By Ange de la Victoire DUSABEMUNGU
In recent years, Rwanda has emerged as one of the fastest-growing tech hubs in Africa, with a thriving startup scene and a government committed to driving innovation and digital transformation.
Ericsson, a global leader in telecommunications and technology solutions is one of those at the forefront of this revolution.
From building the 4G network to collaborating with local entrepreneurs and supporting digital literacy programs, Ericsson has been instrumental in positioning Rwanda as a trailblazer in the tech world.
According to Fadi Pharaon, the Middle Eastern and African President of Ericsson, the company has partnered with various organizations to implement multiple projects, many of which are benefiting Rwanda’s tech sector.
“To give you two examples that we’ve done for Africa but including Rwanda, one is the collaboration late last year with the Smart African Digital Academy, (SADA), where we organized a multitude of courses in order to introduce policy makers across 19 countries to all new technology concepts such as 4G, 5G, artificial intelligence and telecommunications, machine learning and other type of technology advancements so that they are better equipped to make the required policy directives.” Mr. Pharaon said last week during an Interview with TOP AFRICA NEWS.
He said that currently Ericsson is partnering with UNICEF through the joint UNICEF-ITU Giga initiative which seeks to connect all schools in the world to the Internet to ensure that the students have access to a digital curriculum that already from an early age they are exposed to digital applications and ways of working so that they grow up and find good career possibilities.
Ericsson’s financial and in-kind support have contributed towards Giga’s achievement in connecting an initial 3,200 schools and over 1 million students across 4 continents.
With the support of Ericsson and other partners 1,100,000 school locations across 50 countries (including Rwanda) have been mapped and are reflected in the Project Connect site. Results are visible at Project Connect: https://projectconnect.unicef.org/map.
Statistics show that 5,000 schools have been connected by Giga across 4 continents with 1,500 schools that have been connected in Rwanda, Kenya and Sierra Leone.
“Ericsson’s part of this partnership is that we support them in mapping all of the schools around the world and to demonstrate where they are, how many connections they have and what is a good performance or not.” Mr. Pharon explained.
“So the next step is to look into after the mapping phase is to ensure that in those countries we partner with customers, we partner with ministries of education, we partner with operators in order to ensure that those schools who do not have access to connectivity have connectivity.” He said
“And then of course there will be a phase of education for teachers, training, and upskilling. And then of course throughout the different phases of the project we might face some challenges of, for example, equipment for the students. IPads, iPhones, electricity. So this is our discussion with Giga and UNICEF. Every step of the project has its own challenges and it’s being handled and addressed as a solid project.” Mr. Pharaon explained.
“We are looking for sustainable development. You know, we are not the ones running the Giga. It’s UNICEF who’s running it. We are one of their partners, specifically on the phase one that I mentioned. But this is purely committed by the CEO of our company, actually. We see it as incredibly important because education is honestly the basis for any economy to thrive. And we see that.” He said.
“Look what Rwanda has done already, right? It’s really a country with exemplary focus on education in the past decades and we can see that translated today in the economic prosperity of the country. So that’s why we believe in it all over the world. This is something that’s very close to our heart. And we believe in the vision that everybody should have the same right to get to mobile connectivity.” Mr. Pharaon said.
According to Ericsson, countries such as Benin, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Zimbabwe have done good jobs in phase one of GIGA Initiative.
According to Mr. Pharaon the technology for 5G is fully ready.
However he said “The question of when to launch 5G is of course something that needs to be answered by the regulator here in Rwanda, the policy makers and of course operators who are in the country.”
“It’s their decision when they want to launch. But technology wise, it is all over the world already.” He said.
“First, you need to build the infrastructure, and then they will come, because you need to allow entrepreneurs who develop 5G apps to test it. If there’s no infrastructure for 5G, how can they test it? And that’s how it worked in the world. This is what we are seeing now. Early countries that launched 5G, U.S., Korea, and others, this is how we see the innovation starting there.” He explained.