Rwanda launches first ever satellite ‘Icyerekezo’ in French Guiana

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Icyerekezo satellite

Rwanda in partnership with OneWeb, a global communications company building the world’s largest constellation of satellites to bridge the Digital Divide and connect all the unconnected schools of the world, have announced a partnership to support a satellite eco-system in Rwanda.

The aim of this partnership is to connect remote schools to the Internet. The partnership kicked-off with the first of 21 launch on 27th February 2019, at 23:37 Rwanda time, in French Guiana by OneWeb.

French Guiana is an overseas department of France on the northeast coast of South America, composed mainly of tropical rainforest.

Rwanda has placed technology at the forefront as a key driver of national development and transformation.

Launching ‘Icyerekezo’, a global satellite, is a symbol of Rwanda’s commitment to build the local space industry, build local capacity, inspire the younger generation and prepare to usher Rwanda into a hyper-connected future.

Rocket being fueled

In January this year, Rwanda announced its long-term space program plan, with a complementary initiative to launch its own first satellite this year.

Subsequently, during the recent World Government Summit, UNICEF announced Rwanda’s partnership with Project Connect, an initiative designed to visually map school connectivity status globally.

These datasets are crucial input into designing sustainable programs for connecting schools across Rwanda and globally.

This program will also involve training students in space technology, which comes complimentary to the efforts of the newly launched Rwanda Coding Academy that was set up to foster local experts in software development as part of the Rwanda Digital talent policy’s drive to strengthen ICT capabilities in the country.

Leveraging investments made in rolling out a fibre optic backbone network, 92% 3G Coverage, and 96.6% 4G LTE coverage, there’s still a significant need to explore other last-mile solutions that will bridge the digital divide in an inclusive and sustainable way.

Both Rwanda and OneWeb believe that without a means of connection, economies stagnate, education falls behind, and development slows significantly compared to connected regions.

The Minister of ICT and Innovation, Paula Ingabire highlighted that the Government of Rwanda has made remarkable efforts to invest in broadband connectivity and sees this as a great opportunity to continue connecting underserved communities.  

“Rwanda’s choice to invest in space technologies is part of our broader mission to bridge the digital divide by providing equal digital opportunities to rural and remote communities. We are delighted to partner with OneWeb in this transformative initiative which presents us a huge opportunity to leverage satellite connectivity, using OneWeb’s constellation, providing low-latency and high-speed internet to schools in remote communities of Rwanda.”

“The students at “Nkombo” named the satellite “Icyerekezo”, this truly depicts their own aspirations to embrace STEM fields and emerge the workforce of the future. This partnership responds to our intention of becoming a regional Technology Innovation Hub, opening new pathways for connectivity, providing better education and creating new opportunities for our innovators.”

Furthermore, the Minister of Education Dr. Eugene Mutimura emphasized the need for internet connectivity to transform the education sector saying “Connecting schools is a foundational aspect and driver of transformative learning. Rwanda’s ICT in education Master Plan outlines ambitions of interventions to connect schools and empower Rwandan children with immense opportunity, notably research, support our competence based learning, ease to access and share digital content, support systems to monitor and evaluate process among others.”

“This partnership with One-Web to use satellite technology and connect all schools is a huge opportunity to support and allow us to leapfrog the current process in bid to connect all schools in the country in the next 3 years.”

The Founder & Chairman of OneWeb Greg Wyler said: “Connecting remote schools to bridge the digital divide that still impacts half the population of the world is at the heart of OneWeb’s vision. We are delighted to partner with the Rwandan Government and particularly the students of Nkombo. The connectivity we can provide them will allow them to realise their dreams and allow Rwanda to become a hub for technological innovation.”

Nkombo Island sits in the middle of Lake Kivu, making it extremely costly and inefficient to reach with standard fibre connections hence why a satellite is the perfect solution to provide internet connectivity.

However, the benefits are beyond internet access, for example, training and inspiring students in satellite technologies, enabling the whole community to access Government online services and providing access to global educational content to students and educators.

This partnership will enable orbiting satellites to connect more remote schools across Rwanda.

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