enhance inclusive growth?
Akaliza: IT levels the playing field for many because it opens you up to many opportunities that you could not reach otherwise. The challenge is access – a very small percent of the population can afford a laptop. However, there is a big opportunity for growth with mobile technology which is much more accessible.
What would you suggest to other African countries to emulate from Rwanda’s IT progress?
Akaliza: Rwanda has done a lot of things well – in particular the government’s efforts to work hand-in-hand with the private sector to develop the country. There is also a strong emphasis on developing the nation as whole and avoiding the large gaps between rich and poor that are seen in many other rapidly developing nations. As a result, the development in Rwanda is moving at a steady rate. Regarding IT progress, the government has provided scholarship opportunities and also free working space (kLab that I mentioned earlier) for IT innovators. The private and civil sector followed this and two more hubs were recently set up – Think (funded by Millicom) and the Rwanda Media Hub (funded by The Institute for War & Peace Reporting).