Publication: The Internet and Tourism in Rwanda

Foster, C. G. and Graham, M. 2015. The Internet and Tourism in Rwanda. Oxford Internet Institute Report, Oxford, UK.
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East Africa was the world’s last major region without submarine fibre-optic broadband internet access, and until the summer of 2009 had been forced to rely on slow and costly satellite connections for access. However, the region has
recently been connected via fibre-optic cable – in theory, allowing much greater speeds at much lower prices.

This rapid transformation in the region’s connectivity has prompted politicians, journalists, academics, and citizens to speak of an economic revolution fuelled by information and communication technologies (ICTs) happening on the
continent. while some research has been conducted into the impacts of ICTs on economic processes and practices, there remains surprisingly little research into changing connectivity in East Africa.

Tourism is a sector where connectivity and the internet have been discussed as having the potential to have significant impact. However there has been little research done on how the internet has impacted low-income country tourism destinations like Rwanda. This research drew on 59 in-depth interviews to examine internet and ICT use in this context.

Many tourism firms have adopted and are actively using digital connectivity. But, digital connectivity alone has not led to transformation. Rather, a set of wider barriers prevents the transformative effects of connectivity being realised. Barriers can relate to skills in integrating available technologies into businesses. Online resources and services were also found to poorly fit the needs of the Rwandan sector and this could limit viability. Finally, well-established firms and relationships with outgoing firms have led to a static tourism sector which is difficult to transform. Now that better connectivity is available, the goal should be to tackle these secondary barriers to the effective use of connectivity in order to drive improved benefits