Rwanda’s High costs hinder uptake of digital services – World Bank

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Digital skills gap and high cost of digital services and broadband are hindering Rwanda’s efforts to boost digital transformation, says the latest World Bank Economic Update on Rwanda.

The report reviews key building areas of Rwanda’s digital economy, highlights key progress made and challenges as the country hope to achieve high-income status by 2050 and upper-middle-income status by 2035.

Despite the public investment in digital public service delivery and digital infrastructures, the World Bank report notes that digital adoption needs to improve with interventions that will remove barriers to uptake, increase affordability and create local demand for digital services.

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According to the World Bank, increased digital transformation will only be possible if more users are brought online and become digitally enabled through greater access to digital devices and connectivity.

“Fundamentally to be part of the digital economy, people need to be connected; people need affordable connectivity so that they can get online,” said Isabella Hayward, digital development specialist at World Bank.
Only 14 per cent of the country’s population owns a smartphones data show which is one of the factors that lower the number of connected people online.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of ICT and Innovation Claudette Irere, said the ongoing “connect Rwanda challenge” which targets the collection of one million phones. organisations and individuals are pledging smartphones which are expected to increase the number of people who own smart digital devices hence allow many to access digital services.

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However, the domestic demand for digital tools is still low the economic report noted.
The report further noted the uptake of basic mobile communications, mobile services and digital financial services have increased but there is a digital divide in terms of access to handsets and uptake of the highspeed Internet.

“Broadband remains unaffordable to the average consumer and Rwanda thus trails its peers in terms of broadband penetration and usage and uptake of foundational digital services such as mobile money,” stated the update on country’s digital transformation journey.

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