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Rwanda gears up for the 4th Industrial Revolution

Rwanda gears up for the 4th Industrial Revolution

Rwanda gears up to usher in the Fourth Industrial Revolution which will change the country’s entire outlook. However, concerns have been raised by some of the private sector members who fear that their innovation capacity is still low.

In the transformation to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, new technologies are incorporated in all sectors including the physical, biological and digital platforms. This has high impact changes on all disciplines of life, industries and economies. The founder of World Economic Forum, Eng. Klaus Martin Schwab describes the transformation as advancement of technology in all fields such as robotics, internet, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and nanotechnology, among others.

This transformation is expected to prompt actualization of several emerging technology developments. This has potential disruptive effects. As such, private sector draws fear of the disruptive effects while calling for government protection from monopolization of such technologies. According to the chief executive officer of Centrika, Willy Claude Karasira, local innovators in Rwanda have already started thinking about the future prospects but they need support. Centrika is a local tech company that deals in transportation systems. Mr. Karasira acknowledges that the tech companies in the western world are more advanced compared to the local companies. Consequently, he believes that the local market must be protected from pressure by external markets. He also believes that the local companies stand a better chance by working with bigger corporations. As such, he proposes that the government should financially boost local companies while pushing for partnerships with more advance companies in order to facilitate safe transformation.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is being driven by several factors. Among them is the pressing need for efficiency, need to reduce the cost of labor, and need to increase productivity. Customer feedback and Community Based Innovation (FabLabs), and data driven decision making by managers have also largely prompted the revolution.

While the World Economic Forum predicts loss of 5 million jobs in the next 5 years, a research done by Oxford reveals that the revolution threatens over 47 percent of jobs in the next 20 years. The president of World Bank, Jim Kim predicts that two-thirds of jobs in developing countries will be lost owing to automation. He also said that this situation could increase conflicts and flow of refugees.

RURA has so far allowed the 4th revolution into all the regulated sectors including energy, sanitation and cyber security. To facilitate the transition, RURA is currently developing a regulatory sandbox that will allow innovators to operate in a controlled environment. In end 2016, Rwanda recorded 257 filled patents in relation to the 4th revolution. 17 of these are local but none shows a strong technological foundation. Such companies include AirB&B, an online marketplace & hospitality service provider and Volkswagen which is set to launch an integrated mobility solution soon.

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