Rwanda has taken a significant step towards its goal of becoming a technology hub in the region with the launch of 'Smart Kigali,' providing free broadband Wi-Fi Internet access in various public places around the city, including taxis and buses, restaurants, hotels, libraries, buses, malls, and commercial buildings.
Also in line with improving public technology, the deployment of electronic taximeters has also started, standardizing taxi prices depending on distance travelled.
These initiatives were jointly undertaken by the Ministry of Youth and ICT (MYICT), the City of Kigali, Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Rwanda Utilities and Regulatory Agency (RURA), the Rwanda Hotel & Restaurant Association, and major telecoms operators. They hope to modernize Kigali City life through use of ICT for better service delivery.
During the Smart Kigali launch on Friday, Minister of Youth and ICT Jean Philbert Nsengimana made it clear that Rwanda needs to move faster in transforming itself into a tech-based economy and society.
"We want to transform our country from an agrarian economy to technology-based economy," he said, noting that the Smart Kigali initiative will contribute in delivering better services and information to a huge number of citizens and visitors in the capital city.
Smart Kigali was made possible through collaboration with private sector telecoms companies BSC, MTN Rwanda, Tigo Rwanda, Airtel, Liquid Telecom and ISPA. Nsengimana called upon these companies to also invest in rural areas in terms of ICT. In this respect, the government has a plan known as 'smart village' to distribute free Internet services in the countryside.
Kigali City mayor Fidele Ndayisaba noted that high-speed Internet connection and easy access will also make visitors' experience in Kigali more enjoyable.
In its effort to embrace technology, Kigali needs to be a city where people from across the world will come to copy its achievement in terms of technology, innovation, and connectivity, Ndayisaba explained.
"We need Kigali to be an exemplary city. We do not need to copy other cities, we want cities to copy Kigali."
The pilot areas in Smart Kigali are Union Trade Center, Kigali City Tower, Kigali City Market, MTN Center, Nyabugogo and Remera-Kisimenti bus parks, Amahoro Stadium, Kigali Public Library, Kanombe International Airport, KBC, the ministerial area in Kacyiru, KIST and KIE.
Ndayisaba also noted that information on Kigali will be accessible via Google maps, including features such as roads or street labels, street addresses, type of road, and sector names, to facilitate newcomers in the city.
The mayor attributes the free Wi-Fi capabilities to the government's investment in fiber optic cable. The widespread availability of Internet creates opportunities for businesses to expand their services in this area.
Automated payment systems:
Automated taxi meters have also been installed in some taxicabs to standardize the tariff to be charged for a trip. As regulated by RURA, the ordinary taxi fare was set to Frw 500 per kilometer while airport cabs were set to Frw 600 per kilometer. However, for a drive of less than 3 kilometers the fixed tariff is Frw 1500.
Mayor Ndayisaba said that the automated taximeters will prevent disagreements between drivers and passengers concerning the fare. Passengers will know how much a trip will cost based on the distance, while taxi owners will be better able to keep track of how much his cab made in a day and provide accurate income information, making it easier for the government to configure tax schemes.
Innocent Ndikuriyo, the chairperson of the taxis cooperative, said that the program will prevent the need of bargaining with a passenger, which sometimes resulted in arguments or lost time.
To improve financial services, Electronic Payments Systems have been enhanced to promote easy use of ATM's, VISA cards readers, and others systems that facilitate electronic transactions.
Smart Kigali moves the country towards the government's goal of 95% of the national territory connected to Internet by 2017.