ICTs are more than just computers and the Internet
By David Kezio-Musoke

Whenever I travel and I meet people, the first thing they ask me about Rwanda other than the country’s good governance and the well manicured streets is the development of ICTs. One time (probably about 5 years ago) when I still worked for the Nairobi based Nation Media Group, a journalist colleague of mine was compelled to crosscheck with me, “David I have been told all the towns and streets in Kigali cities have wireless points of Internet presence which is provided freely to all city dwellers.”

Eight years ago when I first came to Rwanda, I must confess that my impression of the country in regards to the development of ICTs was that of the likeness of a street in Silicon Valley. Such is the power and beauty of a good public relations strategy, which I have now basically made my core business.

After being in the country for almost a decade I still feel that the story we told years ago about ICT has become a little static and needs some kind of sparkling evolution. Five years ago I wrote a story in The East African about ‘Kigali being the first wireless city in sub-Saharan Africa.’ I remember writing about the largest national data center being built in Rwanda. I also remember writing about the fact that Rwanda was the first country (probably in Africa) to assemble mobile phones. This particular story I remember made headline news across several new wires and even almost won me an award.

My worry is that if I continue to play the role of the institutions meant to do the ‘checks and balances’, I risk being misunderstood. But the fact still remains the same, something is aloof somewhere.

While trying to demystify my thoughts on this particular subject, I am compelled to note that it is time for our governments to move away from the conventional governance of ICTs. This might be the hindrance to actual development of the trade. For example the ministries governing ICT should be full ministries and not extensions.

Today we are under the pressures of being fashionable. In the process we tend to think that being ‘en vogue’ means adopting the latest innovations, which limit ICTs to the Internet, and excludes others that fall in the same category of ICTs such as radio, television, and even print media. These technologies use reception equipment that is readily available in homes, have proven to be effective and inexpensive in packaging high-quality materials that reach “unreachable clientele,” and overcome geographical and cultural hurdles. Basically they are more important ICTs than the ones we have been made to believe as fashionable. They are all information communication technologies.

Why then shouldn’t a ministry of information and broadcasting, not tier with that in charge of ICTs? In this case in Rwanda, instead of the Ministry of ICT and Youth we would probably have a cabinet position in charge of Information, Broadcasting and Technologies.

It would also mean that instead of having two regulators we would probably merge the Rwanda Utilities and Regulatory Agency together with the Media High Council, which regulates radio and TV broadcasts and of late even digital media.

ICTs should not be dismissed as a passing fad. It is all very well when somebody believes they are clairvoyants and can reliably predict the future, but we should be talking about the present here. And if we do so, ICTs should be critically re-examined to cater for all loose ends otherwise the country risks being that well marketed top ICT destination that produces no variable at all.

The writer is a Managing Partner with Beehive Rwanda a corporate communications firm. Read more from his blog www.kezio-musoke.com

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