Global Voice Group CEO James Claude spoke to Moses K. Gahigi about factors Internet providers consider to adhere to government policies.
What are the key areas you been supporting the government of Rwanda?
In 2012, we won a competitive tender to provide traffic monitoring to Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (Rura), which needed full visibility of what was happening in the ecosystem—traffic, calls and SMS. Since then we have deployed other solutions such as mobile money monitoring.
Since we started, Rura has implemented a micro levy on international traffic. It is a small levy, but it has generated more than $47million for government.
What challenges are you seeking to address?
Many developing countries, including Rwanda, are looking to embark on the fourth industrial revolution. There are a lot of challenges that come with that.
We need to make sure that the coming digital economy is inclusive. For that you need a few elements like mobile ID. We also need to come up with solutions where people can transact online.
On the other hand, we have cyber security threats. As we transact online, it is key that governments put in place the right policy to protect citizens against malware, child pornography and so on. This is an area which GVG has invested in a lot in terms of R&D.
GSMA has come out strongly against Rwanda’s data policy, faulting it for being inward looking and hindering cross-border data flows. What is your take in regard to data sovereignty?
It is not that Rwanda doesn’t want to share data. Data is an asset so there must be controls. If countries put in place necessary requirements to securely share information at a regional level, that would be fine but it shouldn’t come at the cost of not protecting citizen data.
After ensuring that data for your citizens is secure and protected, there can be ways of sharing it when need arises.
Over-the-top platforms have disrupted the voice market, how would you advise the government so that it is not left behind in playing its regulatory role?
For you to put in place the right regulation, you need the right information. Based on this, you can monitor the compliance to the guidelines you are issuing. Using data based on analytics or AI, the effect of certain policies can be understood.
Having access to the needed information even about the new trends in technology will put the regulator in a better position to design policies and measure the effectiveness of a certain policy.
There have been concerns from citizens that these services help governments spy on. How do you reconcile these accusations and the services you offer?
There are many ways of capturing data. Besides the way you capture it, is the purpose. From where we stand, the purpose is to monitor regulatory framework or policy guidelines. We don’t necessarily need information at the individual level to have this visibility.
We have techniques we have developed where we only focus on metadata. We work on aggregates. We don’t need to know who is calling who, but how many minutes of airtime have coming from country A, for example. The same with mobile money.
What models should the government should employ to attain digital inclusion?
Inclusion should be at the centre of any policy. Digital economy is not outside the economy; it’s an extension of the traditional economy. There are now digital ways of doing things, but it is important for governments to invest in digital literacy.