Rwanda’s data governance: Navigating data governance in the public sector

A 2024 perspective

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Editor's note:

This viewpoint is part of Foresight Africa 2024.

Data: A national asset for Rwanda’s Vision 2050

In the past four years, the world has witnessed an unprecedented surge in data generation. By 2021, global data creation reached 79 zettabytes and is projected to double by 2025. In 2020 alone, every individual generated an astonishing 1.7 megabytes of data per second, contributing to a daily total of approximately 2.5 quintillion bytes of data globally. This explosion of data, propelled by advancements in digital technology and accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has transformed numerous sectors, playing a crucial role in driving innovation, competitiveness, and economic growth. Its increased availability in personal, non-personal, and public data, coupled with advancements in storage and processing technologies, has unlocked immense potential.

For Rwanda, data is a vital national asset, essential for fueling digital progress and advancing the country’s social and economic goals. Rwanda’s commitment to responsibly using data is a cornerstone of its ambition to become a high-income nation by 2050. Moreover, data’s role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals cannot be overstated, as it significantly improves monitoring systems, tracks progress and setbacks, and fosters data sharing for informed decisionmaking.

Building a robust data governance framework

Recognizing the importance of data privacy and protection, Rwanda enacted its Law on Data Privacy and Protection (DPP) on October 15, 2021. This legislation mandates the protection of personal data processed by individuals and organizations, regardless of their geographic location, concerning Rwandan residents. The DPP law aligns with Article 23 of the Rwanda Constitution, emphasizing the right to privacy and is inspired by international standards like the GDPR (Regulation (EU) 2016/679), regional laws from Kenya and Mauritius, and the Malabo Convention. The law’s objectives include ensuring data privacy, integrating data ethics to inspire trust, and promoting responsible data processing. These steps are critical in maintaining public trust in technological systems by guaranteeing privacy and data security. The formulation of the data privacy law involved comprehensive multistakeholderconsultation, with significant input from private sector, public sector, academia, civil society and industry. This collaboration reflects a keen awareness of the nuanced needs of different economic sectors in data governance.

The DPP law is part of a broader framework of data governance in Rwanda. It complements other key regulations such as Ministerial Order No. 001/MINICT/2012, which centralizes government data in a national data center, and the Organic Law on Statistics No. 45 of June 2013, coordinating the production, access, and dissemination of statistical data. Additionally, the Penal Code and Law No. 18/2010, focusing on electronic messages, signatures, and transactions, underline Rwanda’s commitment to data protection and privacy.

For Rwanda, data is a vital national asset, essential for fueling digital progress and advancing the country’s social and economic goals.

Infrastructure investment underpins digital transformation

Rwanda’s commitment to data governance extends beyond enabling policies and regulations. The country has achieved impressive network coverage by investing heavily in broadband and fiber optic infrastructure, laying a solid foundation for adopting emerging technologies. The country boasts extensive network coverage, including 95% population coverage of 4G LTE networks. Additionally, Rwanda has developed a significant national optic fiber network, spanning 7,000 km across its 26,338 km² area. These strategic investments have laid a solid infrastructure foundation for adopting emerging technologies and for the evolution of next-generation networks.

However, Rwanda’s data strategy encompasses more than just infrastructure development. It also includes the systematic cataloging of public records, improvement of information management systems, and advancement of cloudbased data-sharing capabilities among government agencies. The widespread adoption of mobile devices and digital platforms, particularly in vital sectors like finance, healthcare, and communication, has fostered a dynamic data environment. This environment is crucial for the development of innovative products and services, transforming government and business operations, and reshaping citizen engagement with various services. These comprehensive measures illustrate Rwanda’s holistic approach to building a robust digital ecosystem.

As Rwanda integrates its digital market both regionally and with the African Continental Free Trade Area, the emphasis on cybersecurity and data protection becomes more pronounced. The country is focused on narrowing the digital skills gap and improving the accessibility and affordability of digital services, with the National Cyber Security Authority (NCSA) playing a crucial role in ensuring adherence to data protection laws and securing cross-border data flows.

Irembo: A model for government-citizen interaction

The Irembo platform exemplifies how data is driving government efficiency and citizen engagement. This digital portal offers convenient access to a wide range of government services, reducing the need for physical visits. Irembo serves as a key facilitator of government-to-citizen (G2C) interactions, promoting transparency and democratic participation.

Government services on Irembo go through a continuous service/process improvement that is informed by the insights generated from the transactions made through Irembo platform. Insights are derived from citizen feedback, volume and nature of transactions per service, and trends to simplify services and how they are delivered on the platform. One example is how Irembo leveraged data-driven insights to improve the delivery of provisional driving licenses. The sheer volume of citizens applying for a driving license necessitated a shift from manual, written driving license exams to electronic means.

Rwanda Economy Digitalization Program: A model for data-driven, evidence-based policymaking

The Rwanda economy digitalization program seeks to accelerate the inclusive digitalization of the Rwandan economy by leveraging data insights to support data-driven policymaking, catalyze innovation, and support a sustained shift to a digitalized society. Rwanda’s approach to innovation is driven by our proof-ofconcept hub strategy, which has positioned Rwanda as a test bed for innovations that leverage digital technologies and data to create impact. Similarly, our approach to data governance required that as a government we implement select data use cases that would inform Rwanda’s Data governance policy, with notable data analysis use cases in mobile money, tourism, education, agriculture, and transport sectors.

Specifically on transport, commuter data was analyzed to assess the demand for affordable and reliable public transportation. The data analysis further looked into different public transport modes (buses, motorcycles, and cabs), existing public bus routes and whether they adequately serve regular commuters, and complementarities of buses, cabs and motorcycles. The analysis revealed that bus transport was not used for regular commuting: over 60% of customers in January 2023 purchased five or fewer tickets in the month, while fewer customers appear to be using bus transport for a regular work commute (20 or more tickets in a month). This has been the trend since 2020.

This situation is largely a result of bus capacity constraints that result in long waiting times, inconvenience, and uncertainty for users. While bus tickets are significantly cheaper than any other mode of transport, massive delays at bus stops discourage commuters from using buses, opting for the more expensive options. In addition, trips follow existing bus routes, indicating that moto-taxis are seen as a substitute for bus services, rather than a transport mode that complements buses.

With these insights, policymakers were able to better understand mobility patterns and the interplay between customer demand, bus operator incentives, and public policy. Further, the analysis and data insight generated also supported bus operators in making better investment decisions against the projected demand.

Challenges and opportunities in data governance

Despite efforts to improve data privacy and protection, challenges persist. Many African countries, including Rwanda, face resource and capacity constraints, making it difficult to effectively enforce violations of data protection laws. Additionally, many people are not familiar with data protection and their privacy rights, which means that substantial efforts are needed to educate the general public. This challenge is compounded by the fact that the law is new and global trends in data protection may not be widely known or understood by the public and institutions.

Better data governance presents opportunities for innovation. However, the challenge of balancing data privacy and the need to innovate competitively remains. One approach Rwanda is undertaking to strike this balance is establishing datasharing agreements for institutions. These agreements ensure that data that is shared is anonymized and aggregated to address privacy concerns.

Going forward, we need to transition to quality open data, with common frameworks of usage.

Recommendations for effective data governance

To overcome these challenges and capitalize on emerging opportunities, Rwanda can prioritize:

  • Flexibility and scalability: Adaptable and structured frameworks allow for continuous improvement and adaptation to changing contexts.
  • Cross-sector and cross-border collaboration: Effective data governance requires international cooperation, especially in regions like Africa.
  • Sector-specific initiatives: Tailored strategies for critical sectors like health enhance data utilization, privacy, and security.

Moving forward, Rwanda’s commitment to data governance will be crucial in driving its digital transformation and achieving its social and economic goals. By addressing the existing challenges and adopting these recommendations, Rwanda can solidify its position as a leader in responsible data governance.


Rwanda’s comprehensive approach to data governance, key to its ambition of becoming a high-income nation by 2050, is exemplified by its enactment of the Data Privacy and Protection Law and significant investments in digital infrastructure. This strategic focus acknowledges the crucial role of data in spurring innovation and economic growth. Despite the challenges of resource limitations and public awareness about data rights, Rwanda’s commitment to a robust digital ecosystem, highlighted by initiatives like the Irembo platform, is commendable. Addressing these challenges through adaptable, scalable frameworks and international collaboration will be pivotal in enhancing Rwanda’s data governance and ensuring the success of its digital transformation in line with its Vision 2050 goals.


  • Footnotes
    1. International Data Corporation. 2023. “Worldwide IDC Global DataSphere Forecast, 2023-2027.”
    2. Republic of Rwanda. (2010). Law No. 18/2010 of 23 July 2010 on Electronic Messages, Signatures and Transactions.
    3. The New Times. 2018. Four years later, 95% of Rwanda covered with 4G Internet
    4. Republic of Rwanda. 2012. Ministerial Order No. 001/MINICT/2012 of 18 July 2012 on the Establishment of a National Data Center and the Centralization of Government Data.
    5. Republic of Rwanda. 2013. Organic Law No. 45/2013 of 18 June 2.
    6. Republic of Rwanda. 2010. Law No. 18/2010 of 23 July 2020 on Electronic Messages, Signatures and Transactions.
    7. Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Author. 2023. ICT Access and Usage Survey 2022.