Emerging technology has taken over the world and is having significant impact globally in both our day to day lives and businesses. Key emerging technologies include Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, blockchain, drones, Internet of Things, 3D printing, robotics and Virtual Reality. Emerging technologies have the potential to disrupt not just companies but countries, which is why both governments and the private sector are paying a keen interest. While multiple piecemeal initiatives are currently being undertaken, a structured approach to create a self-sustainable ecosystem for adoption of these emerging technologies is required.

Key pillars for creation of such an ecosystem for adoption of emerging technologies may include aspects such as governance, capacity building, fostering innovation within the country, developing services and solutions, providing resources to guide innovation, and international collaboration.

It is encouraging to note that Africa has not been left behind and there is a push for emerging technologies. For example, Rwanda has adopted the use of drones for commercial blood delivery since 2016 in partnership with a US-based robotics firm, Zipline. The country is now looking into leveraging other forms of emerging technologies and is currently in the process of developing a strategic plan to set the short and long-term direction for the adoption/acquisition, use and promotion of emerging technologies.

Other countries across Africa are currently adopting emerging technologies and there are several initiatives underway. From the recent Transform Africa Summit held in Kigali in May 2019, organised by SMART Africa, various countries had country flagship projects ranging from Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Cybersecurity, digital economy to smart cities.

SMART Africa is an initiative of African Heads of State and Government to accelerate sustainable socioeconomic development on the continent, ushering Africa into a knowledge economy through affordable access to Broadband and usage of Information and Communication Technologies.

While emerging technology can bring about positive disruption, it is also important to govern the adoption of these emerging technologies. For example, we have recently experienced drone scares in busy international airports that have grounded numerous flights. Drones can also cause security threats if not well regulated. Thus, the first key aspect for a structured strategy for adoption of these emerging technologies should be to have an appropriate governance mechanism.

This can be either through a government entity leading the initiative (such as the Ministry of ICT) or through setting up a center of excellence. Once governance structures are set up, the entity may create policies (including laws and regulations) and strategies for adoption of emerging technologies.

Governance requires a comprehensive understanding of emerging technologies, which is why another critical aspect is capacity building. Capacity building is required across government, industry and academia.

There are various strategies for building capacity including targeted outreach programs, initiating courses in universities, incubating start-ups and putting in place a system for rewarding and recognising achievements.

The third aspect is to have guided initiatives to foster innovation in country. This can be done through setting up research and development labs, creating start-ups by bringing together industry and academia and putting in place investor collaboration events. Such conferences also assist to bring together innovators which enables sharing of ideas and avoids duplication of innovations. Other initiatives include hackathons, ideathons, JAMs, demo days and community engagements.

A good example of Rwanda’s initiative to drive innovation and technology is the Kigali Innovation City, which is a pan-African focused innovation hub based in Kigali, that will house four international university campuses, and retail spaces. Kigali Innovation City forms part of the Government of Rwanda’s Vision 2020 development program and aims to attract a balanced mix of technology companies to Rwanda to create synergies in the innovation ecosystem.

A fourth and perhaps one of the most important aspects to consider is developing the demand for emerging technology, once supply is created through capacity building and fostering innovation. This demand is created by both the Government and industry adopting the emerging technologies and developing services to be provided using this technology. This requires a business case to be developed for adoption and thereafter, a proof of concept or pilot, before rolling out to the population.

Governments should also develop ‘ready to use’ resources such as guidelines and standards that can be used by early adopters. The first step is to define key technology challenges and approaches to resolve these challenges. Some areas of consideration may include development of emerging technology platforms, interoperability among platforms, analytics, security, amongst other areas.

Finally, to adopt and sustain technology, while ensuring international collaboration and visibility, there will be need to consider joining key enterprise emerging technology alliances, entering into Memorandums of Understanding with leading industry firms, participating in global forums and linking to international education initiatives.

Adoption of the above aspects would provide a plethora of advantages including building a self-sustainable ecosystem for emerging technology, increased employment opportunities, positioning Rwanda as a leader in emerging technology, enhanced service delivery of government and industry services, driving ease of doing business, building capacity, supporting a start-up ecosystem, promotion of research and development and international visibility.

At PwC, we are building trust in society and solving important problems through working closely with governments across the world to develop strategies for adopting emerging technologies. We have also provided solutions across different sectors using Artificial Intelligence, robotics, data analytics, drones, blockchain, amongst other emerging technologies that can be replicated across Africa.

Florence Gatome

Country Senior Partner,

PwC Rwanda

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