The African Centre of Excellence in Internet of Things (ACEIoT) which is based at the University of Rwanda, College of Science and Technology (UR-CST) has initiated discussions with the private sector to build collaboration mechanisms for the benefit of both parties. In that line, on October 14, the centre in partnership with the ICT Chamber and FabLab Rwanda organised a meeting with different companies operating in the ICT and Internet of Things (IoT) field, including those in hardware manufacturers, engineering industries, education, industrial research, IoT professionals and software providers. ‘IoT’ refers to things that we use everyday that are connected to the internet, allowing us to either control or receive data about that ‘thing’ from our smartphone or computer. According to Ignace Gatare, Principal of UR-CST, the center put much effort in developing IoT and around 50 students from different African countries are undergoing studies and conducting research through the Masters and PhD programs the center offers. Tackling the power of collaboration, he said that researchers as well as lecturers of the center will benefit the country more once they are linked with investors from the private sector. Gatare also noted that the center gears up to develop IoT by making research that solve different issues that Rwanda is facing, hence earning money through investment. “The students of ACEIoT have done different projects that provide solutions in agriculture, transport, energy, healthcare and environment fields, among others. They need to get expertise from the private sector hence taking their knowledge from books or research to the market and developing the country,” he said. Gatare noted that their priorities align with Rwanda's development agenda and include the most important field, agriculture which involves the largest part of the Rwandan population, adding that they look forward to enhancing smart irrigation and smart monitoring systems. Other priority sectors, he continued, include energy, environment and healthcare. ACEIoT educates and trains African researchers in the field of IoT to develop and deploy innovative IoT-enabled services, to address development challenges across all Eastern and Southern African (ESA) high-priority domains. Among key objectives of the center include to build a critical mass of African scientists and engineers in IoT through higher education and research, and to set up an IoT living lab in Rwanda for open innovation and co-creation of IoT4D. Alex Ntale, CEO of the ICT Chamber declared that when it comes to industry and academia collaboration, there are strengths each party brings to the table. “The academia has researchers and professors and the industry brings to the table the commercialisation of research,” he said. “That is what translates ideas into practical products in a marketplace where you find citizens and users consuming these products.” “In addition to supporting the university at large,” he continued. “There is also collaboration that enhances the lessons and classes that researchers and students go through.” Ntale also declared that the ICT Chamber brings in the convening power, the ability to invite technology companies to be part of the collaborations so that students can have access to companies that are set to help them. Pacifique Shema, Managing Director of SanTech is one of the students who graduated in UR and has come up with e-visitors, an IoT-related project that is on the market. He said that the discussion between entrepreneurs in the private sector and the universities will help youth realise that they can come up with innovations, especially for industries, given that currently, what is being imported in the country is more than what is being exported. “If the university and entrepreneurs with industries collaborate,” he continued. “They will create more others who will develop industries and in 10 years, we will be able to manufacture many products in the country and keep gearing up towards sustainable development.” Shema also added that if the industry, academia and the government partner, they will help students to graduate from the universities with amazing projects that provide locally-developed solutions and be able to secure funding.