Kigali is the biggest city of Rwanda, but also its capital. Subject to sustained economic growth (GDP increase of around 6.5% per year over the last decade), the city also aspires to become one of Africa’s main technology hubs and has introduced in recent years a digital infrastructure and a range of services aimed at positioning itself as one of the most computerized local authorities on the continent.
However, the level of digital skills among 14-35 years old, who represent 53% of the population of Kigali, is very disparate. To be able to spread opportunities, improve employability and encourage the adoption of digital services, Kigali must bridge this digital divide. This is the ambition of the City, through its participation in the ASToN network.
Kigali in figures
- Population: 1,2 million inhabitants
- Surface area: 731 km²
- Population density: 1 641/km²
- Smartphone penetration rate: 20-40%
- Internet access rate: 40-60%
- Online platforms: Local authority website - Facebook, Twitter
What does the city mean by “smart city”?
For Kigali, a smart city is one initiated by the gov- ernment that demonstrates one-for-all solutions. This means providing services that are citizen-centred and built on public need, for everyday life. Kigali’s ambition is to use digital technology and tools for the benefit of everyone.
Citizen Participation/Digital Divide
Kigali’s chosen theme is Citizen Participation/Digital Divide
People aged 14-35 years represent 53% of the Kigali’s population. The city is therefore home to a significant number of young people who can drive innovation and societal change through digital technology. But the level of digital skills within this age group in Kigali is split. While some are digitally literate, there are groups who have an interest in ICT technologies but are at a disadvantage in terms of the skills required to meaningfully engage with them.
Bridging this digital divide within Kigali is crucial in order to spread opportunity, improve employability, and encourage a greater uptake of digital services. A key metric for success would therefore be an increase in the number of digitally literate youth, as well as greater uptake in the use of e-government and e-business services.
Findings: the starting point for addressing these problems
The following findings set out the starting point for Kigali as they work to address digital skills within the youth population. Based on research conducted over the course of Phase 1, they describe the interlinked strengths and challenges that need to be taken into account.
There is strong political will for digital transformation
The City of Kigali has a clear agenda towards conducting digital projects that fit within strategic priorities at the national level. Capitalising on the potential of Kigali and Rwanda more generally as a digital hub in Africa is helping lead to sustained economic growth and societal transformation.
The local ecosystem is strong and underutilised
The local innovation and technology scene is very strong in Kigali, and the city authority could connect with these stakeholders more readily for greater cooperation. Up to now, there has been limited interaction with local innovators and technologists.
Some digital projects are beyond local authority capacity
At the level of the local authority, there is an overall lack of knowledge and capacity for implementing parts of the Smart City Masterplan. For example, there are only two ICT staff within the entire city authority.
The CoK has identified a clear problem but needs to be cautious in its approach
Widespread digital skills among youth is a key requirement for systemic digital transformation to positively affect society. The city authority has identified this problem clearly, and it is one that they are planning to act towards. However, the city needs to make sure that solutions do not accentuate other existing inequalities, especially those that affect the most vulnerable in society.