The East Africa Community (EAC) is getting ready for the launch of the Eastern Africa Regional Digital Integration Project (EA-RDIP).
The project is a vital regional initiative that is set to transform and enhance the region’s integration into the digital economy. It is set to revolutionize the way the region connects, trades, and engages digitally.
“The Eastern Africa Regional Digital Integration Project is in response to the discussions and recommendations of the 9th East Africa Internet Governance Forum and aims to drive digital market integration by expanding broadband connectivity and improving the digital service environment,” said EAC Principal ICT Officer, Daniel Murenzi.
The project aligns with regional priorities, emphasizing the need to bridge the digital divide, reduce connectivity costs, and empower marginalized groups such as youth, persons with disabilities, and women. The project development objective is to increase access to broadband and digital services, fostering the development and integration of digital markets in East Africa.
In realizing the objectives of the project, the internet remains the core facilitator. The EA-IGF then is not merely a gathering of experts and stakeholders; it is a critical platform for shaping the future of the internet in the region.
Murenzi was speaking at the 10th Edition of the East Africa Internet Governance Forum (EA-IGF) convened in Kigali, Rwanda with a call for Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) experts in the region to take proactive steps towards ensuring that the internet continues to be a force for positive change in the region.
Jointly hosted by the East African Community and Rwanda Ministry of ICT and Innovation through the Rwanda Internet Community and Technology Alliance (RICTA), the Forum was convened under the theme: The Internet We Want – Empowering All People in East Africa. The theme is in line with the over-arching global Internet Governance Forum 2023 theme: The Internet We Want.
Rwanda’s Permanent Secretary, Ministry of ICT and Innovation, Mr. Yves Iradukunda, said that the internet was critical in facilitating the region’s vision of transforming into a digital economy and in doing so, the region must employ a multi-sectoral approach to ensure the people of the region are empowered by the internet.
“To create the internet we want, we must ensure that it is accessible to all and that it is not too expensive. We must therefore work towards ensuring access to the internet is affordable by taking advantage of the power of competition,” said Iradukunda.
The Permanent Secretary further called on ICT stakeholders to develop locally relevant content and applications for diverse sectors including education, healthcare, environment, agriculture, products that are useful to local communities, if the region is to create the internet we want.
“As we develop locally relevant content, as sector experts and other stakeholders we must work together to push for development of global regulations that facilitate development of digital economies,” added the Permanent Secretary.
The Permanent Secretary called upon the ICT experts and other stakeholders attending the forum to ensure that internet regulations and laws transcend national barriers and provide for a sustainable and safe digital sphere for all to use.
Minister of State in Charge of East African Community, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Republic of Rwanda, Hon. Prof. Nshuti Manasseh reiterated the importance of the Internet Governance Forum for the region.
“Developments in the region can only be driven by digital frameworks and platforms, and they must not exclude anyone, and it only thorough such discussion that we are able to established our unified position as a region,” said Prof. Manasseh.
“As the continent we have missed many revolutions, we cannot afford to miss the digital revolution,” he added.
The Minister called upon all stakeholders at the forum to ensure that the decisions and resolutions arrived at were implemented to ensure universal connectivity of an internet is affordable, and accessible by all.
“The internet is a necessity and no longer a luxury, no one must be left behind,” concluded the Minister.
The East African Internet Governance Forum (EAIGF) serves as a pivotal platform for stakeholders across the region to deliberate on crucial internet-related issues. Through collaborative discussions and knowledge sharing, it fosters a deeper understanding of digital governance, cybersecurity, and access challenges, ultimately driving forward a more inclusive and secure digital landscape in East Africa.