Often, individual projects can make little difference due to limited reach and connections. In 2017, the Digital Transformation Center in Rwanda emerged as a pilot for collaboration between the Rwandan government and the private sector. At the moment, 5 projects are part of the DigiCenter, and numerous Rwandan government agencies, innovation hubs, and tech startups collaborate with the DigiCenter. As we celebrate our 2-year anniversary, we look back at the DigiCenter’s journey.
The journey started in 2017, when GIZ in partnership with the Ministry of ICT and Innovation took the step of establishing the DigiCenter. Back then, it was more pragmatic to implement this as a pilot and follow the momentum as it took shape. In a fruitful partnership with Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA) first activities were rolled out.
These first activities at the time focused on the development of digital solutions for various sectors of the government. At the same time, more activities followed to promote institutional capacity development, which later also incorporated the component of ecosystem enabling. However, this was still on a minimal level at that stage. Furthermore, the DigiCenter began to forge more partnerships that added more value to the center and the ecosystem.
Building Ecosystems – Make-IT joins the DigiCenter
Until this point, the DigiCenter had concentrated on the technical advisory rather than the business aspect. This changed rapidly when the Make-IT project started operating at the DigiCenter in Rwanda. The Pan-African GIZ project supports the growth of an enabling environment for young entrepreneurs in the digital sector. It focuses on entrepreneurial readiness, coaching and mentorship, rollout, and visibility of tech-businesses.
With Make-IT on board, startups that worked with DSSD to build solutions also gained more understanding about the market and the ecosystem. A specific project that was designed for this purpose was the Open Innovation program (OIP). In summary, it helped push some of the solutions such as the Innovate for Women solutions to market.
Adding Artificial Intelligence to the Mix – Fair Forward joins the DigiCenter
Some of the solutions built were data driven, and some of the focus points revolved around emerging technologies. This included Internet of Things, Artificial intelligence, and Machine Learning, whilst some others fell under the purview of Smart Cities and Big Data. This gap was filled when Fair Forward joined the DigiCenter. Fair Forward not only works on strengthening local technical know-how on AI in Africa and Asia but also on improving access to training data and AI technologies for local open innovation. The main principle is a fair and ethical use of AI which was translated into the project’s initiatives on policy frameworks, data protection and privacy.
Making learning accessible – Africa Cloud joins the DigiCenter
With the covid-19 pandemic and the worldwide devastation of the status quo, life became challenging for many sectors. During this period, the demand for e-learning and distant learning concepts arose. At that moment, the Africa Cloud program joined the DigiCenter with its Atingi e-learning platform, which provides free educational content for students, entrepreneurs, and professionals. It concentrates on education reach in various parts of Rwanda. Particularly, it aims at making content available for the public with the purpose of improving skills and knowledge transfer.
Forming new Partnerships outside the DigiCenter
The DigiCenter not only relies on internal partnerships but also aims at involving academia or research institutions into its activities. For example, the DigiCenter collaborated with the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) and the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda and several other institutions on the Big Data for Development challenge. As a result of this cooperation, two digital solutions based on Big Data have been created.
Moreover, the DigiCenter has recently integrated a project to support the Smart Africa Secretariat in implementing its ambitious agenda. From all these projects at the DigiCenter, it is safe to assume that now a 360-degree enabled environment is beginning to flourish that will allow for more collaborations.