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A Rwanda vastly innovative attempt by the Rwandan government to take information to the ordinary citizen will see the introduction of ICT buses in the tiny East African country this month. An initiative of the eRwanda Project, the ICT bus will act as a mobile telecentre to help bridge the digital divide affecting the rural population of Rwanda. An ICT bus will be a mobile computer lab that will benefit farmers, traders, students, women, youth groups, entrepreneurs and other rural based Rwandans. According to the eRwanda Project Coordinator Wilson Muyenzi, the ICT Bus will take ICT services to rural communities where there is no electricity. “Each of the buses that are now being assembled in Nairobi will have a file server, personal computers and other ICT services that will seek to take information closer to the ordinary citizen,” he said.

This initiative is spearheaded by the government of Rwanda which seeks to actively transform the country from an agrarian economy where over 90 percent of the working population depends on subsistence agriculture to a knowledge-based one. It is also envisaged that the availability of appropriate ICT infrastructure will mitigate the barrier to market entry for many businessmen whose main boon to trade is lack of access to information, hence boosting private sector development.

 

“We have put in place one telecentre in each of the thirty districts of the country and every centre will have up to 50 computers,” Muyenzi said. “At these telecentres, we will offer Rwandans basic access to the internet and in addition, there are training clubs for computer literacy and English lessons in line with the government policy to popularise the language.”

 

They are currently 12 fully functional telecentres which offer services like printing, internet and money transfer while 18 bigger ones are set to become functional in July 2009. At the telecentres, farmers will also have access to a library which has mainly a digital section and a smaller physical book library.

Therefore, the ICT buses come to complement these telecentres by offering these services in a more versatile manner. The ultimate target will be to allow greater public access to information and make credible timely information available to all citizens, as well as providing all services in an efficient and cost-effective manner on an online basis. Eliza Murorungwere, an Internet Café attendant in Gitarama, 22 miles from Kigali, welcomes this new government initiative and believes that ICT buses will generate more interest in the internet to their benefit.“

People would be happy to know that the government wants them to use the internet and after initial contact with these buses, I am confident that more people will seek our services.” She said. Evariste Munyaneza too is excited at the prospect of the internet coming to him instead of the other way round. “This will open more opportunities for my children who are keen to listen to my experiences at the telecentre but have no chance of using computers themselves.”

The ICT Bus project comes hot on the heels of other innovative ideas that have been nurtured from inception and brought to the light of day through the eRwanda project. These include the telemedicine project whose pilot phase has enabled doctors from two upcountry hospitals to benefit from scarce but available specialist ediagnosis from the national referral hospital (remote diagnosis done by an expert who access patients file through a high-tech ICT system) followed by etreatment.

Among others the esoko project will enable farmers to access commodity prices in different prices of Rwanda so that they can take their produce to a market where they will make the best profit.

Source: The Independant [accessed 15-07-2009]