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Smart Africa Alliance and Inmarsat Developing Blueprint for Digital Services Across the Continent

Inmarsat 5 (I-5). Image courtesy of Boeing.

Inmarsat announced on May 10, 2017, that, in conjunction with the government of the Republic of Rwanda, it is launching a series of digital service initiatives across the capital, Kigali, a city of more than one million people.

As part of the digital services initiatives, Inmarsat today also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Rwanda’s Ministry of Youth and Information and Communication Technology (ICT), which will facilitate closer cooperation and coordination between the Government of Rwanda and Inmarsat.  The objective of the MoU is to develop a number of key ICT projects aligned with the Rwandan National ICT strategy.

The announcements were made by Inmarsat’s CEO, Rupert Pearce, at the opening ceremony of the Transform Africa Summit in Kigali (May 10-12, 2017), hosted by H.E. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda.

Under the Smart Africa Alliance, Rwanda is spearheading the smart cities agenda and will showcase the components of the smart city to over 300 city mayors from across Africa.

The digital service pilots, which will be enabled through Inmarsat’s world-leading satellite communications network, are scheduled to last up to 12 months in Kigali.  The results of the lessons learnt during the pilots will be used to develop blueprints for a range of digital services initiatives that can be applied more broadly across Rwanda and in other African nations, in conjunction with the Smart Africa Alliance.

The Smart Africa Alliance is a partnership bringing together all African countries committed to the Smart Africa Manifesto and is supported by regional and global bodies including the African Union, the International Telecommunication Union, World Bank and The African Development Bank.  Inmarsat was the first commercial company to join the Alliance, becoming a platinum member in 2016.

Hon. Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Minister of Youth and ICT, Republic of Rwanda, said: “The Government of Rwanda welcomes the partnership with Inmarsat, which will contribute to shaping the Agenda and drive a Smart City movement across the Continent. The investments being made in Kigali as part of the different projects will result into improved livelihoods for city dwellers, efficiencies and effectiveness for municipal authorities and will certainly provide a proof of concept for larger implementation in Rwanda and beyond.”

Rupert Pearce, CEO of Inmarsat, said: “African nations are strongly positioned today to deliver on the extraordinary potential of their people and resources. Across the continent, there are communities of exceptionally talented entrepreneurs – especially in the high tech sector – all of whom are ready to transform their countries through the development of digital technologies.

“The key enabler to liberate this potential is connectivity. Inmarsat, with its world leading global satellite communications networks, is privileged to have been selected by the Smart Africa Alliance and the Republic of Rwanda to demonstrate the ability of satcoms to release Africa’s economic and social potential.

“This has only been made possible by a revolution in the capabilities and the economics of satellite communications over the past few years. Until quite recently, it was regarded as a niche service; a perception that is now being completely overthrown.  In parallel with the emergence of the digital society, we have seen satcoms enter the mainstream of the telecommunications industry.

“Satellite networks are inherently exceptionally reliable and secure, they are available everywhere and can be deployed in just days or weeks.

“We believe strongly in the goals of the Smart Africa Alliance and by mobilising on a pan-African basis, countries across the continent can jump straight to a next generation capability that can support African entrepreneurs, industry and communities, and liberate their full potential, through seamless connectivity.

“Kigali, and especially the smart city environment we are showcasing today, and to be used over the coming 12 months, is a wonderful example of what can quickly be achieved.”

Digital services

The digital service initiatives being undertaken jointly by the Republic of Rwanda and Inmarsat include:

Satellite-enabled, city-wide IoT (Internet of Things) network

Deployment of LoRaWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) IoT network in Kigali to form the connectivity gateway for a variety of large scale IoT applications. Over the coming 12 months, these include a smart cities project, which will enable environmental monitoring that will include sensors being deployed in buildings to monitor air quality; a smart bus equipped with satellite internet providing ubiquitous connectivity for remote communities.  The smart bus will be LoRaWAN-enabled providing real-time data acquisition in the communities that it services; and a precision farming initiative, intended to increase crop yield and better manage water resources.

Smart Cities Education Programme

Inmarsat initiative to enable entrepreneurs and students in Rwanda to deepen their understanding of IoT. The programme will expose young Rwandans to the transformational capabilities of IoT. It will include a three-month student internship, an IoT boot camp for students and entrepreneurs, and a partnership with the winner of Rwanda’s 2016 Ms Geek competition.

Inmarsat will invest in helping to identify, incubate, develop and bring to market African solutions that are enabled by satellite connectivity.  Due to the unique global nature of Inmarsat’s services and its customer-base, the growth potential for Africa-developed solutions will be worldwide, offering opportunities for innovative entrepreneurs to secure global leadership in certain areas of smart cities applications.

The programme will also be replicated in other Alliance countries and aims to accelerate the deployment of IoT and smart city solutions.

Unified mission critical communications

Showcasing unified mission critical communications solutions to enable security services, disaster relief organisations and government agencies to improve their interoperability and coordinate their activities more effectively.

Inmarsat’s Global Government team will be demonstrating a range of mission critical unified communications solutions at the Transform Africa event, which will enable Government officials to see very directly how their security agencies and disaster response organisations can benefit from access to real-time video surveillance, integrated push-to-talk radio networks, and enhanced command and control, and situational awareness, linking their mobile and remotely deployed personnel back to the operational HQ.

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