Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Dr. Vincent Biruta attended a global video conference jointly organised by the foreign affairs ministries of Estonia and Singapore, focusing on digitalisation in response to COVID-19.
In his remarks Minister Biruta affirmed Rwanda’s support to the Global Declaration on Digital Response to Covid-19. He also noted that as the global response to COVID-19 is gradually taking shape, it is necessary, for leaders across the globe, to reflect on how to leverage from digital transformation, to not only respond to the socio-economic challenges caused by COVID-19 but also to ‘build back better’.
Themed “Close the Digital Divides: The Digital Response to COVID-19”, the conference included a presentation of a global digital declaration, which aims at supporting global digitalisation to cope with crises more efficiently and prevent an increase of digital divides.
Minister Biruta said that Rwanda has positioned digital transformation at the core of its development strategy adding that the Government of Rwanda has made substantial public investment in digital infrastructure and digital service delivery. “This conducive environment has enabled the Government of Rwanda to leverage from technologies to provide an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic.” He said.
“Rwanda is using robots to carry out simple tasks, like checking temperatures, to minimize the human exposure to the virus. Electronic wristbands have been used to monitor people under quarantine and in the bid to increase public awareness, drones are used in lockdown areas, with automated megaphones.
Digital payments, which went up out of necessities during this period of social distancing, have been promoted in Rwanda to facilitate tracing of contacts while slowing the spread of COVID-19 in the country. In the education sector, Rwanda has kept the doors open for learning by resuming studies for all through online platforms.” Minister Biruta told the representatives from more than 60 countries who attended the virtual conference.
The objective of the digital declaration is to highlight strategic areas that are vulnerable to crises but can be reinforced by digitalisation. The declaration emphasises crucial areas where digital cooperation is particularly important, such as secure internet access, protecting human rights in cyberspace, citizen-oriented e-governance and digital solutions in the health and education sectors, as well as improving people’s digital skills.
According to Estonia Foreign Affairs Minister Urmas Reinsalu, successful digitalisation requires robust multilateral cooperation, and he called on all countries to join the declaration. “I am glad that representatives of so many countries attended the conference. We must work together to overcome the crisis in all regions of the world and make sure that citizen-oriented and secure digital services are equally available everywhere. Both Estonia and Singapore can share their good experiences with creating secure services and building a successful digital state,” Reinsalu said.
In addition to Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the conference also included statements from the Foreign Minister of Estonia Urmas Reinsalu, Foreign Affairs Minister of Singapore Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Deputy Secretary-General of the UN Amina J. Mohammed, Director of the Telecommunications Development Bureau of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Doreen Bogdan-Martin and Director General of Smart Africa Lacina Koné among others.