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Rwanda launches first-ever satellite to connect remote schools to the internet

February 28, 2019 at 02:00 pm | Tech & Innovation

Mildred Europa Taylor

Mildred Europa Taylor | Staff Writer

February 28, 2019 at 02:00 pm | Tech & Innovation

Rwanda launches first-ever satellite to connect remote schools to the internet. Pic credit: The New Times

Many schools in the rural parts of Rwanda are without proper road networks and electricity, making it difficult to acquire internet connectivity.

As part of measures to ease these difficulties, the Rwandan government and a UK based company, OneWeb, on Wednesday launched the first ever satellite that will connect remote schools to the internet.

At exactly 23:38, the much-anticipated satellite was sent into orbit from a spaceport on the Atlantic coast of French Guiana, reports The New Times.

According to the Rwandan government, the global satellite shows its commitment to building the local space industry and local capacity, as well as, preparing the country into a hyper-connected future.

The first school to benefit from the broadband satellite is Group Secondary St Pierre, a school located in Nkombo Island.

According to local media, the school’s location had made it very costly and inefficient to be connected to standard fibre connections. Thus, a satellite is the best solution to get it connected to the internet.

The global communication firm’s partnership with Rwanda will ultimately enable orbiting satellites to connect more schools in remote areas across Rwanda.

Nicknamed ‘Icyerekezo’ by students of the school, the broadband satellite is just one of the first six satellites to be launched by the UK company. The telecom giant has announced plans of installing 650 more satellites in public facilities across the globe.

OneWeb has announced plans of installing 650 more satellites in public facilities across the globe. Pic credit: The New Times

Ahead of the launch, the Rwandan ICT Minister, Paula Ingabire said this is just one of the many moves by the government to connect more 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,” she said.

On his part, Greg Wyler, OneWeb’s Founder and Chairman said “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.”

Rwanda had earlier announced moves to digitally transform the education sector. Thus, the Ministry of Education, in 2014, partnered with Microsoft Corporation to incorporate information and communication technology into various aspects of the country’s education sector.

The latest partnership with OneWeb will bring down the number of schools in Rwanda that lack access to the internet from the current 531, according to WT.

The satellite would not only provide internet access but could also allow communities to access government online services and provide access to global educational content to students and educators, The New Times said.

In January this year, Rwanda stated its long-term space programme plan, with additional moves to launch its own first satellite this year.

The East African nation said it was working together with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in th project to launch the space satellite later in 2019.

Similar plans were announced back in 2017, with a model satellite presented to the public for the first time in 2018 in Kigali.

According to New Times, five Rwandan engineers are working with their Japanese counterparts at the University of Tokyo on the design and construction of the satellite.  Fifteen other engineers are also set to be trained locally in satellite technology. 

The satellite is expected to provide the government with data to help it plan well in various sectors including agriculture and predicting weather patterns.

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