The Digital Cooperation Organisation (DCO) recently expanded to include Rwanda as its eighth member state, with the body now representing around half a billion people.
DCO is a global multilateral organisation that aims to increase social prosperity by accelerating the growth of the digital economy. It brings together nations, business, civil society, academics, and R&D institutions to promote social prosperity through more inclusive participation and growth across the digital economy.
The other founding members include Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan and Nigeria.
DCO’s announcement came at a time Rwanda is going through a huge digital transformation, with an aim to position herself as an innovation hub for the region and beyond.
The New Times Edwin Ashimwe exclusively spoke to the organisation’s Secretary General, Deema Alyahya in an interview for further insights into the development, Rwanda’s role as well as available opportunities.
Alyahya, is widely known for her digital economy expertise. She founded Women Spark, the first women-led angel investment group in Saudi Arabia, with the aim of educating and training women to angel investors and entrepreneurs.
A year after its inception, what could you say is DCO’s vision and how do you plan to achieve it?
At the Digital Cooperation Organisation we’re working towards a world in which every country, business and person has a fair opportunity to prosper in the global digital economy.
This means that people have the access, skills, and support to benefit from the internet and digital technologies.
We share knowledge between countries to strengthen digital transformation agendas globally, enabling better digital policies, investment decisions, and education solutions. We champion the empowerment of youth, women, and entrepreneurs.
Since our establishment in November 2020 we have brought together eight countries representing half a billion people, 270 million of which are under the age of 25, to focus our collective efforts on digital economic inclusion.
Why is it important to have multilateral cooperation in the digital space?
No one country can (single-handedly) solve the global challenges of our time, whether it be sustainable development, poverty, education, or climate change. The ongoing global response to the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrates the need for global cooperation to global challenges.
Global and multilateral digital cooperation is important as digital technologies can help to solve these pressing global challenges.
Cooperation is also vital because the digital economy is growing so quickly. Seventy per cent of the world’s economic growth will be driven by the digital economy over the next decade as more human activity shifts online.
Looking at the current state, half of the world’s population has no access to internet. How does this hinder your progress?
This is a global social and economic challenge of our time.
Digital cooperation is especially important in Africa. Last year the value of mobile digital transactions in Africa grew 23 per cent to USD 495 billion, showing just how important digital inclusion is for people to earn, live and save in the modern African economy.
That is why countries are working together through the DCO, to ensure that we can serve our peoples, especially our youth, by connecting them with global opportunities and policy agendas.
If entrepreneurs are strangled by bureaucracy and conflicting national laws, if young people don’t have skills, or if women are left out, we will all struggle.
What contribution is expected from Rwanda as a member state of the DCO?
Rwanda’s membership of the DCO reflects the Rwandan government’s commitment to digital access and opportunities for the Rwandan people, and the ambition of the government to be a tech leader in Africa.
We look forward to Rwanda’s membership benefitting other DCO countries, as Rwandan leaders can share their own insights and expertise drawn from the country’s digital transformation agenda.
The DCO will also enable Rwanda to lead on the world stage and to create global partnerships and digital economy alliances, leveraging our networks across three continents and half a billion people.
Speaking about the opportunities, what does this membership provide for Rwanda?
The DCO offers Rwandan businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs access to new markets across our member countries.
Rwanda as a country will also benefit significantly from our sharing of best practice between our member states, as the DCO acts as a centre of knowledge and ideas.
Many of our initiatives are designed to empower groups often affected by the digital divide, generating real solutions for our member countries.
What are your views on Rwanda’s progress in the digital economy and policies?
I’m particularly encouraged by the development of Kigali Innovation City as a regional innovation hub, and this month’s $100 million deal with the World Bank to strengthen digital innovation and increase access to broadband and digital public services.
These initiatives will no doubt strengthen Rwanda’s digital talent base in line with the government’s national Digital Talent Policy.
We look forward to supporting and sharing the impact of these initiatives across our member countries.
Can we expect to see DCO in Rwanda?
I am committed to meeting with government leaders across our member states.
We have made a real impact through four official visits to our member states in the last five months, working with heads of state, digital leaders, and the private sector.
Equally important , these visits provide an opportunity to connect directly with the young people, women, and entrepreneurs we are supporting.
I very much look forward to visiting Rwanda, and to enabling the people of Rwanda as we create digital prosperity for all.