Imagining a ‘Smart Country’ – Such as Rwanda
Friday, July 19, 2013
Everyone is talking about “smart development” and “smart solutions” – the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to tackle the most pressing development problems such as poverty, access to basic services, and job creation. But if a whole country decided to become “smart” what would that look like to its citizens, government, and private sector?
This is the challenge that World Bank staff and clients in Rwanda took up with Smart Rwanda Days, held in Kigali in June. Co-sponsored by the Rwanda Ministry of Youth and ICT, the Rwanda Development Board, and the World Bank, with the support of bilateral donors, the event brought together more than 250 representatives of government, private sector, academia, media, and civil society to “co-create” the Smart Rwanda concept.
This was Rwanda’s first co-creation event, and with over 500 online followers each day, it was one of the biggest crowdsourcing exercises ever conducted by the World Bank in Africa. Experts from 11 countries shared experiences in using ICTs to create innovative solutions to development problems such as transportation, education, and agriculture.
Progress on ICTs
In her opening remarks, Carolyn Turk, World Bank Country Manager for Rwanda, congratulated the country for its progress toward ICT sector development and growth. “The penetration of mobile phones has gone from just 8 percent to 60 percent in the past five years, and the fiber optic backbone now exceeds 2,503 km,” she said.
For Rwanda’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Claver Gatete, technology has become ubiquitous: “That is why we are saying, in governance, in elections, we are using IT. In interacting with ordinary people, we are using IT. In the way the central government works with the local government, we are using IT. In the whole economic sector, we are using IT.”