Use of modern ICT in conformity assessment to improve service delivery to the stakeholders – The Case of Rwanda

Context: The Republic of Rwanda acceded to the EAC Treaty on 18th June 2007 and became full Members of the Community with effect from 1st July 2007. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is a central engine to driving Rwanda’s transformation to a knowledge-based economy, a fact Rwanda has acknowledged by allocating a budget to ICT as a percentage of its GDP that is at par with OECD countries. Rwanda continues to be one of the fastest-growing African countries in ICT and there are several avenues for growth for the ICT sector from e-commerce and e-services, mobile technologies, applications development and automation to becoming a regional center for the training of top quality ICT professionals and research as a robust ICT industry can create wealth, jobs and entrepreneurs. Rwanda is the most improved economy worldwide since 2005 (World Bank Doing Business Report, 2014). The report further reflects Rwanda the 2nd easiest to do business in Africa after Mauritius.

Business environment reforms focusing on trade facilitation endeavor to reduce the cost associated with importing and exporting products. Many factors affect the cost of trade, including poor infrastructure, slow and cumbersome border regulatory and operating processes and non-tariff measures. Reforms targeted to these factors vary depending on the local contexts and problems yet overall they broadly seek to achieve more efficient, transparent, predictable and rule-based import and export processes. Reforms may include new or upgraded trade-related infrastructure, such as roads, ports and border posts; reviewing and (re)drafting the policies, laws and regulations governing imports and exports as well as business processes and systems using modern ICT to improve them. The ICT industry is rapidly growing in Rwanda and hence there was a need to embrace and promote the use of technology in the services carried out at Rwanda Standards Board (RSB).

Issues: The RSB e-portal, developed with the support of TMA, seeks to reduce time taken to disseminate information as well as different operations such as standard development processes, application for certification, testing and certification services and getting feedback online, among others. The online provision of the service was in line with the RSB’s ambitions to improve convenience and efficiency in service delivery.

Method: As one of the programme initiatives to facilitate trade in the EAC, the e-portal was developed with support from TMA as part of the efforts towards establishing a single window system and integrated border management in the region. The e-portal is an online system that automates its internal and external services for RSB which was developed over a period of 3 years to increase efficiency of RSB by reducing the time taken to process applications for certifications and other conformity assessment services offered. The portal is made up of an internal Management Information System (MIS) for internal processes and an external system (the e-portal) that importers and exporters can interact with. The portal is one of the many initiatives TMA and RSB have implemented jointly. This partnership also has initiatives that include capacity building of both the RSB staff and traders. This is helping achieve an all-round efficiency in inspection and quality assurance of goods coming into and leaving Rwanda for the domestic and international markets.  The e-portal clearly indicates that the RSB is committed to constantly refining and transforming themselves to improve service delivery.

Results: With the automated system in place, RSB is able to deliver conformity assessment services to importers, exporters and other stakeholders effectively by proving timely information. Moving goods within and outside Rwanda is taking less time because of the use of the e-portal that will translate into reduced business cost implications to traders and other stakeholders. The portal provides real-time information and also reduces the cost of doing business in the region as business community substantially spends less time searching for the relevant trade document, rules, procedures and regulations governing cross border movement of cargo to and from the EAC partner states which is increasing the competitiveness of Rwandan products. The system increased the efficiency of RSB through reduction in time and cost, convenience derived from the fact that one can request, access and get feedback on information on the services from any location which has improved accountability to customers and transparency.

Impact: Individuals and firms seeking conformity assessment services from the RSB are no longer required to make multiple trips to the agency’s offices because the portal allows the public to access information, apply and receive feedback on the services provided online. The e-portal is eliminating the bottlenecks that the RSB was experiencing in processing transactions thus freeing the limited resources to be realigned for other activities to improve efficiency.

Innovations: TMA’s support to RSB was a good innovation as technology and the Internet offer ways to improve standards development processes and service delivery to stakeholders. At both the national and international levels, technology shortens administrative processes and increases efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery.

Challenges: With the portal in place the RSB needs to ensure that the platform remains sustainable so as to ensure continuity of service delivery in and outside the country.  

Lessons Learnt: The linkage between modern ICT and conformity assessment services improves service delivery of the NSBs and also the business environment.

In-set is a factory of Rwashosco Ltd a coffee processing company which is one of the companies in Rwanda that are enjoying the innovation of linking conformity assessment services to modern ICT. They can now make inquiries and receive feedback from RSB much faster which is helping them save on the time and cost of transport to the main RSB offices.

Who benefits: The regulators, consumers and the business community such as the importers, exporters, manufacturers, and suppliers enjoy the benefits of increased efficiency due to reduction in time and cost of obtaining services, access to important information, increased transparency and reduced paperwork which increases accountability.