The development of strategies and national policies is an important pillar of the Digital Transformation Center in Rwanda.
Policies often form the basis for driving improvements but also the inclusion of vulnerable groups in the country from the political level. Digital transformation is evolving rapidly, whereas some technologies having a short lifespan at the same time. While some companies and people are able to follow the latest trends, others are far from being familiar with basic technologies. Therefore, it is especially important to implement the leave no one behind approach in government strategic planning. Ethical approaches of new technologies need to be examined while promoting digital inclusion of vulnerable groups and digital literacy of all people in Rwanda. This should ideally be done in a participatory approach through stakeholder engagement. Here are some examples of policies that the DigiCenter supports.
National Artificial Intelligence Policy
Artificial Intelligence has the potential to considerably contribute to the achievement of national development objectives and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
However, while the opportunities of Artificial Intelligence are huge, they are inextricably connected to risks which require ethical principles and precautions. The National AI Policy of Rwanda serves as a roadmap enabling the country to harness AI’s socio-economic benefits and mitigate its risks. Along with countries like Egypt and Mauritius, Rwanda is one of the first African countries to develop a national Artificial Intelligence policy.
The policy has been developed through an inclusive multi-stakeholder process involving representatives from the Government of Rwanda, academia, private sector and startup. It also draws from international best practices and experiences. It identifies six priority policy areas: 1) 21st century skills and high AI literacy, 2) Reliable infrastructure and compute capacity, 3) Robust Data Strategy, 4) Trustworthy AI adoption in the public sector, 5) Widely beneficial AI adoption in the private sector, and 6) Practical Ethical Guidelines.
In addition to the policy and a detailed implementation plan, the DigiCenter has supported the drafting of Ethical AI Guidelines for Rwanda. These guidelines will be a key tool both for regulators and for AI developers in ensuring that the potential risks of AI solutions are mitigated.
National Digital Inclusion Strategy
An important step in promoting the digital inclusion of women, the rural population, and people with disabilities is the adoption of a national strategy document that takes into account the special needs of these vulnerable groups. However, it is not always clear what needs these different groups have in the first place and what communication channels they use. Other questions, such as what currently prevents these groups from actively participating in the digital transformation in Rwanda, are also to be clarified.
There is a need to formulate a policy framework that will help all citizens to fully and competitively participate in transforming Rwanda into a knowledge-based economy with equal access and use of advanced technologies. The urban/rural divide is very pronounced as around a quarter (26%) of all individuals living in urban areas report being computer literate compared to rural folks who stand at a paltry 6.8%. The aim of creating a national strategy for digital inclusion of vulnerable groups is therefore to increase Digital Literacy across all levels of Rwandan society with particular emphasis on women, rural population and people with special needs.