Davos 2016 - Rwanda keen on producing technology, says President Kagame
President Paul Kagame has said Rwanda and Africa have begun to shift focus from consuming technology to becoming producers. The President made the remarks yesterday at the ongoing World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Kagame spoke at a panel session, “The Transformation of Tomorrow,” that debated the implications of the digital revolution.
The President spoke alongside leaders in the digital technologies industry, including Facebook chief operation officer Sheryl Sandberg, Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella, Anand Mahindra, director of Indian company Mahinda and Mahindra, and Zachary Bookman, the founder of Open Gov. Kagame said the decision to have a greater role in the ‘revolution’ was due to its multiple benefits from digital technologies in recent years across several sectors which has consequently improved lives of millions of people. “We have seen multiplier effect of technology on growth, development and connecting people to solutions,” the President added.
Rwanda’s ICT sector has been recognised by various local and international indexes for innovations that have improved service delivery, healthcare provision, accountability, access to quality education, among others.
In 2015, the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology report ranked Rwanda among the top nations in the world in government success in ICT promotion cluster.
The report recognised investments in building IT infrastructure and efforts in encouraging both private and public enterprises to tap into the potential of technology to improve the welfare of citizens.
Going forward, Kagame said, the governments should continue to play a role of facilitating the involvement of digital technologies in sectors through an enabling framework that fostered partnerships and support. “The framework has to be clear and governance has to be about providing support and partnerships. You don’t regulate to start with, you create then work to support it to let it grow in the right direction,” he said.
The topic comes amid global fears that the increased adoption of digital technology could hurt some sectors such as labour market, job availability and displace some sectors.
It is feared that technology could render certain skills irrelevant, leaving millions jobless.
Kagame, however, allayed the fears, saying although change creates winners and losers, the government would ensure that the transition was for the better.
“Revolutions create winners and losers; our job is to make sure there are fewer losers and more winners,” he said.
Microsoft’s Nadella said there is no need of fearing the effects of technology adoption in the future as it would present more opportunities across multiple sectors and improve economic potential of societies. He highlighted the potential of data usage through cloud technology that makes it possible for individuals and companies to access world-class technology to create world-class solutions. “The Internet is one of the greatest global goods, and common goods. If we destroy it, we destroy a lot of our economic future,” Nadella said.
Facebook’s Sandberg also said the various aspects of technology, such as social media, would instead avail opportunities and further increase productivity.
On the sidelines of last year’s Transform Africa Summit in Kigali, the opportunities presented by technology in socio-economic development were showcased during the launch of Facebook in Kinywarwanda, as well as Free Basics, an online platform that provides Internet users free access to information such as news, maternal health, travel and local jobs.
The development is expected to increase access to vital information from various websites in fields such as education, work opportunities and medical services at reduced costs.
Prior to the panel, President Kagame joined a breakfast with business leaders hosted in his honour during which he invited investors to East Africa.
The annual breakfast, hosted by Marc Holtzman, was attended by over 30 leaders from various sectors, including banking, technology and education.
The theme for this year’s forum, ‘Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution,’ seeks to evaluate the basics of transition from the digital technologies era to the fourth industrial revolution which is expected to influence production, consumption and interactions with one another, thus impacting economies.