Developing capacity to boost data-driven decision-making in Rwanda
Developing capacity to boost data-driven decision-making in Rwanda17 July, 2023 •
In recent years, Rwanda has embarked on a transformative journey towards digitalisation to fuel economic growth and innovation. The Rwanda Economy Digitalisation Programme, implemented by Cenfri in partnership with the Ministry of ICT and Innovation and the Mastercard Foundation, is contributing to this journey. Our focus is predominantly on extracting value from data to drive decision-making and to enable this, we have invested in capacity development and upskilling of data professionals.
The programme has empowered data professionals to become valuable assets in partner institutions through initiatives such as training courses, fellowships (longer-term internships), and a community of practice.
As part of capacity development initiatives, eight fellows were placed in the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Economic Planning and Finance and the Rwanda Information Society Authority for a year to support them by cleaning relevant data to be used strategically, analysing data to determine trends and projections for business planning processes as well as translating data findings into understandable templates, dashboards, and other graphic presentations.
We interviewed some of these fellows as well as participants of the foundational training on data-driven policymaking to understand their career journeys and the impact of the programme on their professional growth.
The data fellows typically have a tertiary education in IT and/or data science with aspirations of programming and using machine learning to solve problems. Their exposure to the realities of the data environment has contributed to the understanding that data fundamentals need to be in place before sophisticated analysis or machine learning is possible. One of the key learnings highlighted by the fellows is the importance of evaluating data before collection; they quickly realised that understanding the objectives and strategies of the institution is crucial for effective analysis. Kirezi Alleluia Mireille emphasises “Assessing data before collection is essential as well as having a significant data catalogue for your current system to understand what is missing”.
By investing time in comprehending data collection processes and assessing data quality, the fellows acquired expertise in data cleaning, leading to improved data quality and enhanced decision-making processes.
Martin De Pores Barindirimana mentions that this process made his transition from the Ministry of Economic Planning and Finance (MINECOFIN) to the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR) relatively easy; “during my time at MINECOFIN, I took time to learn the ministry’s objectives to be able to analyse data against their KPIs, this made it easy for me to understand the goals of BNR at large”, Martin mentions.
This emphasis on evaluating data before collection has become a fundamental step in their analytical workflow, ensuring accurate and reliable insights.
In addition to technical skills, the fellows also emphasised the significance of soft skills and collaboration within teams. Working in teams and collaborating with colleagues allowed them to share insights and findings, leading to more comprehensive data analysis. Similarly, participants from the training on data-driven decision-making learned to collaborate effectively, gaining new perspectives on data, and identifying flaws in their analysis. The development of soft skills such as teamwork, communication, and problem-solving has not only enhanced their professional growth but also facilitated productive collaboration within teams and institutions.
Another critical aspect highlighted by those we spoke to, is effective communication of results and insights. They acquired skills in presenting their findings in an accessible manner, considering the diverse audience they interacted with. Training sessions on data visualisation provided them with valuable tools to present complex information in a clear and concise manner. The community of practice for data scientists encouraged collaboration and facilitated the development of presentation and communication skills. Martin says that the training on presenting data and analysis was very useful to him, and he now makes sure his presentations have a cohesive and comprehensive flow while keeping in mind the audience he is presenting to.
By effectively communicating their insights, data professionals have become instrumental in driving data-driven decision-making processes and influencing policy outcomes.
Career progression and institutional impact
The upskilling and capacity development initiatives of the Rwanda Economy Digitalisation Programme have yielded encouraging results in terms of career progression for participants and fellows. Some of the data fellows recruited by Cenfri to support partner institutions have transitioned to prominent positions in MINICT, BNR, MINECOFIN and NISR where they continue to apply the skills acquired during their fellowship and training sessions.
The programme’s objective of empowering institutions with data capabilities at various levels has had a significant impact on the career trajectories of participants and fellows, while also driving institutional growth.
In addition to classroom training, the programme avails data experts to provide on-the-job training for staff in partner institutions. These data experts support the data teams in these institutions on big data value chains and adopting an evidence-based approach to decision-making.
The emphasis on evaluating data, acquiring soft skills, and effective communication has not only enhanced productivity but also fostered collaboration and innovation within teams. The career progression of the data fellows serves as a testament to the programme’s success in building data capabilities and creating a workforce equipped for the digital future. As Rwanda continues its journey towards digital transformation, investments in capacity development and upskilling will play a pivotal role in unlocking its full potential.
If you would like to learn more about our capacity development initiatives, please contact Edwin Byusa.