Nº 3 2014 > World Telecommunication and Information Society Award Laureates

Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda

Paul Kagame, President of RwandaPresident Paul Kagame receiving the Award from ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. TouréA secondary school in a rural area connected to Internet through a very small aperture terminal (VSAT)Children using One Laptop per Child
Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda
President Paul Kagame receiving the Award from ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré
A secondary school in a rural area connected to Internet through a very small aperture terminal (VSAT)
Children using One Laptop per Child

Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, was born in October 1957 in Rwanda's Southern Province. His family fled pre-independence ethnic persecution and violence in 1960, crossing into Uganda where Mr Kagame spent 30 years as a refugee.

In 1990, Mr Kagame returned to Rwanda to lead the Rwandan Patriotic Front's four-year struggle to liberate the country and set it on its current course towards reconciliation, nation building and socio-economic development.

Mr Kagame took the Oath of Office as President of the Republic of Rwanda on 22 April 2000 after being elected by the Transitional National Assembly. He won the country’s first-ever democratically contested multi-party elections in August 2003 and was re-elected to a second seven-year mandate in August 2010.

President Kagame has received recognition for his leadership in peace building and reconciliation, development, and advancement of education and of information and communication technologies (ICT). His leadership has guided African development overall, and promoted the ICT sector as a dynamic industry as well as an enabler for Africa's socio-economic transformation. In 2013, Mr Kagame co-hosted the Transform Africa Summit.

President Kagame currently co-chairs the United Nations Secretary-General's MDG Advocacy Group and the United Nations Broadband Commission for Digital Development.

Transforming Rwanda

The Award — a sense of honourAccepting the 2014 World Telecommunication and Information Society Award, President Kagame said “I want to express my gratitude and the sense of honour I feel in receiving this award. I do it in the humblest of ways knowing that this is an award of value that builds on the efforts of all Rwandans that have worked hard and embraced the policies and strategies of our development… This is the result of their efforts and progress and working together in our country, and also working notably with ITU that has been very supportive of efforts in Rwanda.”

President Kagame went on to emphasize the importance of information and communication technologies (ICT) in driving his country’s development. He commended United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, for keeping the ICT agenda relevant to the socio-economic development of countries.

As he later explained, his country’s ICT strategy is based on integrating key sectors in a system that combines connectivity, enabling policy and regulatory framework, as well as skills development and networks. A documentary featuring concrete examples of how the ICT and broadband revolution was changing the lives of Rwandans was shown during the award ceremony.

President Kagame, who co-chairs the Broadband Commission for Digital Development with Carlos Slim Helú, Chairman of Grupo Carso and President of the Carlos Slim Foundation, pointed out that public-private partnerships are a win-win situation, because no one entity can, alone, do everything that needs to be done.

Smart Africa

Since the Connect Africa Summit in 2007, which President Kagame hosted, the private sector has invested USD 70 billion in Africa’s ICT sector. Since this summit, Africa has witnessed unprecedented increases in mobile penetration and broadband connectivity. The continent has received a number of submarine cables on its shores, including SEACOM, EASSy, TEAMS, West African Cable System (WACS) and Africa Coast to Europe (ACE).

President Kagame was also the patron of the Transform Africa Summit, held in October 2013 in Kigali, which closed with the adoption of the Smart Africa Manifesto. Smart Africa aims to accelerate sustainable socio-economic development in Africa through affordable access to broadband and appropriate use of information and communication technologies. A novelty of the manifesto is the prominence given to the private sector. The Smart Africa Manifesto tackles challenges such as e‑waste and the empowerment of previously marginalized groups. It also emphasizes cybersecurity, and the need to embrace more cost-effective innovations such as cloud computing, mobility, shared infrastructure and shared services.

To make the Smart Africa Manifesto more actionable, an implementation framework — the Smart Africa Alliance — is annexed to the manifesto. This envisages a partnership between each African country that adheres to the manifesto, the African Development Bank, the World Bank, ITU and the private sector.

Vision 2020

In 2000, President Kagame launched Vision 2020 — a road map to transform Rwanda, by 2020, from a low-income agrarian economy to a middle-income information-rich knowledge-based society. Vision 2020 was launched following a national consultative process conducted between 1997 and 2000 involving Rwandans from all walks of life, including leadership of all levels in the business community, government, academia and civil society.

Vision 2020 comprises six interlinked pillars, including good governance, an efficient State, skilled human capital, a vibrant private sector, a world-class physical infrastructure and modern agriculture and livestock, all geared towards national, regional and global markets.

The Government of Rwanda strongly believes that ICT can enable the country to leap-frog the key stages of industrialization and has invested heavily in this area since 2000. It has also integrated ICT through the national information and communication infrastructure process as a key driver for socio-economic development and as a tool to fast-track Rwanda’s transformation to a knowledge-based society.

Through this process, Rwanda has already established an enabling legal and regulatory environment, deployed world-class infrastructure and is developing a highly skilled human resource base — all are further positioning the country to increase its competitiveness and to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

A competitive economy

Rwanda’s economy has continued to grow at comparably good rates, averaging 8 per cent per annum, despite the global recessionary period that started in 2008. The country’s continuing growth in the midst of the global downturn can be attributed to its good governance and sound fiscal discipline, as well as to the commitment of its public and private sectors to build a more equitable country.

The 2013 World Bank Doing Business Report ranked Rwanda 52nd out of 185 countries. In overall performance, Rwanda is still the best performing country in the east African region as well as the 3rd easiest place to do business in sub-Saharan Africa.

The 2013 Global Competitiveness Report, published by the World Economic Forum, ranked Rwanda the most competitive economy in the East African Community, third in sub-Saharan Africa, and raised its global ranking from 70 in 2012 to 63 in 2013.

Rwanda — a landlocked country — is now internationally connected by two submarine cables: the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSY) through Uganda to Mombasa, Kenya; and The East African Marine System (TEAMS) submarine cable to Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.

Broadband infrastructure

The construction of the national fibre-optic backbone was completed in 2010. The backbone connects all urban districts as well as districts in remote and rural areas. The total network comprises 5003 km of fibre, of which 2503 km belong to the private sector. The quick roll-out was facilitated because the independent regulator reinforced the legal and regulatory framework to promote open competition and infrastructure sharing.

Besides laying a national fibre backbone underground, Rwanda has also rolled out fibre above ground on its electricity national grid network. This creates extra coverage and reduces the risk of interrupted services if cables are cut.

With nationwide fibre-optic coverage, the country is embarking on ensuring that last mile access is provided to fully maximize the opportunity at hand. A study has been commissioned with the aim of mapping out Rwanda’s broadband needs across the entire country in order to bridge the digital divide through last mile broadband connectivity. The plan is to install fibre to some premises and wireless broadband for the rest. A new market structure for better service provision will include rural and remote areas, taking into account affordability and digital literacy in regard to the uptake and adoption of broadband services.

New investment currently focuses on fourth-generation Long-Term Evolution (4G LTE) wireless broadband. Rwanda has adopted 4G LTE wireless broadband network as the last mile solution for urban and rural areas. It will be operated on a wholesale basis, with open access to all operators. The infrastructure will boost access to various broadband services, such as e‑governance, e‑banking, e‑learning and e‑health. The network connects more than 360 institutions — both government and private — in all 30 districts of the country, and connects all nine Rwandan borders.


President Kagame has led his country towards inclusiveness and open access to knowledge. In a practical move to bridge the digital divide, four buses are crossing the countryside to take computing and Internet services to remote and underserved areas. The buses are mobile telecentres as well as computer labs, and they offer convenient and affordable services and training to farmers, traders, students, women, youth groups, entrepreneurs and other rural inhabitants.

Rwanda has 94 telecentres located throughout its 30 districts, the target being to connect all villages using telecentres by 2020. The telecentres provide training in computer use and have allowed local enterprises such as agricultural co-operatives, handicraft industries, artisans, shops, garages and tourist facilities to gain access to accurate market and pricing information. These multi-purpose telecentres are strategically located where people, especially in rural areas, can gain access to information and learn how to use the Internet. The Universal Access Fund subsidized bandwidth for telecentres, educational institutions, health institutions and other public institutions, totalling 110 Mbit/s of bandwidth from Intelsat.

Digital public information kiosks have also been installed at several sites. They are normally composed of touch screens and printers, and they are connected to the Internet. People can check basic information online, saving time that would have been spent physically going to different institutions.

Currently, a national literacy and awareness campaign is focusing on rural people to raise their awareness of online services such as social media, electronic banking (for example, mobile money) and other Internet services. This campaign aims, by 2018, to make 50 per cent of the population aged 15 years and above computer literate, and to increase the use of information services among at least 60 per cent of the same population.

In a bid to increase digital television penetration in the country, the government has started a special programme to facilitate affordable access to digital television sets, again with a special focus on rural areas. This programme is called Tunga TV, which means “Own a TV”. To start with, 700 viewing centres will be set up across the country, and the number of such centres will keep growing. Each centre will be equipped with a cable television, two computers connected to the Internet, as well as a fixed telephone to help people without mobile phones. The centres will be powered by solar energy where the electrical grid is not yet available. It is expected that the programme will push television penetration from the current 6 per cent to 40 per cent in the next five years.


President Kagame has sought partnerships to boost Rwanda’s own efforts to achieve development by spreading the use of information and communication technology. For example, the Rwanda Development Board, in partnership with volunteers from the Korea International Cooperation Agency, has started a digital e‑library to be used in all the 30 business development centres countrywide. Physical libraries at telecentres will be equipped with Samsung Galaxy tablet computers, which will offer a suitable way of accessing information.

Another example is the One Laptop per Child project, which aims to enhance education by introducing information technology in primary schools. The project gives primary school students early access to computer skills and computer science, while expanding their knowledge on specific subjects such as science, mathematics, languages and social sciences through online research or content hosted on the server. The One Laptop per Child project was launched in June 2008 and started with two pilot projects. The first pilot project distributed 8150 laptops in 10 public schools, while 1800 laptops were bought by parents from 12 private schools. In the second pilot project, the Government of Rwanda entered into partnership with the Microsoft Corporation to train teachers and local school technicians. As part of this pilot project, electrical installations and Internet access were set up in classrooms, and content servers were installed.

President Kagame is aware of the need for an enabling environment. With the establishment of the Kigali Free Trade Zone, Rwanda again looks at moving forward and fast-tracking development in all sectors. The zone will be home to various industries, including an information and communication technology park. It will provide tax incentives for businesses situated there, especially those targeting the export market. These incentives include zero per cent corporate tax, exemption from value-added tax, zero per cent import duty, and write-off of 100 per cent of research and development costs, among other advantages. At the core of the technology park will be Carnegie Mellon University, with which the government of Rwanda has partnered to establish a centre of excellence that will develop highly skilled information and communication technology professionals. The technology park, which will be oriented towards research and development, is expected to cover areas such as business process outsourcing, cloud computing, technological education and training, e‑government, cybersecurity, and mobile solutions.

Source: Rwanda’s country report on the WSIS+10: Overall Review of the implementation of the WSIS outcomes.

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