The government has earmarked a large amount of its budget to build a seamless ICT infrastructure that will position Rwanda as one of the most connected countries in terms of broadband in the world.
However, we will need our people to understand these initiatives are geared towards their own development.
This can only be addressed through training our populace on the various components of ICT.
In other words, we should strike a balance between implementing the ongoing projects and imparting knowledge to our people in order to provide a pool of experts to maintain these projects once they become operational.
Common sense dictates that short-term training programmes is provided to the existing small number of IT practitioners in both private and public sector; however, as a long term solution, we must start training children as early as possible in IT use.
The much publicized One-Laptop per Child programme is an impressive because it targets a group of people – children – who learn fast.
This programme, which emphasises children’s access to technology, will create a wonderful tomorrow.
Another important outcome of this strategy will be creation of a sophisticated marketplace, as a result of the knowlgede these children gleamed from the World Wide Web- remember that, if all goes according to plan, 2.5 million children will each have a laptop by 2012.
For the child to learn is one thing. For her or him to enjoy learning is even more precious. The One-Laptop per Child scheme seems to help children achieve both.
The most important question we must answer is whether children can learn using these laptops whose technology is supposed to be user-friendly. It’s essential that children use them to learn skills necessary in adulthood.
I visited Kagugu Primary School recently where I found 3,000 pupils with a laptop each. I stood in awe as I looked at these toddlers, remembering how I first touched a keyboard at the tender age of 21!
While there, I came across ten-year old Jean Claude. He infused me with his child-like enthusiasm as I helped show him how his computer worked.
I gave him a quick tour of the hardware features, and he powered up his laptop. Once in, I asked him to tell me what each activity icon might represent, and he was pretty good at guessing many of them.
We did a brief chat session, browsed the web, and used the camera activity. As I expect will be the case with most children, he really enjoyed the camera feature.
In write activity, he wrote a few sentences telling me about himself. I then had him create a table and put the names of his family members into the cells.
With the exception of spelling errrors, he performed reasonably well. I noticed in his editing efforts, he frequently erases entire words, instead of only replacing the incorrect characters.
So, I took a minute to work with him on that point. He was pretty quick to learn.
So, what does this reveal to us? Answer: equipping children is the easiest and most effective approach to creating a strong knowledge-based economy.
The author works with RDB-IT