Rwanda’s ambition to transform itself into the dominant tech powerhouse of East Africa came to the fore today at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where government representatives signed a wide ranging deal (for an unspecified amount) with communications giant Ericsson for broadband and internet services. The partnership is part of a new initiative, SMART Rwanda, being run from the Ministry of Youth and ICT.

The deal with Ericsson will see the Swedish firm take a preferred supplier-type role in government IT services and was signed yesterday in Spain by Ericsson’s regional director Fredrik Jejdling and Rwandan IT minister Jean Paul Nsengimana. It means Ericsson will act as both supplier and adviser for delivering the final stages of the country’s Vision 2020 plan for broadband and connectivity.

Ericsson will be tasked with upgrading infrastructure and services in areas such as egovernment, healthcare, business and education, as well as providing network security for government systems.

In a press statement, Nsengimana said that “In Rwanda, we are steadily moving towards our vision of becoming an information-rich and knowledge-based economy and society, and an ICT hub in the region. However, our focus is not just technology, but how it can be used to deliver better services, create jobs and transform the Rwandan society and economy in a constantly changing environment. This is the focus of the SMART Rwanda Plan.”

Steven Ambrose, the founder of South African telecoms analysts Strategy Worx, attended the signing ceremony for the deal.

“There will be opportunities for third parties to get involved under the terms of the partnership,” Ambrose explained, “But mainly where Ericsson doesn’t have a solution of its own. It’s a very positive move for Rwanda.”

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