The launch of Rwanda’s national Artificial Intelligence (AI) policy marks a very crucial moment in the development of the country’s AI ecosystem and a step towards achieving national development goals, Paula Ingabire, the Minister of ICT and Innovation has said.
Ingabire pointed out that the policy comes at a time when Rwanda is positioning itself to become the leading destination in Africa for experimentation, development, and deployment of trustworthy and scalable AI technologies contextualised for the African continent.
“To achieve this vision, the country has adopted an ambitious plan to leverage the power of AI to drive economic growth, enhance public service delivery and foster inclusive and sustainable development,” she said.
AI can boost productivity and improve service delivery across all sectors of the economy, with an estimated $589 million potential for Rwanda.
Particularly for Rwanda, Ingabire said the policy is anchored around identifying key sectors with the highest economic impact.
The sectors include agriculture, public administration, education, health, manufacturing, and financial services.
“The government will walk the talk by deploying AI solutions in agriculture by the provision of early warning solutions to farmers with higher weather accuracy prediction, and this will contribute towards higher improved food security.
“It will also deploy solutions in the transport sector by optimising routing and scheduling of buses in Kigali, which will contribute to reduction of fuel costs, and time saved for citizens that are using public transport,” Ingabire said.
However, she also highlighted that, to do all this, Rwanda needs to empower the private sector to deploy AI solutions. “We need to put in place agile regulations, build the critical mass of AI talent, identify the necessary funding, but also promote research and development, while at the same time providing accurate data and world class data computing infrastructure.”
21st Century skills and high AI literacy
Globally, emerging technologies starting with AI are transforming and reshaping our societies and labour markets.
Rwanda’s workforce needs to be equipped with the skills to flourish in this transition and remain competitive in the regional and global landscape.
According to the policy, the government is set to invest in and develop a National Skills Building Programme prioritising AI and data skills combined with a Young Professionals/Apprenticeship Programme to develop AI talent and career opportunities in the knowledge economy.
Equally important is investing in talent as a key stepping stone for an AI economy.
Through the policy, the government in partnership with the private sector will establish a public-private funded programme for AI skills building at the university level with research fellowships, PhDs and Masters degrees, and long-term public-sector funding to universities to build capacity in AI education and research by attracting researchers and partnering with global universities.
Reliable infrastructure and compute capacity
Digital infrastructure is essential for the growth and penetration of regional integration. By investing in critical infrastructure and partnering with global players while also building the local skills required to manage and maintain the infrastructure, Rwanda has the opportunity to develop a national cloud infrastructure and techno-industrial base, and increase the country’s regional competitiveness.
Boost Rwanda’s emerging AI ecosystem
A key challenge for the start-up community is access to business resources and financing. We will facilitate collaboration among the start-up, industry and research communities in a ‘Rwanda AI Programme’ to jointly develop AI innovations and solutions for industry and government challenges, in order to bring together the much-needed resources to catalyse the AI ecosystem.
Rwanda says it will also support the financing by building upon the Seed Investment Fund to co-invest alongside specialist funds to invest in AI companies.
Practical AI guidelines
Ethical and safety precautions are required to ensure that AI solutions benefit citizens and do not cause harm.
The guidelines will also mitigate the risks presented by AI and promote its responsible and trustworthy adoption in Rwanda.