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The Ministry of ICT and Innovation in Rwanda, Cenfri, and the Mastercard Foundation signed a tripartite MoU to kick-off an ambitious three-year digital transformation program in Rwanda aiming at harnessing Rwanda’s big data to enhance the Government’s digital capabilities and systems.

Building an inclusive digital economy has long been a core economic development objective of the Government of Rwanda. The Government charts an ambitious course for achieving rapid digital transformation and has embraced the digital economy as a lever for accelerating growth, improving services delivery, and enabling more work opportunities for Rwandans, especially young Rwandans.

The COVID-19 pandemic has fast-tracked   the need for digitization and this partnership demonstrates Rwanda’s goal to not only keep up with the global trends, but also to become an example of digital leapfrogging in Africa.

“Data-driven policymaking is fundamental to our digital transformation journey”, said Paula Ingabire, the Minister of ICT and Innovation, and the Government Lead for the program, at the launch today. “During the Covid19 pandemic, we’ve seen digital payments grow more than tenfold and it’s these gains that we want to build on and unlock further growth and adoption of digital payments. To do so, we require data insights that will drive cashless policy decisions, unlock barriers to adoption of digital payment channels as well as track the response and impact of these interventions in driving the cashless agenda.”

“Unlocking significant, long-lasting efficiencies in financial inclusion and productivity for young men and women will help to increase their access to employment opportunities and entrepreneurship. It is important that we support the sustainability of that transition as well as other innovative interventions in the digital space,” said Rica Rwigamba, Country Head at the Mastercard Foundation.

The program, which will be implemented by Cenfri in partnership with Cape Town-based data science firm 71point4, is composed of a team of people who have worked with Rwandan agencies for the past few years to open up data for the Government to draw insights for policy. “We are excited to be embarking on this journey to leverage data to build towards a flourishing and inclusive digital economy. Over the last five years, our work in Rwanda as part of the insight2impact (i2i) program, highlighted the power of data to advance financial-sector development and improve economic and financial inclusion. This partnership presents an opportunity to build on our learnings and achieve real impact together over the coming years,” said Doubell Chamberlain, Managing Director and Founder of Cenfri.

The program ultimately aims to support the Government to realize its vision through a three-pronged approach: making data and trend analysis easily accessible; supporting the application of data to policy actions; and accompanying public sector staff to utilize data-driven approaches. An exciting byproduct of the program will be to make data available to local entrepreneurs and start-ups to develop ideas and strategies for new businesses. Modern innovation feeds on data and while these data resources exist, very little has been accessible in the public domain for Rwandan entrepreneurs to work on. This program will hopefully change that.

The program will initially focus on the Agriculture and Retail trade sectors, with other sectors to follow.  It will work closely with the National Bank of Rwanda, the Rwandan Utilities Regulatory Authority, and other regulatory agencies with important data resources. The program will also engage with private sector entities to explore access to data that can assist in achieving a cashless national economy. - via Africa Business Communities

Photo Music Business Worldwide


Vodacom Tanzania have partnered with Kenya-founded music service to launch a music bundle available for all Vodacom customers, giving its subscribers access to Mdundo’s premium service and exclusively curated music.

Established in 2013 and headquartered in Denmark, Mdundo is available to global users but concentrates on 15 African markets including Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, Rwanda, Cameroon, Congo, Malawi, South Africa and Namibia.

Mdundo has over 7 million active users per month and a combined 20 million-plus downloads and streams per month, it says, and also works directly with 100,000 African artists and offers a catalogue of 1.7m African and international songs.

Through the Mdundo Mixes bundle, Vodacom Tanzania will give subscribers the music of their choice, from salsa to rhumba and as far as bolingo. Mixes will also be curated by Tanzanian DJs and artists including DJ Massu, DJ Summer, DJ Bike, DJ Feruuh, DJ Allybu and DJ YLB.

By partnering with Mdundo, Vodacom Tanzania will offer a unique means of acquiring new and old music, but will also expand its reach to subscribers in both urban and peripheral areas.

While already one of Tanzania’s leading music services, Mdundo’s deal with Vodacom Tanzania, which Vodacom claims has a base of 15.5m mobile subscribers, will see it reach even more listeners.

Nguvu Kamando, Vodacom’s head of Value Added Services, said: “Instead of struggling and moving from one platform to another, we as a digital valuing company, saw the importance of creating one bundle which will include all music genre, that’s why we also decided to partner with”

Patrick Sambao, Head of Telco at, said: “Mdundo has a very strong following in Tanzania and we’re therefore pleased to launch our first telco bundle in this market. Vodacom has a clear and ambitious product team with a strong focus on delivering new and innovative solutions to the market aligned with the Mdundo vision.”

Warner Music Group signed a licensing deal with Mdundo in 2017.

Last year, Mdundo raised DKK 40.0 million, approximately $6.4m, by listing on the Danish stock exchange.

In February of this year, Mdundo announced it saw its monthly active users grow by 39% and reach 7m in December, up from 5 million in June.

The company is now targeting 9m MAUs by June 2021 and 18m by June 2022. -  JACK NEEDHAM, MUSIC BUSINESS WORLDWIDE

Teams in Rwanda work to add their voices to the Common Voice project. Photo Mozilla


Devices and tools activated through speaking will soon be the primary way people interact with technology, yet none of the main voice assistants, including Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, and Google Assistant, support a single native African language. 

Mozilla has sought to address this problem through the Common Voice project, which is now working to expand voice technology to the 100 million people who speak Kiswahili across Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan.

The open-source project makes it easy for anyone to donate their voice to a publicly available database that can then be used to train voice-enabled devices, and over the past two years, more than 840 Rwandans have donated over 1,700 hours of voice data in Kinyarwanda, a language with over 12 million speakers. 

That voice data is now being used to help train voice chatbots with speech-to-text and text-to-speech functionality that has important information about COVID-19, according to Chenai Chair, special advisor for Africa Innovation at the Mozilla Foundation. 

A handful of major tech companies control the voice data that is currently used to train machine learning algorithms, posing a challenge for companies seeking to develop high-quality speech recognition technologies while also exacerbating the voice recognition divide between English speakers and the rest of the world. 

Thanks to the success of the Kinyarwanda project, Mozilla is teaming up with the German Corporation for International Cooperation, the UK's Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office, and the Gates Foundation to expand the project to Kiswahili. 

Balthas Seibold, an official with the German Corporation for International Cooperation, said voice-enabled products have "the unique opportunity to better reach millions of people who are traditionally excluded from digital services." 

"But this requires the technology to understand the people and vice versa. Most importantly, for a true democratization of the foundations of AI it needs the perspectives of those voices who are not heard yet. Together with our partners on the ground, we want to help increase access to technology, unlock local expertise and innovation, and help drive adoption at scale by the population that would benefit most from support," Seibold said. 

The organizations have invested $3.4 million into the effort and Chair explained that Mozilla originally developed the project as a way to level the playing field while also democratizing and diversifying voice technology.

"Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, and Google Home didn't actually support a single native African language. so that's a set of people who've been excluded," Chair said, adding that there has been significant interest in using the technology for agricultural and economic questions. 

"One of the barriers to access is around language, as most of the information that's available is probably available in English. People may not have the literacy skills to read this information in English but may be able to understand it in their own language."

Chair noted that Mozilla has been invested in thinking about the internet as a global community because Africa continues to be one of the most underserved continents when it comes to technology. 

The new funding will allow the Common Voice team to expand their staff and bring on even more machine learning experts and community liaisons, Chair explained, adding that the money will also go toward addressing issues of bias in the voice samples collected. 

"We are designing this model, thinking about our community engagement and taking into account issues around bias for age, gender, and regional accents. We are excited to have new fellows who are part of these communities and speak Kiswahili," Chair said.  

"That connection to the community is also going to allow for us to think of the different types of users that we have, knowing fully that not everybody has a smartphone. Not everyone has constant internet access. How do we make sure that what we're building is something that can be used along a spectrum of the diversity of Internet users?"

Since it was launched globally in 2017, Common Voice is now the world's largest multi-language public domain voice data set, with more than 9,000 hours of voice data in 60 different languages, including Welsh, Kabyle, and many others. 

Common Voice will now partner with African companies, companies, start-ups, and universities to develop locally suitable, voice-enabled technology solutions that can help underserved communities. 

"Language is a powerful part of who we are, and people, not profit-making companies, are the right guardians of how language appears in our digital lives," Chair said.

"By making it easy to donate voice data in Kiswahili, Common Voice will empower East Africans to play a direct role in creating technology that helps rather than harms their communities. We are thrilled to join with partners who share Mozilla's vision for helping more people in more places to access voice technology." - Jonathan Greig, ZDNET

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