The vast majority of businesses in Rwanda choose to go with foreign domains according to the Internet Society’s recent January 2015 report. The study zeroed in on how hosting local, Rwanda-based content outside of the African country is impacting businesses and entrepreneurs. It was found that most Rwandan content is still hosted outside the country, even though the majority of the contents’ viewers are in Rwanda. This is somewhat of an anomaly, but with good reason.
If you live in Rwanda, you have to pay a pretty penny to simply have Internet access for local content—simply put, it takes a lot longer to access local content since the web hosts are overseas. According to experts, it’s more affordable to host outside the country, but there’s a catch: “It’s very expensive for the viewers and readers to access the content”. Basically, someone’s going to be paying for it, either the website owners or their audiences.
The Price of Information
Why the sky high chargers for viewers who want to access local content? It’s those high international links. However, Rwandan viewers aren’t all that different from Internet users around the world. They want access as quickly as possible. The longer content takes to display, the longer they’ll be online, and the more maddening the experience is.
According to the report, “The delay experienced by users in Rwanda to download a webpage can frequently be five seconds or more, and this can increase for webpages composed of multiple elements. The cumulative effect can make the overall Internet experience slow and frustrating, with a corresponding negative impact on usage. This can also limit the viability of interactive and data-intensive services such as gaming or video streaming, which depend on low latency”.
You’d think hosting in-country would make more sense. After all, there’s solid infrastructure to do so in Rwanda. However, there are major obstacles down that path, too.
And You Thought Your Service Stunk
Poor service is a complaint about web hosts around the globe (which is why you have to do your research!). However, it’s really bad in Rwanda according to many business owners. For example, Cyusa Digital Agency’s Founder Leandre Cyusa Mucyowiraba says that poor customer service in Rwanda forces him to choose an overseas host. He told The New Times that, “We have the right infrastructure in Rwanda, but we are not so sure about getting prompt online support. We are not so sure about the service.” Plus, web hosting prices in Rwanda are still much higher than in other places around the world.
Bringing web hosting home is tough when there are so many options for free or very cheap web hosting abroad. Luckily, web/mail hosting is growing slowly but steady in Rwanda, but so far no host can compete with overseas pricing. Data centers are readily available and secure, but that’s still not enough to tempt locals Rwandans to Rwandan hosts.
Some local experts are encouraging website/business owners to go for a dot.rw domain instead of a dot.com in order to give their audiences a more local user experience. According to the report, “Hosting web sites locally presents many advantages, but the first one is better/improved user experience.” Hosting locally, even if it costs more and the customer service for the website owner isn’t fantastic, ultimately leads to a better user experience for the viewer. The better the experience, the more likely they are to stay, surf and shop.
Plus, it’s easier for Rwandan website owners to contact local Rwandan hosts by phone or even in person. Ultimately, experts see a shift happening, but it’ll be tough to get over that cost hurdle.