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Introducing the National Artificial Intelligence Policy for Rwanda

By Guest Writer on December 20, 2023

rwanda national artificial intelligence policy

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to dramatically improve lives and livelihoods across the Republic of Rwanda, as well as make remarkable progress towards achievement of national development and economic objectives and sustainable development goals.

However, while the development and economic opportunities of AI are huge, they are inextricably connected with risks which require ethical principles and precautions.

Rwanda’s National Artificial Intelligence Policy

The National Artificial Intelligence Policy for the Republic of Rwanda serves as a roadmap to enable Rwanda to harness the benefits of AI and mitigate its risks. Building on the mission of the Vision 2050, Smart Rwanda Master Plan and other key national plans and policies, it equips Rwanda to harness AI for sustainable and inclusive growth.

By mobilizing local, regional, and international stakeholders, it positions Rwanda to become a leading African Innovation Hub and Africa’s Centre of Excellence in Artificial Intelligence.

The National AI Policy has been developed by MINICT and RURA, with support by GIZ FAIR Forward, the Centre for the 4th Industrial Revolution Rwanda (C4IR) and The Future Society (TFS). The National AI Policy, which promotes and fosters Rwanda’s inclusive and sustainable socio-economic transformation, is oriented around the following vision and mission statements.

  • Vision: To become a global center for AI research and innovation
  • Mission:  To leverage AI to power economic growth, improve quality of life and position Rwanda as a global innovator for responsible and inclusive AI

The Rwanda AI policy aims to achieve the following national objectives:

  • Positioning Rwanda as Africa’s AI Lab and Responsible AI Champion
  • Building 21st Century Skills and AI Literacy
  • Creating an Open, Secure, Trusted Data Ecosystem as an Enabler of the AI Revolution
  • Driving Public Sector Transformation to Fuel AI Adoption
  • Accelerating Responsible AI Adoption in the Private Sector

Key AI Policy Recommendations

The Diagnostic Assessment of Rwanda’s AI Ecosystem identifies important opportunities and constraints that enable or mitigate AI adoption. It identifies the areas requiring policy interventions to accelerate, enable and scale Rwanda’s AI ecosystem.

As such, it serves as the foundational knowledge base for policy recommendations to harness Rwanda’s strengths, overcome its weaknesses and threats, and ultimately take advantage of important opportunities for a vibrant AI ecosystem.

Key AI priority policy areas have been identified to accelerate the responsible development and deployment of AI across the nation.

1. Reskill the workforce with 21st Century AI and data skills.

Globally, emerging technologies starting with AI are transforming and reshaping our societies and labor 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.

The Government will invest in and develop a National Skills Building Program prioritizing AI and data skills combined with a Young Professionals/Apprenticeship Program to develop AI talent and career opportunities in the knowledge economy.

2. Set world-class AI university education and applied research.

Investment in talent is 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 program 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.

3. Adapt Rwanda’s education to globally competitive STEM skills.

An AI economy requires long-term investment in human capital beginning at the primary education level. Rwanda’s school curricula shall adapt for the age of AI, data and digital technologies, with the Government investing in and creating a Teacher Corps to provide the support and training to young learners in AI and data-related subjects.

4. Streamline Rwandan student and professional exchanges.

Building on the strategy to become a regional hub on the African continent, Rwanda has the opportunity to become a leader in AI education and research by attracting and retain- ing talent from across Africa and around the world.

5. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, secure storage and computing.

Strong compute power is necessary to train AI models on large data sets. Today, access to compute to drive AI adoption is a challenge for start-ups and industry. We need to provide mechanisms to enable access to international and world-class cloud computing services which offer competitive performance and cost for Rwandan companies and the research community, in order to facilitate and fast track AI adoption.

6. Position Rwanda as cloud infrastructure host serving the region.

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 Rwanda’s regional competitiveness.

7. Create greater availability and accessibility of AI-ready data.

Data is the energy that will fuel Rwanda as Africa’s AI Hub, but today there is a lack of digitized data and most data from the public and private sector remain inaccessible. The Government will set up a multi-sectoral task force to develop data governance frame- works and protocols with standards for sharing data ethically, responsibly and securely and provide guidance for the public sector to migrate data to digital format and improve AI-readiness of public data.

8. Strengthen AI policy and regulation and ensure public trust in AI.

Trust is critical to public confidence and acceptance of AI. By strengthening the capacity of regulatory authorities to understand and regulate AI aligned with emerging global standards and best practices, we will build transparency and trust with the public.

9. Collaborate in measuring Rwanda’s global AI competitiveness.

International collaboration is essential to drive sustainable development in AI. The Government will establish international partnerships, building upon international AI readiness indexes and benchmark Rwanda’s AI competitiveness and capacity in an annual ‘AI Readiness Index’ in order to help drive development of AI in Rwanda and spur local, regional, continental and global investment in AI foundations.

10. Improve public service delivery using AI.

AI has the potential to improve performance and efficiency of public services, but few ministries and public sector agencies are currently harnessing it. We will invest in raising awareness of the benefits through piloting, demonstrations and building capacity to implement and manage AI projects, delivering improved public services.

Using policy tools, the Government will engage local AI solution providers through innovation-friendly procurement processes, organize training sessions, invest in hackathons, prizes and challenges to open opportunities for responsible AI applications in the public sector, and establish a risk sharing fund to support R&D in the public sector.

11. Support private sector adoption of AI to drive national investments.

The private sector is a critical partner in driving penetration and adoption of AI within the wider economy, yet companies may perceive adopting new technologies as challenging and risky and may lack the internal capacity and resources required.

In order to demystify AI, we will identify a portfolio of high potential AI use cases and projects aligned with the national agenda that can inform investment prioritization for the private and public sectors. We will also facilitate AI adoption through AI meet-ups and demonstrations to raise AI and data literacy.

AI is of national and critical importance and hence we will raise the profile of AI at a national level through the establishment of a Presidential Council on AI composed of AI academic and industry leaders to provide advice to the government and private sector.

12. 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 Program’ to jointly develop AI innovations and solutions for industry and government challenges, in order to bring together the much-needed resources to catalyze the AI ecosystem. The Government will also support the financing by building upon the Seed Investment Fund to co-invest alongside specialist funds to invest in AI companies.

13. Operationalize and share Rwanda’s AI ethical guidelines.

Ethical and safety precautions are required to ensure that AI solutions benefit citizens and do not cause harm. The Government will promote Rwanda’s ‘Guidelines on the Ethical Development and Implementation of AI’ throughout the AI community, led by RURA. Launch an annual participatory consultation forum to update the guidelines and create a network of AI Ethics Officers across government institutions to champion them.

14. Contribute to responsible AI principles & practices.

Global AI policymaking has already begun, and Rwanda will seek to participate in the global fora on AI, sharing Rwandan perspectives and interests and learning from international practices. Join platforms shaping the responsible adoption of AI regionally and globally (e.g. OECD, UNESCO, ITU, GPAI, World Bank, UNDP, GIZ, PDPC, Smart Africa, African Union, WEF/GAIA).

A lightly edited executive summary of the National Artificial Intelligence Policy for the Republic of Rwanda

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2 Comments to “Introducing the National Artificial Intelligence Policy for Rwanda”

  1. Dr. Dennis Mwighusa says:

    This is extremely good. By considering the rapidly growing area of AI development and adoption, introducing an AI policy will lead into setting the clear ground rules for citizens on how AI will be used in day to day activities. This includes both the Industry, Academia and Public Sector. Protecting the public from any risk associated with AI it is very important to set some guidelines that will lead into a proper adoption and or use of AI. I am more than happy to be engaged into recommending on the best practices to be adopted in this new policy. I have recently spearheaded the review of Tanzania National ICT Policy 2016 and at the forefront to make sure we have the National AI Policy.