Development Gateway Helps Spur Development

April 19, 2005Andrea Calabrese

Rwanda

Founded in 2004, the Rwanda Development Gateway created www.rwandagateway.org, an online platform that serves as a one-stop shop for information on the country and as a portal to connect with the rest of the world. Housed by the National University of Rwanda, in just three years the Gateway has experienced a steady increase in the demand for its services. Through a combination of income-generating services and pro bono work, the Gateway works with a wide range of clients and partners, leading the Web and content development market in Rwanda with its technology expertise and open source tools. It is part of the Country Gateway program, designed to promote local adaptations of ICT for development.

Jean Philbert Nsengimana, manager of the Gateway, summarizes the organization’s impact by saying, “We help people take advantage of the opportunities that the information society brings.” He points out that many decision-makers focus on technological development, rather than how technology can spur development. The Gateway is making progress on both fronts. Through a variety of projects, the gateway links individuals and organizations with the information and tools they need to succeed. For example, working with the ministry of agriculture and other stakeholders, the Gateway is setting up an e-agriculture program, so that staff and the public can access information such as trade figures and prices of coffee and tea with the click of a mouse.

The Gateway also created an online management information system to help support a project dedicated to strengthening communication between local Rwandans and the Rwandan diaspora. This project has made it possible for Rwandans living abroad to return to Rwanda for short-term volunteer work, helping to reverse the effects of the outflow of skills and expertise.

The principle behind the Country Gateways program is that local entities understand their market best. Each gateway brings together its own team to customize Web-based tools according to the needs of the community. Testifying to its success in meeting the needs of the local market, the Rwanda Development Gateway has become financially self-sustaining in a few years. In the future, the Gateway plans to expand its offerings by creating a software development unit. Keeping in tune with the needs of the market and working closely with its partners, this Gateway is showing how technological development can help boost economic growth.