Now is an important time in the development of the Rwanda information and communication technologies( ICTs) sector. ICTs were always a pivotal part of the Vision 2020, so to highlight their importance and facilitate their development, the government in 2000 launched the National ICT Plan (NICI I). The plan was formulated as taking place over four five year cycles. The first, from 2000 to 2005, focused on the creation of a fertile, enabling environment in Rwanda for ICTs initiatives to take hold. The second, from 2006 to 2010, placed emphasis on the development of key ICT infrastructure such as the laying of fiber optics cables. 2011 is a critical year-- not only because it marks the launch of NICI-3, but because the emphasis of this third phase is on the development and use of new services that were made possibly by phases one and two. Thus, a newly participatory phase in Rwanda's ICTs development is set to begin.
While NICIs one and two were important steps, there were also significant challenges associated with them. Not only was there a low level of understanding of the programs by the general populace, and weak monitoring and evaluation, but the length and complexity of the plans meant that they had a limited capacity to change and evolve to meet unexpected obstacles and challenges. In order to address these issues, the third phase has been broadly divided into five areas-- ICT skills development, private sector development, ICT for community development, E-government and cyber security. For each of these areas, a cluster working group has been created. These are diverse groups of planners and stakeholders in each of the five areas. In the coming five to ten years, they will set goals and develop projects to be undertaken in each area, as well as identify the greatest needs and points of intervention. By the end of February 2011, each group will present a first draft strategic action plan showing the way forward. Through this system, NICI-3 will have a degree of creativity and flexibility absent from the previous two phases.
To inaugurate the new system, members of the cluster working groups met from the eighth to the tenth of December, 2010. They highlighted key short, medium and long-term goals, identified priorities and initiatives in each area, and presented them to the other groups. Dividing the different areas of NICI-3 into working groups made up of experts and stakeholders from each field means that maximum knowledge and expertise will be brought to each aspect of the program. By facilitating knowledge sharing between the different cluster groups, flexibility and cooperation are ensured.
This cooperation between domains is key to the success of NICI-3. E-government, which focuses on the creation and use of ICTs for delivering government services, must work closely with cyber security to ensure confidentiality and safe-keeping of records. ICTs for community development, while focused on awareness, availability and affordability of ICT services, especially in remote areas, will work closely with private sector development, which includes entrepreneurial and business training for ICT providers in these areas. To ensure continued cooperation, frequent meetings will be routinely held between members of the cluster working groups.
While NICI-3 is a big step in Rwandan ICTs development, the newly created approach of cluster working groups brings a measure of cooperation and creativity to the project that was not there before. As the National ICT plan grows in scale new tools are being brought to the process to ensure its smooth running. An increasingly knowledge-based economy cannot be achieved without significant achievements in ICTs knowledge and use, and the government of Rwanda is rising to meet the challenge.