High costs hinder uptake of digital services - World Bank

Wednesday February 5 2020

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A mobile phone subscriber surfs the Internet.   

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

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

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

According to the World Bank, accelerated 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 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.

Data show that only 14 per cent of the country’s population owns a smartphones — one of the factors that lower the number of connected people online.

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Claudette Irere, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of ICT and Innovation said the ongoing “connect challenge” whereby organisations and individuals pledge smartphones is expected to increase the number of people who own smart digital devices that allow many to access digital services.

However, the economic report noted that the domestic demand for digital tools is still low.

The digital transformation report further noted the uptake of mobile services, basic mobile communications and digital financial services have increased but there is a digital divide in terms of access to handsets and uptake of 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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