October 4, 2008

Rwanda, South Korean Telecom Firm Sign 38m Dollar Internet Contract

Text of report in English by Eugene Kwibuka entitled " Korean firm signs 38m dollar internet deal " published by Rwandan newspaper The New Times website on 4 October

Kigali: Rwanda Information Technology Authority (RITA) Friday [3 October] signed a 38m dollar contract with Korea Telecom (KT) to have the latter set up the National Backbone Project which will enable high-speed internet network in the country using fibre optic technology. The deal consists of a high-speed fibre optic network that will link 36 main nodes in both Kigali City and all the 30 districts of the country.

The undertaking is described by top government officials in the area of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as a "major milestone" in the realization of the country's vision to enable ICT access "as a right for the Rwandan population".

"When all of this [building the fibre optic network] is done, the face of Rwanda will have changed in terms of ICT. This is not just about signing, it is about changing the face of Rwanda," the minister in the Office of the President in charge of ICT, Science, Technology and Communication, Prof Romain Murenzi, told a public gathering at the launch of the government deal with KT.

The network, which will be over 2,300kms of fibre optic cables, is an extension of the on-going Kigali Metropolitan Network and it will fully connect major public and private institutions, hospitals, schools, universities, immigration and border services.

Prof Murenzi said that Rwanda will be the second country in sub- Saharan Africa to have a strong internet connection backbone after South Africa when the implementation of the fibre optic cable network reaches its final implementation.

"We will only be competing with South Africa in Sub-Saharan Africa," he said.

His views that a strong internet backbone will put the country's life to a higher level are shared by David Kanamugire, the director general of ICT in the president's office.

"These projects are fitting the gap of the communication puzzle...[ellipsis as published] the key ingredients are really being put in place for Rwanda to move," he said.

Korean Telecom has been working in the development of the information and communications business for the last 100 years. The company is credited for being at the forefront of turning Korea into an IT powerhouse and RITA administration said it is delighted to partner with it. It is one of Korea and Asia's top wired and wireless communications service providers.

"KT was instrumental in turning Korea into a knowledge-based society which resonates with our country's vision 2020," says the executive director of RITA, Nkubito Bakuramutsa.

"The company brings its service to Rwanda with a feeling that the latter has many things in common with our country," KT Chief Executive Officer in charge of overseas business, Dr Kim Hansuk, announced.

"We both came from nowhere and we are located in remote regions in the World. We both are small... we do have many people to feed and we do have little natural resources," he said at the signing of the contract, adding that their services will yield 'many fruits for years to come'.

The National Backbone Project will be operational in December 2009, according to RITA and it will facilitate different sectors with internet.

The country's vision 2020 that has the aim of developing Rwanda into a middle income country by then, considers ICTs as an engine for accelerated country's development and economic growth, national prosperity, and global competitiveness.

Originally published by The New Times website, Kigali, in English 4 Oct 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Africa. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.