According to the 2012 Population and Housing Census, the population of Rwanda is of approximately 11.8 million residents, of which 67% are under the age of 20. The majority of the population (83%) lives in rural areas. The literacy rate of youth is 76.7% for men and 78% for women.
With a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.506, the country ranks 151 out of 187. Rwanda’s long-term development goals are defined in a governmental strategy entitled “Vision 2020”. The strategy seeks to transform the country from a low-income agriculture-based economy to a knowledge-based and service-oriented economy with a middle-income country status by 2020.
ICTs in the country
Rwanda is the first East-African country regarding ICTs development according to a report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Information and Communication Technology is a central engine to driving Rwanda’s transformation to a knowledge based economy, a fact Rwanda has acknowledged by allocating a budget to ICT, as a percentage of its GDP, which is at par with OECD countries, far above the African average.
ICTs, through the National Information Communication Infrastructure (NICI) Plan, is recognized by the Rwandan government as a key driver for socio-economic development to fast track Rwanda’s economic transformation, and consistently strives to align the country’s development agenda to global trends in order to be competitive. Soon entering its last phase, this national policy implemented since 2000 has established institutions and mechanisms to create an enabling environment for ICT development in the country positioning Rwanda as a regional ICT hub and even making it the 9th easiest place to start a business in the world.
By December 2014, the number of active mobile-cellular phone subscribers has increased up to 70% of the total population and 35.6 % of the Rwandan population are using Internet through different devices. The Ministry of Youth and ICT plan to increase broadband subscriptions by increasing the coverage of the 3G and 4G networks in the country.
Local radio in the country
The national media infrastructure that existed before the genocide had completely collapsed by July 1994. Local radio stations have suffered from the negative legacy of Radio Mille Collines in 1994 as it was then used as a platform for spreading anti-Tutsi propaganda and hate speech messages consisting of among the citizens ultimately leading to their contribution to the genocide.
The Rwandan government owns and operates the only TV station of the country and the most popular radio station, Radio Rwanda, through the Rwandan Office for Information or ORINFOR. After a 2002 Rwandan press law opened the doors for private broadcast licensing, the first community radio of the country, Radio Salus, was born on the campus of the National University of Rwanda in 2005 with the support of UNESCO.
According to the Rwanda Media High Council, there are 26 radio stations in the country, including 6 community radios. In the current media law, community radios are considered as private radios and, therefore, compete at the same level than commercial radio stations. Unlike past situations, current media scenario in Rwanda has changed and is anchored by Article 36 of the current media legislation that prohibits any person or organization from transmitting signals or communications which by their nature may threaten national security.
Importance of support to local radio
Community radios play a critical role of providing vital information to citizens and contribute to development and peace reconciliation efforts in Rwanda. Local radio stations promote equal justice in a post genocide society; sensitize the local population on the importance of free speech and on the dangers of hate speech. Local radio stations are in need of support to develop locally relevant content instead of only entertainment, sports and other broadcast which do not require investigative journalism. Radio stations in Rwanda often ignore in depth investigation of their various topics of interest. The Media High Council report on The Role of Media in Corruption and Crime Prevention of 2013 also indicates that 90% of corruption and crimes prevention stories are reported in “news story format” but only 10% of such stories are produced with the use of investigative journalism. The same report highlighted “an apparent discrepancy between voices from leaders (48.5%) and common citizens (9.6%), a phenomenon that applies to the police (6%) and other anti-corruption/crime bodies”.