What would it take to develop big data in Rwanda?

Rwanda early this year launched a Statistics Training Centre and Data Science Campus designed to help establish a culture of data analysis and use. / Courtesy

Big Data is among the aspects of the 4th Industrial Revolution that is already picking the pace and across the world as firms seek to increasingly use data to improve productivity, efficiency and value.

While Big Data is already being used in parts of the world whereby extremely large data sets are analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions, the trend is yet to pick up in Rwanda.

Big data involves volume, velocity and variety.

Among other things involves collection and analysis of a wide variety of data to enable better product creation, more accurate business forecasting, as well as the mitigation of business risks, and ensure more efficient and streamlined marketing and business systems.

However, in Rwanda like most African countries, the trend is yet to pick up with experts estimating multiple opportunities being missed out.

Experts say that the low uptake is partly a result of lack of dynamism among traditional firms, cost implications as well as low expertise.

Nikolaos Vasiloglou, a data science expert at Relational AI, an Artificial Intelligence firm told Business Times that like in most emerging markets, the change is likely to be driven by emerging firms and startups.

“Traditional companies are a bit behind but we have a lot to see from startups and emerging firms, they are very dynamic,” he said.

Vasiloglou who was recently in the country at the invitation of African Institute for Mathematical Sciences - Next Einstein Initiative (AIMS-NEI) to engage private firms said that if well adopted the big data can inform companies and sectors on productivity, efficiency and impact.

“Companies locally are losing a lot in terms of productivity. Data enables you to create value, find opportunities in value chains and increases productivity,” he said.

In the process of catching up with the trend, he said that there is a need to build capacity in data science on multiple levels including leadership skills.

“Rwanda is giving an educational culture priority which is a good thing. That will play a big role in improving the skillsets of young people to work in the field. We need to develop practical data science skills,” he said.

Other considerations to take into account in the process is regulation and policy around privacy and ethics around data.

“We need to put up some conditions of privacy and ethics around data. We need some regulation and policy around data,” he said.

Charles Mberi Kimpolo the Director of AIMS Industry Initiative told Business Times said that at the moment, members of the local private sector fall short in terms of infrastructure to collect, analyze and digest the data.

“Most of the private sector has an interest in data but not capacity, we should be more obsessed about it,” Kimpolo said.

To make it possible, he said that the country needs to develop a critical mass of data scientists.

He, however, said that despite the low uptake, they had established that there were interest and demand in the local market.

Going forward, he said that there is a need for local higher learning institutions to develop capacities in the subject on technical and leadership capacities.

Among the industries that experts are well placed to make the most of them are telcos and financial industry among others.

The big data market is set to grow rapidly - by an average 11.7 per cent a year to $203 billion by 2030, according to market intelligence firm International Data Corporation (IDC).

Locally, the Rwanda Revenue Authority has been mulling over investing in big data analysis and management to improve revenue collection and facilitating trade. 

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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