Rwanda is spurring a generation of women in technology, AFDB official says

Students during IT course at FAWE Girls School in Kigali in January. / Craish Bahizi

Last year, Rwanda was the only African country ranked in the top 10 of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020. It was ranked ninth in the Report’s political empowerment category, in recognition of the high proportion of Rwandan female lawmakers and ministers.

Because of its strides in achieving gender equality over the years, the country seemed a natural fit for a 2018 pilot program of the African Development Bank’s Coding for Employment initiative, alongside Nigeria, Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal.

 

Hendrina C. Doroba, Manager in the Education, Human Capital and Employment Division at the Bank, said that African countries have a lot to learn Rwanda’s approach to the fourth industrial revolution, particularly the role of women.

 

She said that the government of Rwanda has been a trailblazer in using innovation to improve public services across the country using the e-governance platform Irembo, to bring government services closer to citizens.

 

In addition, the government is driving national digital skilling campaigns by championing digital ambassador programs and platforms such as Smart Africa, which has organised the annual Transform Africa summit since 2013.

She added that although gender equality remains a concern, and gender gaps are evident even in schools, Rwanda’s ambitions extend to piloting the Kigali Innovation City to serve as the country’s knowledge and innovation hub by attracting new businesses and incubating ideas.

“At the same time, the country has created a business environment which is pro-entrepreneurship and welcomes global inventors to test their ideas and concepts.

Zipline, a company which uses drones to deliver medical supplies in remote areas, is one example.

Rwanda promotes women leaders in the ICT and innovation sector. The country’s Minister of ICT and Innovation is a woman, as is the CEO of the Irembo platform. Appointments such as these are helping to dispel the myth that women are not as capable as men in ICT, she said.

Explaining how the government of Rwanda enabled women to pursue careers in technology, and STEM in general, Doroba attributed it to the government’s support towards STEM educational programs and initiatives such as the Ms Geek Rwanda competition.

The initiative of Girls in ICT Rwanda, aims to encourage school-age girls, even those in remote areas, to develop innovative tech or business ideas and to generally immerse themselves in ICT.

The Miss Geek initiative has now been rolled out in other countries in the region.

She said: “The government of Rwanda has been a foremost champion of women in ICT and in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), by driving initiatives like the establishment of the Carnegie Mellon University-Africa campus, for which the Bank provided funding. Students from 17 different countries pursue highly specialized ICT skills at the Africa campus.

The country also hosts the African Institute of Mathematics (AIMS) which is now recruiting balanced cohorts of women and men. Lastly, the Bank-funded University of Rwanda College of Science and Technology has for many years produced women leaders in the ICT sector in Rwanda and globally.”

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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