Smart Africa Alliance and Inmarsat develop digital blueprint

10 May 2017:  Inmarsat, in conjunction with the government of the Republic of Rwanda, is launching a series of digital service projects across the capital, Kigali, to develop a smart city blueprint for Africa.

As part of the initiatives, Inmarsat today also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Rwanda’s Ministry of Youth and 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.

Transform Africa Summit

The announcements were made by Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce on 10 May at the opening ceremony of the Transform Africa Summit in Kigali, hosted by HE Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda.

Under the Smart Africa Alliance, Rwanda is spearheading the smart cities agenda and will showcase the solutions to over 300 city mayors from across Africa at the three-day summit.

The digital service pilots, which will be enabled through Inmarsat’s world-leading global satellite communications network, are scheduled to last up to 12 months in Kigali, a city of over one million people. The results will be used to develop blueprints that can be applied across Rwanda and in other African nations, in conjunction with the Smart Africa Alliance.

Platinum member

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 & 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 in 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.”

Extraordinary potential

Rupert Pearce 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.

Seamless connectivity

“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, to be used over the coming 12 months, is a wonderful example of what can quickly be achieved.”

Digital services projects

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) in Kigali to form the connectivity gateway for a variety of large scale IoT applications. These include a smart cities project, which will enable environmental monitoring via sensors deployed in buildings to monitor air quality; a smart bus equipped with satellite internet providing ubiquitous connectivity for remote communities and LoRaWAN-enabled real-time data acquisition; 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 and its transformational capabilities. This 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.

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 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 unified mission critical communications solutions at the Transform Africa Summit, which will enable government officials to see 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.