Kigali’s free internet is for real …


(Posted 14th October 2013)

A weekend trip to Kigali allowed a firsthand experience with the Rwandan internet revolution, which is currently unfolding in the capital city but may eventually spread across the main urban centres of the country.

Already in the past were signals at the international airport provided by RCAA, the Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority, open for users of smartphones or tablets, as the authority created a second ‘open’ network beyond their own WLAN. Now however, have internet kiosks entered the scene at the Kigali International Airport, where travelers, or those waiting for them or seeing them off, can courtesy of MTN Rwanda do a quick web search. They can check their flight connectivity, book a hotel even or, and if their phone battery has died on them post a quick message on Twitter or Facebook to let their friends at home know that all is well. A quick look into the mailbox perhaps and they can be off to their hotels, where in most cases now free internet is provided for them too. The little ‘Yello’ units are found in the main terminal’s arrival and departure section and while seen only two within eyeshot before being whisked away by my ‘greeter’ there may of course be more in other parts of the airport. Finally, when roaming the city by taxi, on foot – Kigali is arguably the safest city in Africa where one can walk the main fares or the neighbourhood of a hotel, even at night, without any problems – or using the new bus system, the smart phone will pick a signal to stay connected, and a signal of 3+G quality soon to go 4G for which work on the upgrade of the infrastructure has just began.

Rwanda has for some time energetically pursued a policy of making internet available for all, and their one laptop per child project has certainly helped to spread that gospel already in primary school. Becoming an ICT hug is a declared goal for Rwanda and it is evident that all is done what can be done to provide the right infrastructure, the training for the people and, for now at least, free net access to Kigaleans.

Certainly another feather in the cap of Rwanda, where policy and political commitments actually do translate into some real action. Take a leaf Africa, from one of the smallest countries on the continent but certainly one of the largest when it comes to delivering development. Murakaza Neza Rwanda, The Land of a Thousand Hills but clearly also the Land of the Rising Phoenix.