March 9 2020

Rwanda inks deal to host Africa’s only big data hub

Source: The New Times

Rwanda last week signed signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations to host the only big data regional hub for Africa. The hub will be set up at the National Institute of Statistics (NISR) Training Center and Data Science Campus in the capital Kigali.

An assembly of the Global Working Group, UN’s body in data division, agreed during a meeting in the Rwandan capital in May last year to set up such hubs across various regions of the world to develop new capabilities in the use of big data and modern technology.

During the meeting, Rwanda offered an opportunity to house Africa’s hub which will support capability development in the area of big data for official statistics for Africa. Three other hubs will be set up in China, Brazil and the United Arab Emirates with specialised functions.

NISR is collaborating with the Ethiopia-based UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Center for Statistics to set up the hub in Rwanda. The centre is expected to begin operations by the end of this year, according to NISR deputy Director-General, Ivan Murenzi.

“The potential gain for us as a country is that this hub will be pulling potential experts in data science to carry out training sessions. We will be accommodating more people,” Murenzi told The New Times.

About big data hub

With Rwanda’s experience in drone technology, the hub will, among others, execute projects of satellite imagery and other remote-sensing data using drones in environment and agricultural statistics such as crop acreage and crop yield.

It will as well lodge mobile telephone data for tourism, population and migration statistics, road traffic data and value added tax data for faster economic indicators.

The hub will also avail unfiltered flight data to monitor human mobility by enabling global coverage of the Earth’s land surface and an Open Street Map - a free, editable map of the entire planet.

Other technologies include an automatic identification system or vessel tracking through satellite data that give a complete situational picture of global vessel activity.

Through a global digital platform, UN will provide all 193 member states of the Statistical Commission with friction-free access to those global data sources using cloud services, including Alibaba Cloud, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft’s Azure.

The goal is to enable international collaboration on and sharing of data and expertise.

In 2014, the commission agreed to create the Global Working Group on Big Data for Official Statistics to further investigate the benefits and challenges of Big Data, including the potential for monitoring and reporting on the SDGs.

Data industry in Rwanda

As most countries embark on the 4th industrial revolution, according to NISR, data has proved to be a natural resource offering unprecedented benefits to economies by powering innovation ecosystems in science and technology.

In 2017, Rwanda developed a data revolution policy which mandates NISR to build big data and analytics capabilities.

As part of the country's bid to build a data industry, Kigali has in recent years created synergies with a pool of world class training academies, including two African Centers of excellence in data science and Internet of things, African Institute of Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) and Carnegie Mellon University which produce specialised human capital in data sciences.