The Edtech Monday episode for the month of May has pointed out key projects that will enable Rwanda to increase access to ICT infrastructure and skills, especially in the education sector.
EdTech Monday Rwanda is a Mastercard Foundation and ICT Chamber initiative that aims to spark the EdTech Ecosystem in Rwanda.
The show, which airs on KT Radio every last Monday of the month and simultaneously goes live on the Kigali Today YouTube channel from 6 PM to 7 PM is sponsored by the Mastercard Foundation center and Rwanda’s Private Sector Chamber of ICT.
Lambert Ntagwabira, the Ministry of ICT and Innovation Digital Readiness Senior Technologist, said that the use of ICT has become a need for everyone in daily life and in education specifically and numbers show it.
Ntagwabira presented new data findings which show that penetration has reached 46% in primary schools and 61% in secondary schools
The infrastructure has also increased to 852 ICT classrooms and internet connection reached 53% and the increase in computers in secondary schools has reached 83%.
Computer per child is still low, at one computer per 12 children in primary and in secondary it is at one computer per 8 students while in tertiary education it is a ratio of one computer to three students.
On the e-learning platform, so far 700 e-courses embedded in the system and virtual labs (for sciences) have also been put in place.
Data from 2016 shows that only 19% of secondary schools had an internet connection, only 32% of primary and 51% of secondary schools are linked to the electrical grid and only 19% of secondary schools have an internet connection.
Audrey Umutesi Marketing Officer eShuri Ltd says that the eShuri application and the increasing access to smartphones has enabled more access to e-learning options
Commenting on investments needed, Gilbert N. Kayinamura Chief Commercial Officer at Broadband Systems Corporation (BSC) said that there is a need to increase access to electricity and gadgets to utilize the internet that has so far been provided in schools, of which BSC has connected 2000 schools.
On that note, Kayinamura said that they plan to add more schools connected to the internet and increase the number of ICT classrooms but also monitor their progress and ensure the community benefits from the infrastructure.Under the new broadband policy, to roll out 100% connectivity in 2022, Ntagwabira revealed that there are many infrastructure projects underway for example with the SpaceX project to connect 500 schools, especially outside Kigali.
This will add to the existing Giga project initiated by UNICEF and ITU in September 2019 to connect every school to the Internet and every young person to information, and opportunity, as well as look at how connectivity can create stronger infrastructures of hope and opportunity.
To increase access to computers for students, Ntagwabira revealed that considering the cost of acquiring personal computers (laptops) there is a new arrangement for this where students will be able to acquire laptops and pay for them in phases.
“The pilot project has been initiated between the Ministry of Education and Rwanda Education Board (REB) and Ministry of ICT, and soon it will be implemented,” Ntagwabira said.
He also revealed that through the Big Win project, the government plans to train 80,000 teachers, and 500,000 students in the next three years.
On uptake, Umutesi said that the perception and uptake has increased and this has been spurred by the need to adopt to digital services (and online platforms) as a result of the COVID pandemic however there are still challenges in growing this users as a result of affordability of internet connection, a concern that they are trying to address with key stakeholders.
Umutesi said that if the cost of internet is reduced and access is increased that will be a game changer towards seeing more users and content consumption.
In Rwanda, the international bandwidth capacity almost tripled from Q1, 2020 to Q1, 2022, from 63 Gigabits per second (Gbps) to 156 Gbps and the cost of internet has reduced though affordability remains a challenge.
Rwanda has been ranked 11th among the cheapest countries in sub- Saharan Africa and 64th globally out of countries with the cheapest internet prices.
It is 2020 ranking released by Cable- a UK based internet and broadband research and monitoring venture which conducted its data findings from 5,554 mobile data plans in 228 countries.
The ranking showed that Rwanda sold an average price of 1 Gigabyte (GB) of internet at Rwf1, 346, compared to the global cost of more than Rwf7000 average charged in the sub- Saharan and 14,000 in the North American region among the most expensive regions.
With the current 96% 4G internet penetration, Kayinamura said that BSC plans to reach more schools especially in the rural areas where they have managed to have a 30% rural schools connectivity with operations in each of the 30 districts though not all schools in each district is covered.