By David Himbara
General Paul Kagame has been building an digital economy since 2000 aimed at turning Rwanda into ICT regional hub. The foundation for Kagame’s digital economy comprised three things. First, Kagame launched over the years, a series of strategies to foster a national culture of innovation. Second, Kagame built a national fiber optic backbone network to give all Rwandans access to high-speed internet. Third, he connected Rwanda to undersea cables landing in neighboring Kenya and Tanzania through cross-border terrestrial infrastructure. But as the World Bank’s January 2020 Economic Update indicates, Kagame’s digital economy remains a fantasy.
Kagame forgot the building of skills
Kagame’s digital economy is a fraud. Kagame forgot the most important and basic thing for creating a digital economy and culture of innovation – building skills and specialists. These do not exist in Kagame’s Rwanda. Computer literacy rate in Rwanda remains at an embarrassing 8.4 percent. Here is how the World Bank describes the situation in Rwanda:
“Government estimates that computer literacy is a mere 8.4 percent, which hampers usage of even the most basic digital devices and applications, but also dampens demand for more advanced tools and services….Gaps in access to key enablers in schools, including connectivity, digital devices, reliable electricity, digital content and adequate teacher capacity, continue to adversely affect both the integration of ICT in the classroom and delivery of digital skills training. For example, a mere 25.1 percent of primary schools and 41.3 percent of secondary schools reportedly had access to the internet in 2017, which meant that ICT was predominately being taught in an offline environment, or in theory, with limited practical application. More broadly, issues related to the current quality of education and weaker enrolment at secondary level, particularly in STEM-related subjects, also affect digital skills attainment, including the pipeline of graduates that can proceed to access more advanced digital skills training. As it stands, Rwanda is not producing the number of digital specialists needed, nor of the requisite caliber, to propel the kind of cross-sectoral digital transformation that Rwanda aspires to achieve.”
There is nothing to add – what a shame.