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Rwanda: Broadband Transcends Connectivity - Kagame
Source: The New Times
Source Date: Sunday, March 17, 2013
Focus: Electronic and Mobile Government
Country: Rwanda
Created: Mar 18, 2013

President Paul Kagame has urged private and public sectors to look at broadband beyond connectivity and deliberate more on the transformation agenda.

The President, co-chair of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, was speaking yesterday in Mexico City at the opening of the seventh meeting of the global commission.

The two-day meeting brings together more than 60 high-level representatives from the private and public sectors with a shared commitment to increase access to broadband to underserved communities.

Opening the morning session, President Kagame shared Rwanda's experience and called upon the commissioners present to move the debate beyond the issue of affordable access to broadband.

"Broadband is both an enabler and an engine of transformation. In Rwanda, we have witnessed the transformative power of broadband in crucial economic sectors and public service delivery.

I believe the time has come for us to shift our thinking beyond connectivity and deliberate more on the transformation agenda."

The President also pointed to Aldea Digital -the digital village sponsored by Carlos Slim, co-chair of the Broadband Commission, and toured during the first day of the meetings- as a clear example of the transformational power of digital technology.

"I congratulate Carlos Slim upon his personal efforts and partnership with the government in ensuring broadband is impacting the lives of ordinary citizens of this country."

With more than 5,000 computers, Aldea Digital aims to bridge the digital access gap through workshops, early childhood education, adult literacy as well as a contest to design applications that provide solutions to the community.

Digital for social sector

Echoing President Kagame's call to broaden the meeting's debates, Carlos Slim also emphasised the need to use broadband and digital technologies to contribute to the social sector.

"As we discuss access we must also encourage content development for our national as well as global needs including health and education."

Vice Chairman of the Broadband Commission and Secretary-General of ITU, Dr Hamadoun Tourealso, reminded the commissioners of the role of broadband in equalising societies.

"The power of knowledge is based on one key ingredient; the human brain, which is equally distributed everywhere in the world. We must work for a world where every citizen can use information, create information and share information."

The 7th Broadband Commission Meeting was also attended by the Mayor of the City of Mexico, Miguel Ángel Espinosa, Mexican Minister of Communication Gerardo Esparza as well as Foreign Minister José Antonio Meade Kuribreña.

Rwanda in the picture

Kuribreña invited Rwanda to work with Mexico and share lessons on the use of broadband to improve citizens' lives. The meeting's main topic of discussions included; gender and broadband, the role of broadband in the global development agenda and a roadmap towards 2015.

Established in 2010, the Broadband Commission aims to boost the importance of broadband on the international policy agenda and believes that expanding broadband access in every country is key to accelerating progress and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

The commission works to define practical ways to ensure that no country is excluded from participating in the global digital economy.

Rwanda has more than 4,500 kilometres of broadband fibre optic cables laid across the country.

President Kagame also invited all Broadband Commissioners to the "Transform Africa Summit" which will be held in Kigali in October 2013. The summit will serve to review the progress made since Connect Africa Summit held in October 2007 and will be an opportunity to consolidate the work of the Broadband Commission with the various initiatives across the continent including those of the African Union-NEPAD.

The commission comprises a high-level community leaders, including top CEOs and industry leaders, senior policy-makers and government representatives, international agencies, academia and organisations concerned with development. Commissioners include President of Azerbaidjan, President of Macedonia, Prof. Jeffrey Sachs and Prof. Muhammad Yunus.

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