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Elon Musk’s high-speed satellite internet to be piloted in 500 schools

Elon Musk’s high-speed satellite internet to be piloted in 500 schools

Schools are among Rwandan institutions given priority to benefit from the satellite-based internet soon to be provided by billionaire Elon Musk’s high-speed satellite internet venture, Starlink, the Minister of ICT and Innovation, Paula Ingabire recently said, indicating that the initial plan is to pilot it in at least 500 schools.

Starlink’s service is scheduled to be up and running in Rwanda by February 22, according to the Minister. Starlink is a satellite network developed by American spacecraft company SpaceX, to provide ‘low-cost’ internet to remote locations.

Early February, the Rwanda Space Agency (RSA) announced that it had issued a license to Starlink, satellite internet constellation, to operate in the country, with its operations due to begin in the first quarter of 2023, before the end of March.

While appearing before lawmakers during a plenary session of the Chamber of Deputies on February 7, Ingabire said the internet capacity that will be provided by Starlink is very high, and relatively affordable than currently available services in Rwanda.

She was providing answers to issues affecting the ICT sector, including the fact that some primary and secondary schools do not have access to the internet, while a few that have it are constrained by its high cost, and are unable to use it.

“Among the services we are undertaking, which we agreed upon with Starlink last year [2022], we are going to start with at least 500 schools so that at least such internet will be tested, and distributed there,” she said.

In response to lawmakers’ concerns over its affordability, Ingabire pointed out that, overall, based on its huge capacity and high speed, entities that need a lot of internet are the ones targeted by Starlink internet pilots.

Information from RSA indicates that Starlink’s services are expected to increase the level of broadband competitiveness in the country as end-user services will cost Rwf48,000 (a month) for a bandwidth of up to 150 megabits per second (Mbps).

For enterprises, the bandwidth can go up to 350 Mbps.

Ingabire said the capacity being provided will be affordable for larger entities such as health facilities, a market where there are many people who can benefit from it, schools or public institutions.

Fast and affordable internet, according to educationists, is changing the way we live, work, and learn. Among others, it helps in learning and discovering various sources to get the latest information. Students also carry out relevant research to increase their knowledge and get necessary study materials, which are crucial for their academics.

Diana Nawatti, the Principal at Mother Mary International School, private school in Kigali, told The New Times that: “As an international school with expensive practical resources to use in our teaching, a speedy reliable connection gives learners access to more information with all educational materials by just a click.

“Learners get first-hand information without a cost so does the school; this is more important in research work, assignments and numerous other projects. With available resources, learning is fun and meaningful, thanks to a speedy network.”

Starlink’s service comes at a time when the government is also working to connect about 3,000 schools that are not connected to the internet by 2024 through financing from China Exim Bank and the World Bank.

Currently, there are 6,756 schools, consisting of primary, secondary and TVET schools in the country. Of these, about 3,000 schools – equivalent to 44.4 per cent of the total – are not connected to the internet.

Elon Musk's high-speed satellite internet to be piloted in 500 schools
Elon Musk’s high-speed satellite internet to be piloted in 500 schools

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