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 Wednesday, August 22, 2007

On 22 July 2007, the New York Times reported on Rwanda's current Internet connectivity situation. According to the article, in 2003, Greg Wyler, an American businessman, promised the Rwandan government fiber optic cables and connectivity among schools, government institutions and homes through low-cost, high-speed Internet service. His company, Terracom,was granted a contract to connect 300 schools to the Internet, and later, the company bought 99 percent of the shares in Rwandatel, the country’s national telecommunications company, for $20 million. However, after nearly four years, the government criticizes Terracom for not having delivered and materialized most of the benefits they have hailed.

The technical, political and business realities of Africa are said to have caused this slow progress of the venture. Apart from the failed and delayed attempts to bring affordable high-speed Internet service to the masses in the continent, the lack of infrastructure is also being blamed to be the biggest drawback. Some other difficulties mentioned were insufficient bandwidth capacity on satellites, poor management and intermittent power failures. Rwandan officials also say that the company seems more interested in tapping the more lucrative cellphone market than in being an Internet service provider.

With Terracom’s new chief executive, Christopher Lundh, a former executive of Gateway Communications in London, government officials say Terracom’s performance has improved. The government, meanwhile, is moving forward with its own plans to build a fiber optic network. It also has granted Internet service licenses to South African companies and plans to issue several more. A reduced price of Internet service to about $10 a month is also aimed for according to Nkubito Bakuramutsa, director general of the Rwanda Information Technology Authority.

To read the full article, click here.