“In Rwanda, the Citizens’ Dialogue is part of IGF 2020“

The Global Citizens’ Dialogue is fast approaching, and in Rwanda, Missions Publiques’ partners have institutionalized the deliberation into the national Internet Governance Forum (IGF). This process is promising for the outcome of the local Dialogue, which aims to be directly integrated into the decision-making conversations. As each of the 77 countries around the globe have the possibility to give participants a national tech subject to discuss, Jon Stever and Lorenzo Banno from Rwanda have decided to contribute to two ongoing policy processes in the country: one to develop a national Startup Act, and the other to develop a national Artificial Intelligence Policy. Let’s take a closer look at Jon’s vision of “reimagining global governance” with citizens.

Tell us about IGF Rwanda…

Jon Stever: We have institutionalized citizen deliberation formally into the national IGF. Rwanda has a deep tradition of dialogue and inclusive decision-making, so our partners on the Rwandan IGF steering committee have been heavily vested in efforts to expand the reach of internet governance conversations. Our pilot of the Citizen’s Dialogue in Rwanda in 2019 convened 98 citizens that represented the diversity of our country. This year we are hosting the Rwanda IGF as a two-day event, with the first day and a half reserved for citizen deliberation.


How is the implementation of the Citizens’ Dialogue going? How are you coping with the Covid-19? 

Jon Stever, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Innovation for Policy: Constraints are always a driving force behind innovation, and COVID-19 has forced our i4Policy team to design new protocols for distributed small-group deliberations that can be safely aggregated together into a meaningful mini-public.

At the Innovation for Policy Foundation we have a strong community of experienced local facilitators across more than 48 countries in Africa. For the Rwandan Citizens’ Dialogue this year we are working with twenty-one local facilitators spread across the country, several of whom served as table hosts during our 2019 pilot. The facilitators will each convene a group of five participants for physically-distanced small-group conversations at different locations across the country. These decentralized meet-ups will then connect together through Zoom into a common plenary conversation and share a single documentation platform.

The need for activating citizens as problem-solvers couldn’t be greater than during such a transformational global crisis, and we believe these designs open new possibilities for scaling citizen deliberation and participation.

In addition to this year’s IGF design and consultations we’re hosting on a number national law reform processes, our Foundation has launched several experimental initiatives aimed at activating citizens to respond to the pandemic. For example, we initiated a campaign with UNESCO called #DontGoViral to crowdsource creative content to inform communities about COVID-19 in local languages, which reached at least 215m people.

Lorenzo Banno, Director of Operations @ Innovation for Policy Foundation / i4Policy: This year’s event will build on the pilot we organized last year, thanks to the continued support of our local and global partners such as the German Development Cooperation, GIZ. We have designed a one-and-a-half day Citizens’ Dialogue involving 105 participants (60% female), with specific emphasis on youth, that will lead into a half-day stakeholders meeting.

Managing such complex logistics is only possible thanks to our wonderful partnering Universities and Innovation Hubs that will host the distributed roundtables: University of Rwanda, African Leadership University, Institut d’ Enséignement Supérieur de Ruhengeri, Rwanda Polytechnic (IPRC), University of Lay Adventists of Kigali,  Akilah Institute for Women (Davis College), Kepler – Southern New Hampshire University, University of Kigali, Klab, Impact Hub Kigali and the Kigali Digital Innovation Center.

For the facilitation of the event we chose the online facilitation platform “Miro”. We created a single Miro board with 21 storyboards – one per roundtable – and each facilitator will work with their group through their story-board.  This will not only ease the facilitation process, but will also allow the main moderator and the project team to monitor the roll-out of the conversations in real time, and provide immediate support as needed. We also believe this approach will be a great learning opportunity for participants and partners and will help popularizing virtual facilitation methods that have never been as relevant as today.

Ahead of the event, we delivered a one-day training to our group of 21 facilitators (13 female, 11 male). For the training we also adopted a decentralised approach–in order to run a simulation of the event while following public health guidance–with three groups of facilitators joining from three different locations.

“The need for activating citizens as problem-solvers couldn’t be greater than during such a transformational global crisis.

Jon Stever

Co-Founder and Managing Director
at Innovation for Policy

What will be your national session?  

Lorenzo Banno: We were very excited by the opportunity to tailor the event to topics of national interest. It is one of the main reasons why we decided to extend our dialogue to 1.5 days! We will be able to contribute to two ongoing policy processes in Rwanda: one to develop a national Startup Act, and the other to develop a national Artificial Intelligence Policy.

Artificial Intelligence Policy in Rwanda

The Government of Rwanda, represented by Rwanda’s Ministry of ICT and Innovation (MINICT) and Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), with the support of GIZ Fair Forward and The Future Society, are collaborating on the development of Rwanda’s national Artificial Intelligence policy.

To contribute to this important process, we established a partnership with GIZ Fair Forward and The Future Society to expand on the original version of the AI session to include locally-relevant content. This will allow us to obtain comparable results for the global WTI process, while generating valuable knowledge for the ongoing policy development in Rwanda.

Startup Act in Rwanda

The Rwandan Ministry of ICT and Innovation, with the support of GIZ Make-IT and SI Jobs, is undertaking a process to develop a National Startup Act, with a view to improving the general business environment, fostering startup growth infrastructure, and driving innovation and digital transformation. i4Policy was recruited to design and lead on this law-making process, to ensure that it is deliberative and participatory. We held a Policy Hackathon with entrepreneurs to input into the draft law, we organized a coalition of ecosystem leaders to support and monitor the process, and deployed an online consultation platform to crowdsource policy proposals at scale.

We saw an opportunity to extend the participation in this law-making process to the attendees of the Citizens Dialogue and, thanks to our partners at GIZ Make-IT in Africa and GIZ Digital Solutions for Sustainable Development (DSSD), we have designed a session on the Rwanda Startup Act. We believe we can harvest very important contributions to the law, with a particular emphasis on the definitional elements, answering key questions such as what qualifies a firm to be considered as a tech-enabled startup entitled to support, and how to ensure equitable access to opportunities?


Why did you take part in We, the Internet adventure?  

Jon Stever: Internet governance is a great topic to showcase the legitimacy and possibility of people-powered decision-making at scale. Like so many of the most pressing issues and crises that our interconnected global society faces today, Internet governance is complex–involving fundamental questions of social welfare and morality–and so many diverse stakeholders must effectively coordinate.

We see this adventure as an important step in our collective re-imagining of global governance.