By Mary Hearty

The Ministry of Information Communication Technology and Innovation of Rwanda, in partnership with the World Economic Forum, has launched the first Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) in Africa to help scale up technology through governance.

The C4IRs shape new policies and strategies in technology governance that enable agile implementation and iteration via a fast-growing network of national and sub-national centres.
The C4IR Rwanda will have a particular focus on data governance, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

“The launch of this centre is enabled by investments that we, as a country, have been making in science and technology. I hope the centre will build on this by making the Fourth Industrial Revolution an equalizing force, and contributing solutions to some of today’s most pressing challenges,” said President of Rwanda Paul Kagame, who officiated at the centre’s opening ceremony.

Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, who joined the ceremony through video, highlighted the importance of Africa taking the lead in shaping the future of technology governance.
“I have no doubt that the centre will herald a new era for Rwanda and the continent. Innovation and entrepreneurship are key in heralding the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The work of our 4IR Centres has always been important, but in this time of great global upheaval it is more crucial than ever to build together a better future and use technology to do so,” Schwab said.

Børge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum, delivered the keynote address, where he underlined the C4IR networks’ role in helping leaders anticipate, understand and shape the trajectory of technological change for human-centered, society-serving outcomes to harness converging technologies to create an inclusive, human-centered future.

“This is the first centre to be formally launched in Africa,” he said.
“It says a lot about the leadership in the country when it comes to leapfrogging and being visionary when it comes to new technologies. I think that this Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Rwanda will play an important role to meet the ratio of Rwanda becoming an upper middle-income country by 2035. The centre, I hope, will be a key enabler of Rwanda’s goal of becoming an even more prosperous society.”

The C4IR Rwanda will work with stakeholders around the world to design and pilot new approaches to technology governance in the country to help foster innovation inclusively and responsibly.

“Building on Rwanda’s track record of reimagining regulation for emerging technologies, C4IR Rwanda plays a critical role in responsibly accelerating technological adoption,” said Crystal Rugege, Managing Director of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Rwanda.
“We will use the centre as a catalyst for Africa to lead the world in shaping a more inclusive Fourth Industrial Revolution that addresses our unique challenges and unlocks more equitable opportunities for innovation and growth that deliver societal impact.”

The C4IR Rwanda has played a leading role in developing Rwanda’s landmark data protection and privacy legislation and co-designing its national AI policy. There are currently several pilot projects being conducted with the private sector on AI application in healthcare to examine how solutions can be scaled and governed responsibly.

One example of such collaboration is the integration of the Chatbots RESET framework developed by the World Economic Forum. The Rwanda AI Triage pilot, led by global healthcare company Babylon, has adopted the framework to handle over 4,000 daily medical consultations through its call centres. This enables nurses to work more efficiently and make quicker decisions for their patients by asking the right questions, collecting necessary information about a patient’s symptoms, and providing them with insights to help choose the correct triage path. Integrating AI-powered triage tools into this service has been a critical step in digitizing the national healthcare system.

The C4IR Rwanda will also continue to advance its work in data governance, focusing on co-designing frameworks for cross-border data flows and working with multiple stakeholders to identify and address governance gaps on the ethical adoption of artificial intelligence.

Expanding the global network
The Fourth Industrial Revolution has led to technological breakthroughs in many fields, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, the internet of things and robotics, 3D printing, nanotechnology and biotechnology.

The Forum’s global network is a platform for multistakeholder collaboration bringing together public and private sectors to maximize technological benefits to society while minimizing the risks associated with Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies.

The C4IR Rwanda joins a network of 15 centres that spans four continents. It is the first centre in Africa.