The Emerging Technologies Strategy and Action Plan sets out essential fourth industrial revolution technologies that Rwanda will focus on over the next five years. Additionally, it includes steps that should be taken to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of falling behind. Rwanda will push the social and economic application of these emerging technologies forward. Hereby, Rwanda will focus on health, education, agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, and everyday government services to citizens.
Emerging technologies as an opportunity for Rwanda
The 4th Industrial Revolution is set to change the way people live and work in emerging economies like Rwanda. The pace of change is increasing, and there are boundless opportunities for the application of emerging technologies. For example, 5th Generation Networks, Artificial Intelligence, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles are penetrating different markets. Moreover, blockchain, big data analytics, cloud computing, Internet of Things, and robotics gain more and more attention. These technologies have the potential to solve many social and economic development challenges in health, education, agriculture, and everyday services.
Furthermore, Rwanda has distinguished itself as an emerging digital nation. Emerging technologies present Rwanda with the opportunity to lead ICT innovations in Africa and become a destination and exporter of innovative services.
As a matter of fact, there are over 50 emerging technologies. The most important ones are Artificial Intelligence, Augmented and Virtual reality, Internet of Things, and Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing). Additionally, Autonomous Vehicles, Biotechnology, Blockchain, Big Data and Analytics, and Robotics play an equally important role.
A profound impact on NST-1
Emerging technologies will have an impact on the priority development sectors like agriculture, financial services, education, health, logistics, transport, public administration, and tourism. Moreover, they will respond to the challenges identified in the Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union Agenda 2063. Rwanda’s National Strategy for Transformation (NST) draws on these global and regional strategies and aims at creating 1.5 million jobs. Furthermore its goal is to accelerate urbanization, modernize the government, boost the agriculture as well as the financial and tourism sector. Lastly, the NST targets promoting accelerate access to quality health and education services and a green economy.
Emerging technologies will have a profound impact on the success of the NST. For example, they present opportunities in the agricultural sector. Not only does it support the optimization of agricultural tools there but also the promotion of precision agriculture. Moreover, it becomes possible to provide relevant data about the production, soil quality, irrigation levels, weather, insects, and pests.
Also the health sector benefits from extensive use of robotics and Artificial Intelligence. For example, in the current COVID-19 pandemic, AI helps to prevent the spread through tracking incidences of the disease. In the financial sector, big data and analytics is being used to carry out trend analysis or customer analytics to flag risks. In the education sector, AI exhibits the potential to improve learning outcomes by supporting the delivery of personalized virtual lessons.
Furthermore, blockchain presents myriads of applications that facilitate smart contracts. Emerging technologies such as IoT and Artificial Intelligence will be crucial in Rwanda’s quest to establish smarter and cleaner cities. Particularly, the goal is to establish efficient transportation, logistics and delivery of utilities. As a result, traffic pollution will be reduced saving energy and water to create a cleaner environment.
Four major steps defined
Rwanda as Emerging Technology Testbed, Solution and Export Hub
the Social and Economic Application of Emerging Technologies
the foundations for Emerging Technologies
citizens, institutions and values from the negative consequences of Emerging Technologies
In order to position Rwanda as an emerging technology solutions hub, the government will create conditions. These will apply for private sector-led research and application development in the nine core emerging technologies stated above. Moreover, they will address the higher gap in research and innovation by building research centers around these essential technologies. Lastly, these conditions will strengthen collaboration between Rwandan researchers and others in the South and North working on innovative solutions.
The effective use of emerging technologies requires core enablers and a supportive ecosystem. These include capabilities that were identified in the Smart Rwanda Master Plan, namely capability and capacity, policy, regulation, governance and secured infrastructure. In detail, the ICT infrastructure is the cornerstone of many emerging technologies making the upgrade a priority. Superior research capabilities have been the cornerstone of leadership aspirations in emerging technologies. Therefore, Rwanda’s ability to develop necessary research and innovation capability is critical.
The private sector that pursues responsible frontier technology development to tackle social and environmental concerns is the foundation of our competitiveness. Therefore, the government will promote effective regulations balancing citizen’s protection with private sector innovation.
Important to realize is, that it is essential to provide direct and indirect funding for research and innovation. On the one hand, this is to support startups scale their operation. On the other hand, this includes increasing training to build a critical mass of innovation leaders in emerging technologies. As a matter of fact, Rwanda’s success will also depend on regional and international collaboration. Particularly, this includes sharing of best practices, innovative solutions, and standard around the ethical application of emerging technologies.
The implementation of the Strategy requires initial and ongoing capital expenditures for infrastructure development and capacity building. Even though, it is difficult to estimate the total cost of advancing emerging technologies through investment in the entire ecosystem and via public and private partnership, a ballpark estimation indicates that the Government of Rwanda needs to raise at least US$ 20 million in five years ($4 million a year) to develop its capabilities in this critical area.
Supporting the Rwandan Government in the Development of the National Emerging Technology Strategy is only one of the many activities at the DigiCenter to support Rwanda in its digitalization efforts. If you want to find out more about what we do, have a look at our events or solutions, and feel free to contact us.