Elastic Consulting and German Development Cooperation (GIZ) partnered to design and deploy a monitoring and evaluation solution that enables the Government of Rwanda to make important public health and social protection project decisions based on real-time analysis.
The Government of Rwanda can fine-tune policies that help improve the wellbeing of the population, including reducing domestic violence and increasing Covid-19 vaccinations, through insights from data delivered by Elastic.
GIZ and Elastic help accelerate Rwandan Government projects that support gender equality, protect vulnerable people, and advance Covid-19 vaccinations.
The Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA) is a government institution established in 2017 with the mission of digitizing the country and using information and communication technology (ICT) to support the population in areas such as business, education, and healthcare.
Transforming a country with one of the densest populations in sub-Saharan Africa is well underway. Agriculture is the largest employer, but industrial output and activity have accelerated in recent years. Tourism is also growing fast. Hundreds of thousands of people visit Rwanda every year to observe mountain gorillas in the wild, track big game animals, and trek the country’s rolling, volcanic landscape.
The Rwandan government has stepped up its efforts to further grow the economy, increase the number of children in secondary education, and improve health outcomes for a population of 13 million people. It has also set ambitious sustainability goals and is putting new measures in place to protect the population from natural disasters including flooding, landslides, and earthquakes.
RISA plays a vital role in supporting these initiatives, helping the government to allocate technology resources as effectively as possible. One of its key responsibilities is the Government Command Center (GCC), which prepares data dashboards that measure project results against key performance indicators (KPIs).
Antoine Sebera, Government Chief Innovation Officer, RISA, says, "Reliable data and versatile analytics tools are crucial. We need hard evidence to prove the value of social and economic investments, and to direct resources where they have the greatest impact."
Historically, the GCC was hampered by a lack of automation. Government departments had to upload spreadsheet files before data could be reviewed by a team of experts and presented to officials. "We needed a more flexible approach that enabled us to make critical decisions based on real-time analysis," says Sebera. "We also wanted to introduce greater structure and governance so that we could connect multiple data sources."
This vision called for the GCC to be redesigned from the ground up. Sebera saw this as an opportunity to move beyond a standard business intelligence platform to one that offered more sophisticated data analysis and reporting.
We wanted to create a multipurpose data hub that could serve various use cases in education, social protection, and any others that we identify.
Sebera and his colleagues at RISA turned to GIZ which employs more than 200 people in Rwanda. Funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, GIZ has worked with the Government of Rwanda for years supporting digital transformation and sustainable development goals set by the United Nations.
Sebera discussed the project with Olaf Seidel the former Head of the Digital Transformation Center Rwanda. "I quickly saw the potential of RISA’s vision for a complete overhaul of the GCC and how this could contribute to the economy and wellbeing of the Rwandan people," says Seidel.
One of Seidel’s first steps involved assembling a team of data experts. This included Thomas Wiemann, who works with RISA and GIZ as Program Manager, Government Digitization in Rwanda.
Wiemann and his team evaluated a range of observability solutions, but only Elastic met all the mandatory requirements, including self-service dashboards, big data management connectors to many data sources, and affordability. "Elastic mixes sophisticated features with a flexible licensing model so that we can explore and deploy the environment with minimum financial risk," says Wiemann.
From his experience, Wiemann knew that the project would place different demands on the software compared with other Elastic deployments. "Unlike massive data projects that support one use case, we were looking at many different scenarios with smaller data volumes," he says.
This unique deployment required an equally capable implementation partner. After an open bidding process, Comsense and its business partner Aptude were selected based on their expertise in data management and visualization, and the ability to call on a team of over 100 remote engineers for international projects. For about 18 months, Wiemann worked closely with Sagar Babar, co-founder and CEO of Comsense, to architect, test, and deploy the new GCC solution.
Comsense and Aptude delivered the solution in early 2022. Elasticsearch forms the backbone of the architecture with Logstash for the ingestion and enrichment of logs and other data, and Kibana is also widely used for the creation of custom dashboards. The configuration runs on Elasticsearch clusters hosted on-premise, using nodes from cloud provider AOS, which delivers all cloud services for the Government of Rwanda.
Using Elastic, we can combine all government KPI data into one smart dashboard. Rather than just traditional business intelligence, it's more like a monitoring and evaluation system that RISA can use to assess progress towards results, spot bottlenecks, and identify any unintended effects from a project.
Wiemann also stresses the role played by Philipp Kahr, Elastic Consulting Architect who helped GIZ move away from legacy tools and services and reduce their total cost of ownership (TCO). During a series of coaching sessions with the GIZ team, Kahr demonstrated how to ingest and modify data in Kibana, before applying visualizations that support actionable insights. He also guided the team through the process of enriching data points with geodata to determine locations with the greatest potential for improved outcomes.
Wiemann says, "Compared with the previous GCC deployment, Elastic is more open, scalable, and easier to integrate. The dashboard displays aggregated data in real time showing any risk factors needing a response. It is also much easier to create and customize dashboards, especially for Rwanda’s sustainable development indicators."
After just a few months, the new Elastic solution was supporting several important national transformation projects.
One project involved the Rwandan government’s organization in charge of promoting gender equality and the security of vulnerable groups. "They will be able to make better use of their data, identify missing datasets, and provide dashboards related to gender equality and child protection," says Sebera.
With these insights into gender equality and the security of vulnerable groups, they can raise public awareness of social issues and take actions to help improve the wellbeing of the population, including reducing domestic violence.
The Rwandan Covid-19 chatbot app, called Mbaza, is another example of data aggregation and analysis in action. The app can be used to access information on incidence rates, recommended steps to take in case of infection, and to read the latest restrictions and regulations.
Elastic is used to monitor app data including the use of different languages and which telecom provider is used most often when accessing the app. The information is used to shape project development and government policy including the creation of additional language versions, and promotion of the app via different providers.
Speed to value across all projects was also impressive. “When the results from these initiatives and the enthusiastic feedback from users are taken into account, Elastic Observability started delivering measurable value within about six months of deployment,” says Wiemann.
Looking forward, Sebera sees almost unlimited potential for the Elastic solution and is working with GIZ and Elastic Consulting to identify further use cases that will benefit from advanced data analytics and dashboards. These include plotting flooding scenarios against hospitals to better understand bed capacity and direct people to the best hospital according to location and availability.
Other scenarios include tracking population growth and building new schools in line with demographic trends. Crop mapping is another possibility, enabling farmers to increase the value of their harvests, including coffee, bananas, rice, and wheat.
We like to think of the Elastic solution as ‘business intelligence as a service’ where we don't have to build a new system for each use case. We have put the basic infrastructure in place and when a government department needs our help, we can adapt to the needs of the initiative.
Overall, Sebera sees Elastic Observability as a key milestone on Rwanda’s journey to becoming a digital society with greater employment in higher-paying roles for citizens. "Elastic now plays a central role in measuring our national sustainability and development goals," he says. "We’re very proud of what we’ve achieved with the expertise of GIZ and Comsense. Together we are helping to improve the wellbeing of the population including social protection, economic transformation, and human rights."