The Republic of Burundi is situated in Central Africa, sharing boundaries with Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania. It is a landlocked country and has a surface area of 27,830 sq km, made up of 17 provinces. The population is estimated at 10,395,931 inhabitants (July 2014 est. CIA World FactBook) with a literacy rate of 67.2%. 51.8% of the total population is between 15 and 64 years of age. The capital city is Bujumbura with a population of 605,000 (2011). Kirundi is the national language with French as the official language. Other languages spoken are Swahili and English.
Burundi joined the East African Community, which improves regional trade ties. The economy is predominantly agricultural with primary exports of coffee and tea. Burundi is currently dependent on bilateral and multilateral aid.
In relation to Communications, there were 17,400 fixed phone lines in 2012 (32,600, 2010) and 2.53 million mobile phones in 2013 (2.4 million 2012) according to Agence de Regulation et del Controle des Telecom. There are six ISPs, with approximately 500,000 Internet users in May 2013 (ARCT).
In terms of ICT Infrastructure the Government of Burundi in cooperation with the World Bank have commencing a 13,000 kilometre fibre-optic project to cover Bujumbura, 17 provinces and the borders. This will help reduce communication costs in Burundi. The regulator is Agence de Regulation et de Controle des Telecommunications (ARCT). Mobile operators include U-Com, Onatel Burundi, Econet Wireless Burundi, Africell Burundi, Lacell SU and Vietnam's Vietell Telecom (recently licence). Two mobile operators in Burundi have launched 3G broadband in the expectation of reduced Internet access costs.
There are 7 public universities and 24 private institutions of Higher Education.
Burundi considers ICT to be an important enabler that can facilitate developments and job opportunities in the country. The Government of Burundi is committed to encouraging the integration of ICT in all spheres of society. The telecommunications sector is liberalised but Internet access is predominantly restricted to public points of access in cyber cafes in the capital, Bujumbura.
The National eGovernment Strategy was adopted in 2009 and the Executive Secretary for ICT (SETIC) is responsible for coordinating this activity.
The National ICT Development Policy was jointly formulated by the Government and UNDP in October 2000 and adopted in 2004. Subsequently the Government approached UNECA to work with them to develop and fund an ICT action plan for the period 2007 - 2011. UNESCO undertook a survey of Higher Education institutions in 2008.
The National ICT Policy was revised and adopted in 2011 to make it more compliant with the regional framework and more in line with technology convergence. It has ten pillars including:
- Capacity building
- Enhancement of the Legal and Regulatory Environment
- Promotion of ICT infrastructure
- E-government, e-Governance and Online Administration.
- ICT and Economic development
- ICT and Social Development
- Rural Connectivity and Universal Access
- ICT Research and Innovation
- Electronic Transactions and Cybersecurity
- Local and Regional Content Development
The Government of Burundi has led several activities in relation to the use of ICT in the service of the socio-economic development and Good Governance under the responsibility of the National Committee. These activities include: development of the National Policy in STI, launch of an optical fibre project, plans to provide computers in the Higher Education system, a policy for free changes when importing ICT equipment and the development of partners in ICT Networking (such as participation in the IST-Africa Initiative).
Despite the liberalisation of ICT, Burundi still faces a number of challenges in relation to the ICT adoption. Investment in ICT for Higher Education planned during 2012 - 2013 was to include development of a common telecommunications infrastructure, interconnection of workstations and development of software to manage Bachelor and Master Programmes. Burundi's national budget for 2011 - 2012 included an allocation for agriculture R&D. It also included allocations for ICT with emphasis on improving infrastructure for the application of ICT (ongoing fibre optic project).
A National Policy for Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) was developed and adopted in June 2011. This policy outlines various actions that the Government intends to take in order to ensure that R&D and Innovation activities are adequately funded. Its implementation framework for 2014 - 2018 was validated in July 2013. The STI Policy was officially launched on 08 August 2014 by H.E. Hon. Dr Ir Gervais Rufyikiri, Second Deputy President of the Republic of Burundi.
The Decree to set up a National Council or Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation was signed on 16 July 2014. Currently there is no dedicated mechanism to fund R&D and Innovation at a national level.
The World Bank supported the National Backbone system to link the provinces. The design phase commenced in early 2008. The first phase of the fibre optic project (1,000km covering nine of the 17 provinces) is operational and was officially launched by President Pierre Nkurunziza on 21 January 2014. President Nkurunziza confirmed the investment of $25 million in the fibre optic project as a public private partnership to increase access to broadband and reduce costs.