From 2-3 October, Kigali city hosted hundreds of business executives from around the world to attend a high –end conference on Information Communications Technology, dubbed `SMART Rwanda days`.
The keynote speakers were President Paul Kagame the co-chair of the ITU-UNESCO Broadband Commission for Digital Development alongside Dr. Hamadoun Toure, the Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
Under the theme “Digitizing Rwanda”, the conference was aimed to discuss ways in which ICT can significantly contribute to Rwanda as well as Africa social and economic transformation. The conference saw a participation of international organizations such as VISA, World Bank Internet Society, ICAAN, Boston Consulting Group among others.
In Rwanda history, it has never been exciting to be a young person than in today`s digital era. This is an era where everyone with a computer and an internet connection can compete for jobs with the rest of the world. A young person with ICT related skills can actually become his own boss. This would have been a dream a few decades back.
Speaking at the conference, President Paul Kagame said that digital innovation is one of the things that can significantly transform the livelihoods of Rwanda as well as Africans. He noted that it does that by being applicable to any and every sectors of economic growth. The head of state said that Rwandans as well as Africans have to deal with the problem of mindset and believe in themselves.
This is a fortunate situation for young developers in Rwanda to have a government that has understood the power of ICT in economic transformation. The government has a clear vision, policy and strategies when it comes to ICT. It is also building their capacity by investing in schools that offer ICT skills that are required to compete in digital age. In addition to that the government is attracting international conferences that expose them to current trend in ICT.
The environment in which the current generation is working definitely prepares them to innovate and create successful businesses. The government has invested in infrastructure by laying a 4500 km fiber optic throughout the country worth over a $ 130m. A number of tech incubators and hubs have also been created and they provide unprecedented opportunities for young innovators to transform their dreams into reality.
Klab is one of those incubators where young people have a free access to office space as well as internet connection. Gone are those days when a fresh graduate was spending his time applying for jobs. Now any young person with a laptop armed with ICT skills can instead spend his time developing his idea into a product or service that the market needs.
Now that Rwanda plan to become an information-rich and knowledge based economy, young developers have opportunities to create applications that are needed in the marketplace. The government of Rwanda is set to invest a lot of resources in Smart Rwanda and this is a golden opportunity for young developers to earn money. It is up to them to take the chance and develop solutions that the government needs to reach its objectives.
Smart Rwanda is government program that will help the country achieve its ICT and 2020 vision. The government is ready to spend a lot of resources on this program that started in 2013 and will run up to 2018. It has defined ten sectors where ICT can have a maximum impact in economic transformation. These sectors are in education, healthcare, governance, business, agriculture, environment, job creation, infrastructure, women empowerment and cities.
During a recent live TV show that took place at Klab, Rwanda`s minister of Youth and ICT Jean Philbert Nsengimana said that the government aims to see every citizen being smart. He noted that from a farmer, a teacher, a business person, etc. the government would like to see each and everyone adopting ICT and becoming smart.
The minister chose to come to Klab knowing that he will be interacting with the right audience meaning developers who will create applications for Rwandans as well as Africans to become smart. Young innovators in Rwanda have therefore a good working environment and are now informed about which sector they can develop applications for Rwanda to be smart.
Over the recent years, we have seen Africans inventing applications that are now used all over the world. Take for example M-Pesa, a mobile-phone based money transfer application that was invented in Kenya and launched back in 2007. It has since expanded to Afghanistan, South Africa, and India among other parts of the world.
M-pesa come to provide solutions for local problems in Kenya. The application was intended to people who don’t have a bank account and who needed to transfer small amount of money. Developers in Kenya who invented this application saw an opportunity to serve people whom the banking system was not serving.
If Kenyan developers have done it, the question is why can`t Rwandans developers also do it. It is not rocket science and as president Paul Kagame noted, one need to have confidence that they have what it takes to succeed. Young developers have therefore the opportunity to create applications that can solve local problems and which can also provide global solutions.
Luckily brain power is equally distributed as noted by Dr. Hamadoun Toure during SMART Rwanda day’s conference. Young developers can therefore make use of it and create wealth for them and contribute to social and economic development of their country.