Rwanda has launched a new portal to improve transparency and access to public information from the government and public institutions.

The portal allows people send and receive responses from these institutions, and the generated information is automatically published on the Internet.

The repository, located at www.sobanukirwa.rw, also allows users receive email alerts from on new information from authorities they follow on social media. This initiative was developed by local company Tumenye in partnership with the Open Democracy and Sustainable Development Initiative (ODESUDI). The website is designed to be all-inclusive as it is offered for free and comes in three languages: French, English and Kinyarwanda. It can also be accessed via any Internet-enabled device.

“Access to information is not an end in itself, but it is a leverage right and a tool to access other rights. Good governance, citizen participation and accountability without access to information would be an illusion. One of the challenges on exercising access to information rights in the country is lack of a simplified system to make requests to information officers. Sobanukirwa helps in solving this problem by matching the demand and supply sides of access to information,” said Fredrick Hendrick Karanganwa, Head of Programmes at ODESUDI.

The information service has already gathered more than 540 contacts of information officers from various public institutions spanning ministries, districts and sectors. This milestone has been achieved largely due to the Access to Information Law, which requires a government official to respond within three working days of receiving a request to release information.

However, significant illiteracy and low Internet penetration rates might impede on potential progress from this initiative.

As a country, Rwanda continues to make significant progress on its current course to economic growth and development. In addition to ranking high on the list of attractive East African economies, the country is also on the right course to achieving its ambitious energy targets. This was the submission of former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair when recently made a tour of a new 8.5 megawatt solar plant, the biggest solar photovoltaic power plant in the region.

Commenting on the target to generate 563 megawatts by the end of the Financial Year 2017/18, Mr Blair said; “It’s a very ambitious goal but it’s possible. Acceleration of the time table is always about the government having the right focus, discipline and determination, the good thing about this government is that it’s absolutely focused on doing this.”

“It’s a great vote of confidence for the country and its future; it’s ground-breaking for how you do this type of solar projects. It’s of a size which is unusual as well and it will increase the capacity of electricity by around 6 percent. At different levels this is an important and symbolic project,” he added.

The $23.7 million sophisticated utility-scale plant, which provides electricity for over 15,000 Rwandan households, is the first of its kind in the East African region and the third in Africa. Others are located in South Africa and Mauritius.

By Emmanuel Iruobe

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